Charles Warren Professor of American History and the Founding Director of the History Design Studio at Harvard University
Multi-media historian Vincent Brown is Charles Warren Professor of History and Professor of African and African-American Studies and is the Director of the History Design Studio at Harvard University. His research, writing, teaching, and other creative endeavors are focused on the political dimensions of cultural practice in the African Diaspora, with a particular emphasis on the early modern Atlantic world. A native of Southern California, he was educated at the University of California, San Diego, and received his PhD in History from Duke University, where he also trained in the theory and craft of film and video making. Currently a Mellon New Directions fellow, he has also held fellowships at the National Humanities Center, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and was recently a John Simon Guggenheim fellow.
Brown is the author of numerous articles and reviews in scholarly journals, he is Principal Investigator and Curator for the animated thematic map Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761: A Cartographic Narrative (2013), and he was Producer and Director of Research for the television documentary Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness(2009), recipient of the 2009 John E. O’Connor Film Award of the American Historical Association, awarded Best Documentary at both the 2009 Hollywood Black Film Festival and the 2009 Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival, and broadcast nationally on season 11 of the PBS series Independent Lens. His first book, The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery (2008), was co-winner of the 2009 Merle Curti Award and received the 2009 James A. Rawley Prize and the 2008-09 Louis Gottschalk Prize.
The Coromantee War: An Archipelago of Insurrection
I am presently at work on a book project called The Coromantee War: An Archipelago of Insurrection (under contract with Harvard University Press) that will address the environmental and spatial history of militancy in the early modern Atlantic world. Enslaved Africans from the Gold Coast, known widely as “Coromantees,” staged a dramatic series of conspiracies and revolts in the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Americas. The Jamaican revolt of 1760-1761, commonly called Tacky’s Revolt, was among the largest and most consequential.
Historians of colonial slavery have been careful to show the impact of events and decisions made in Europe on patterns of New World development, but, with a few notable exceptions, we have a much weaker understanding of how African social, political, and military history has shaped the Atlantic world. The scholarship that exists in this area has focused primarily on cultural continuities between Africans and African Americans, and much less on the influence of specific social trends and political events. By examining the 1760-61 Jamaican revolt in the context of a series of insurrections between 1675 and 1775, The Coromantee War will show how events in Africa reverberated through the Atlantic, thereby joining African, European, and American history.
 A partial list includes the following: Barbados in 1675, 1683, 1686, and 1692; New York in 1712; Cartagena de Indias through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; St. John in 1733-1734; Antigua in 1701 and 1736; Surinam in 1690 and during the 1740s-50s, 1762, and the 1770s; and Jamaica in 1673, 1685, the 1690s and 1730s, 1742, and the 1760s.
 For eighteenth-century histories of the war and its aftermath see Long, History of Jamaica, II, 447-472, and Bryan Edwards, History of the West Indies, II (London: T. Miller, 1819 ), 75-79.
Spring 2016: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow
Professor of Sociology, Barnard College
Jonathan Rieder is Professor of Sociology, Barnard College and a member of the graduate faculty, Columbia University. His most recent books are Gospel of Freedom: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation (Bloomsbury, 2013) and The Word of the Lord Is upon Me: The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Harvard University Press, 2008). A recipient of fellowships from the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Davis Center for Historical Study at Princeton, the National Humanities Center, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies,
in academic year 2015-2016 Rieder is both a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellow and a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow at the Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center. He is at work on his book-length project Crossing Over: Black-White Encounters in the Transition from Rhythm and Blues to Soul and Rock.
During my time at the Du Bois Research Institute, I will be carrying out research for Crossing Over, which explores the relationships among black and white singers, musicians, producers, writers, label owners, and disc jockeys following the rise of independent record labels such as Chess, Motown, Stax, Sun and Atlantic. I am especially interested in the impact of those relationships on aesthetic creation, judgment, and performance. The book ranges widely: from Booker T and the MGs to Daryl Hall, from Felix Cavaliere and the Young Rascals to George Clinton, from Dionne Warwick and Burt Bachrach to Jerry Wexler, from the Allman Brothers to Stevie Wonder. I focus on aspects of the story neglected by narratives of “theft” and “appropriation.” Countless blacks and whites pioneered in exploring friendship, romance and collaboration with one another. They ventured into each other’s cultural worlds. And they created new artistic mixtures that affirmed and expanded primal aspects of their artistic, personal and racial identities.
2015-2016: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow
Lecturer on Social Studies, Harvard University
Kerry Chance earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Chicago and is Lecturer on Social Studies, Harvard University in 2015-2016. In residence as a Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow for the 2015 -2016 academic year, she will complete her book on South Africa’s urban poor entitled Living Politics.
As a Du Bois Fellow in 2015-2016, along with publishing articles toward my next research project, I will be completing revisions on a book manuscript, titled Living Politics. The manuscript examines how South Africa’s urban poor, those living on the margins of cities without work or basic infrastructure come to inhabit political roles and practice politics in emerging liberal orders. I focus upon governance and political mobilization in three South African cities between the mid-1980s and the present. Based upon ethnographic and historical research in Cape Town, Durban, and Johannesburg, I analyze the criminalization of popular forms of politics that were foundational to South Africa’s celebrated democratic transition. Tracking everyday interactions between state agents and residents of townships and shack settlements, I investigate rising urban unrest, which in the post-apartheid period has been characterized by street protests, labor strikes, and xenophobic pogroms. Under democratization, these protests have been sponsored by youth, anti-apartheid veterans, church leaders, and women, and focused upon the means of making urban life viable and secure. Residents refer to these protests and everyday practices such as occupying land, constructing shacks, and illicitly connecting water and energy supplies as living politics or ipolitiki ephilayo in the isiZulu vernacular.
Living politics is premised upon a collective self-identification of “the poor” that cuts across historically ‘African,’ ‘Indian,’ and so-called ‘Coloured’ (or mixed-race) communities. As state functions in South Africa are increasingly managed by a globalized private sector, living politics borrows practices of the liberation struggle, as well as from the power invested in new technologies and the recently desegregated courts. Protests by “the poor,” as I demonstrate, have arisen not only in reaction to the failure of the state and corporations to provide infrastructure, but also to the management of “slum” populations by means of forced evictions and police violence. I argue that, as the lines between ‘the criminal’ and ‘the political’ have become blurred in public discourse and through these interactions, slum and state have yet again been cast in opposition to one another. By providing an analysis of how “the poor” politicize their material lives, be it in the streets, the courts, or global media flows, my research aims to contribute a new dimension to theories of liberalization, democratic politics and contemporary urbanism – and to expand the methods by which these phenomena may best be plumbed through an historical ethnography of everyday practices and interactions. In the process, my study shows how political spaces are redefined, state sovereignty is forcibly enacted, and the production of new forms of citizenship and identity congeal at the intersections of race and class.
Each chapter of my manuscript is structured by a component of living politics, which include fire, water, land, and air. The first chapter draws from empirical material on the uses of fire in shack settlements to consider how poor residents and state agents understand ‘the political’ and ‘the criminal,’ categories that have transformed under democratization. The second chapter tracks how the delivery and disconnection of water in townships transformed from a race-based system to a logic of globalized liberal contract in the mid-1980s, which spelled out new terms for democratic citizenship. In the third chapter, I analyze forced evictions of shack-dwellers to ‘transit camps’ – the latest technology of slum elimination rapidly reshaping the urban periphery – to chart how the management of slum populations spatially reproduces historically race-based inequalities. In the fourth chapter, focusing on air pollution, I examine how ritual mass gatherings stage public confrontations with state agents, which designate movement leadership, collective identification and an emergent politics. While each of these chapters suggest how “the poor” might be constituted through shared everyday practices and interactions in communities, the final chapter combines elements to show how this identity breaks apart in counter-mobilizations over territorial sovereignty, which explosively differentiate certain residents as ethnic and national others.
2015-2016: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow
2014-2015: Oppenheimer Fellow
David Olugbenga Ogungbile
Senior Lecturer in Comparative Religion and African Religions, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria
- 104 Mt. Auburn Street, Floor 3R
David Olugbenga Ogungbile is Senior Lecturer in Comparative Religion and African Religions in the Department of Religious Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He received his BA (1987) and MA (1992) in Religious Studies from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. He obtained MTS (World Religions) from Harvard University in 2001, and then completed his Ph.D. with a thesis on "Myth, Ritual and Identity in the Religious Traditions of the Osogbo People of Western Nigeria" in 2003 from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. His research engagement has been on the various manifestations, expressions, and the dynamics of religions (Indigenous Religion, Islam and Christianity) in Africa. His interpretations and analysis of indigenous religious traditions make use of mythic narratives and ritual practices, which are the principal markers of how he defines the parameters of human identities, reinforcing his interdisciplinary approach to the religious experiences of African and the African Diaspora. His contributions include: "God: African Supreme Beings" in The "Encyclopedia of Religion" (2nd Edition, 2005); "Body Decoration" in "Encyclopedia of Religion, Communication and Media" (Routledge, 2006); and "Religions: Africa" in "The Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender" (Thomson Gale, 2007). He also recently co-edited two volumes for the Faculty of Arts of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife Nigeria, titled "Locating the Local in the Global: Voices on a Globalised Nigeria" (2004) and The Humanities, Nationalism and Democracy (2006). His edited volume Creativity and Change in Nigerian Christianity is near completion. He teaches Comparative Religion, Methods and Theories of Religion and Religion and Human Values in the Department of Religious Studies of Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria; he also teaches World Religion courses as an Adjunct Professor at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso, Nigeria.
Divine Manifestation and Human Creativity: Cultural Hermeneutics of Myth, Ritual and Identity of Osogbo-Yoruba People of Nigeria
The project is a product of research conducted for the doctoral dissertation presented to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (2003). The study, which covered the period between 1993 and 2002, focuses on visual and verbal performances that are contained in mythic narrative, ritual practices, songs, praise-poems, dramas, and artistic representations usually expressed and dramatized in annual festivals of the Osogbo-Yoruba people, the events that have brought the community into international socio-cultural attention and indigenous religious limelight. Additionally, the project examines Yoruba indigenous religious communities among the African Diaspora of the Americas and Europe, their mutual interactions and the implications of such interactions on global religious life and experiences, and the effects of the various levels of interactions on global identity, politics, and economy. The study identifies three key problems that characterized most of the early work pursued on indigenous traditions of Africa, and particularly of the Yoruba, perhaps the most studied indigenous people, whose influence traverses beyond Africa throughout Europe and the Americas. Firstly, in previous research, generalizations emerge which did not express local and unique peculiarities of the different religious groups of the Yoruba and of Africa as a whole. Secondly, most of the work completed was not holistic, that is, it was approached, in the main, from different singular disciplinary perspectives without seeing the intrinsic and granular connections between different aspects of religious traditions. Thirdly, most of the work was descriptive and narrative, and not interpretive and analytical. Critical models of analysis in the literature on Yoruba religious traditions, life, and experiences include work by Bolaji Idowu, Wande Abimbola, Omosade Awolalu and Ade Dopamu, and Henry and Margaret Drewal as well as the unique work of Jacob K. Olupona. The current study extends beyond the African continent and is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary exploration and hermeneutics of the verbal and visual expression of the performance of Yoruba culture and life, adopting an interdisciplinary approach which incorporates analytical frameworks from anthropology, history, and phenomenology.
Associate Professor in Psychology, University of Cape Town
Floretta Boonzaier is Associate Professor in Psychology at the University of Cape Town. Her work spans feminist, critical, social and post-colonial psychologies, with special interests in intersectional subjectivities, youth subjectivites, gendered and sexual identifications, participatory methodologies and gender-based violence. She recently co-authored South African Women Living with HIV: Global lessons from local voices published by Indiana University Press, 2014 and contributed a chapter to, Women Voicing Resistance: Discursive and narrative explorations, published by Routledge, 2014.
In 2010 she received the runner up award in the South African Department of Science and Technology’s Women in Science awards, for the category of Distinguished Young Woman Researcher in the Social Sciences or Humanities. She is an executive member of the Psychological Society of South Africa, also serving as Deputy Chair for its Sexuality and Gender Division. She also serves on the board of the NGO, RAPCAN, Rescourses aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.
Reading the past in the present: Historicizing Violence Against Women in South Africa
South Africa is notorious for its high levels of violence against women. Although frequent acknowledgement is given to the role of colonialism, slavery and apartheid in the manifestations of violence little to no work has unpacked the meanings of this historical context and its continuities to the present. I argue that an analysis of the structure and how it has come to be is important for thinking about the themes that characterize violence against women in present-day, post-colonial, post-apartheid South Africa.
The proposed project is located at two key intersections. First, it engages with the assertions by South African feminists such as Pumla Gqola (2010) and Gabeba Baderoon (2014) that there is a relative inattention to slave memory in South Africa, despite its relevance for and continuities into the present. Secondly, and relatedly, it is concerned with the ways in which colonialism, slavery and apartheid has created the conditions in which black subjectivities and black women’s bodies specifically, have become sites of violation.
In this work I theorize contemporary representations and manifestations of violence against women, by locating them in the past. I ask, ‘ How do the themes of the past locate themselves in the present?’ This work begins an analysis of how the local past – a particular history of slavery in the Western Cape Province of South Africa and later apartheid has given shape to the present. It asks about the intersections of race, sexuality, gender and the sexualisation and violation of the black female body. This historicizing project intends to unpack both the continuities and discontinuities between past and present asking about its implications for subjectivity and agency for those deemed victims and perpetrators.
Fall 2015: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow
Fall 2009: Mandela Fellow