Past Dissertation Descriptions
African and African Diaspora Studies Program Dissertation Fellowship Descriptions
“‘I Live by a Stranger of another Nation:’ Land, Travel and Belonging in a Southern African Country.”
This study discusses the political need to focus on land in order to simplify belonging throughout Zimbabwe’s history and the impact that travel has had in problematizing this over-simplified sense of “national” belonging. Through an analysis of Rhodesian and Zimbabwean works of fiction and non-fiction, I examine how travel makes all belonging unsettled, and how this unsettledness can be productive in making us re-think and interrogate “African” identity in a post-colonial, post-essentialist, post-nativist, and post-race era.
Course: BK518 Women Writers of Africa & the African Diaspora
This course comparatively looks at portrayals of girlhood, womanhood, sisterhood, and motherhood in the works of women writers in Africa and the African Diaspora.
“Theorizing Policy Implementation: Enforcing Anti-Gender-Based Violence Laws in Post-Conflict Liberia”
The central objective of this project is to understand why law enforcement officers (LEOs) deviate from their agencies’ official directives when they respond to some forms of gender-based violence (GBV). It also seeks to understand how this deviation affects governments’ efforts to reduce levels of these crimes and how the women’s movement influences the strategies that LEOs adopt.
Course: BK511 Race & Politics in the African Diaspora
Subtitle: Gender and In (Security) in Conflict and Post-Conflict Settings
This course aims to introduce students to the theories of gender and security. It also seeks to foster an understanding of how gender affects men and women's experiences of (in)security during and after conflict and, of how (in)security constitutes gendered norms and practices. The course draws on debates and lessons from across the globe but focuses on conflict and post-conflict settings in Africa, the shifting demographics and the cultural transformation they bring with them.
"(Lost) Tribes to Citizens: Lemba ‘Black Jews’ Engage the South African State"
“(Lost) Tribes to Citizens: Lemba Black Jews Engage the South African State” traces Lemba people’s efforts to position themselves as diasporic Jews and as indigenous Africans in pursuit of political and cultural citizenship within and beyond South Africa. The Lemba participated in DNA tests to prove their Jewish ancestry and have been the subject of debates about ‘lost tribes of Israel’ and ‘black Jews’ since the late 19th century. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in rural villages and townships, this project examines contemporary Lemba politics of citizenship and belonging against a backdrop of structural inequalities that survived South Africa’s late 20th century political transformation. By moving beyond essentialist ideas that position Lemba people as either ‘real’ Jews or as the products of invented traditions, I emphasize their multiple subjectivities and demonstrate that their cultural identities are meaningful to Lemba people as they struggle to find a viable place in their worlds.
Course: BK362 South African Struggles, South African Lives
In South Africa, “the struggle” often refers to mobilizations against the racist Apartheid regime that was in power from 1948 to 1994. In this class, the struggle against Apartheid is just one site through which we will study meanings and practices of struggle in South Africa. As we examine various struggles for independence, livelihoods, rights and justice before, during and after Apartheid, we will also consider the role of struggle within South Africa. We will pay close attention to the struggles that people engage and enact in their lives, and we will approach discourses and meanings of concepts like culture, belonging, and politics as sites of struggle in and of themselves.