Marixa Lasso is Associate Professor of Latin American History at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Prior to joining the Universidad Nacional, she was Associate Professor with tenure at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of the book Myths of Harmony: Race and Republicanism during the Age of Revolution, Colombia 1795-1831 (2007). Professor Lasso is a contributor to numerous books and has published in journals like the American Historical Review, Environmental History, and Citizenship Studies. She is currently working on a book tentatively titled The Lost Towns of the Canal Zone (under contract with Harvard University Press), for which she received grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Humanities Center. She has also held fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, Fulbright, and the Werner Gren Foundation. Her work has been translated to Spanish and Portuguese.
The Lost Towns of the Canal Zone
This work looks at the relationship between US ideas about Panamanian tropical environment and peoples and the depopulation of the Panama Canal Zone. It argues that political rhetoric facilitated regional depopulation by re-characterizing Panama’s republican citizens, most of whom were black, as “natives.” Once this ideological transformation took place, it became easier to enforce depopulation policies that forever altered the Canal Zone landscape by converting what had previously been one of the most densely populated regions of the country into a jungle landscape.
Fall 2016: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow
Gaiutra Bahadur is an award-winning journalist who writes frequently about literature, gender and migration. She is the author of Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture (University of Chicago Press, 2013), a narrative history about indentured women which was shortlisted for the 2014 Orwell Prize, the British literary award for political writing that is artful. The book won the 2014 Gordon and Sybil K. Lewis Prize, awarded by scholars of the Caribbean to the best book about the Caribbean published in the previous three years.
Gaiutra's reporting, criticism, and essays have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Nation, Dissent, Foreign Policy, The Virginia Quarterly Review and Ms., among other publications. She has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Nieman Fellow, a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellow and a Visiting US Fellow at the British Library's Eccles Centre for American Studies.
Gaiutra was born in Guyana and emigrated to the U.S. with her family when she was six years old. She studied literature at Yale and journalism at Columbia. She began her career as a daily newspaper staff writer, reporting on immigration and the war in Iraq for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Texas Legislature and demographics for the Austin American-Statesman. She is also the author of the children's book Family Ties (Scholastic, 2012), a paired profile of Barack Obama and Amy Tan. Her essay, "Of Islands and Other Mothers," is forthcoming in Nonstop Metropolis (University of California Press, 2016), a literary anthology about New York City, and she was a contributor to Living on the Edge of the World: New Jersey Writers Take on the Garden State (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2007).
The Woman from America
I plan to research a biography of the late Janet Rosenberg Jagan, the Chicago-born Marxist who was president of Guyana in her seventies. She was the first American woman to lead a nation. Time named her one of history’s 16 most rebellious women. In her life, two of the twentieth century’s most arresting struggles — against colonialism and against Communism — were writ small. Her story provides an opportunity to write about these principal postwar narratives involving superpowers in an original way: from an overlooked place on the world’s margins, a country that, despite its peripheral status, ended up mattering a great deal to great powers.
It’s the story both of an exceptional American and American exceptionalism gone awry. During the Cold War, the United States intervened in Guianese politics on the eve of independence to maneuver Janet and her husband Cheddi from office and to place their rival Forbes Burnham in power. In so doing, they indelibly divided a fragile decolonizing society along racial lines. My book will unfold chronologically, following the arc of Janet Jagan’s life, but it will also evolve as an essay exploring competing ideas of America: as guardian of democracy around the world, as immigrant beacon and as irredeemably, structurally racist. During Burnham’s regime, Guyana became a haven for African-Americans, including fugitive Black nationalists granted political asylum. It was a field for clashing notions of Pan-Africanism, with polestars of the movement such as Walter Rodney and Eusi Kwayana working beside the Jagans to end Burnham’s dictatorship.
2016-2017: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow
Candacy Taylor is an award-winning African American author and cultural documentarian. Her first book, Counter Culture, was optioned by ABC television and in 2012, she was one of five people to receive an Archie Green Fellowship from the Library of Congress. Her work has been featured in over 40 media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall St. Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian UK, NPR, BBC, CBC Radio and PBS. Taylor’s projects have been commissioned and funded by leading organizations such as The Library of Congress, The National Park Service, The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), The Schomburg Center for Black Culture, The Graham Foundation, California Humanities and the American Folklife Center.
Sites of Sanctuary: The Negro Motorist Green Book
"Sites of Sanctuary" is a multimedia project that documents businesses that were listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book. The “Green Book” was a travel guide that listed restaurants, hotels, barbershops, beauty parlors, taverns and service stations that were willing to serve black people during the Jim Crow era. It not only offered safety and convenience, it was a powerful tool for African Americans to persevere and literally move forward in the face of racism. The fact that we have Green Book buildings as physical evidence of racial segregation is a rich opportunity to re-examine America’s troubled history of segregation, integration, black migration and the rise of the black leisure class.
The project will provide new research, documentation, historical narratives, and statistical data on the history of African American travel. Through qualitative and quantitative research, oral history interviews, photographic documentation, and archiving ephemera from Green Book properties, the project builds on examinations of mapping racialized landscapes and re-contextualizes it in the current cultural paradigm of race, poverty, and social mobility.
A Hutchins Fellowship will provide an opportunity to scout, map, photograph and research over 100 Green Book businesses that were located in Massachusetts with over 70 in the Boston and Roxbury area. Having access to local libraries and historical societies will aid in researching Massachusetts Green Book properties and the data gathered during the fellowship period will provide source material for a book, touring exhibition, interactive map, website, mobile app, virtual reality platform, board game and walking tour.
Spring 2017: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation 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.