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Past Dissertation Descriptions

african and african diaspora studies

Amber Murrey-Ndewa


"Lifescapes of a Pipedream: a Mixed-Tape on Structural Violence, Resistance, and Struggle in Two Villages Along the Chand-Cameroon Oil Pipeline"

At the center of this research are the structural violences that accompanied the implementation of the Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline, represented through the narratives, perspectives and resistance practices of the people who live alongside its right-of-way in Kribiand Nanga-Eboko in Cameroon. This research project will demonstrate that there are longstanding and historically grounded understandings of structural violence(s) in Cameroon based on witchcraft epistemologies and that these frameworks problematize and enrich scholarly theories of structural violence and resistance. Critical scholarship reveals the violence of large-scale development projects that fail to consider local epistemologies and cultural sensitivities (Scott 1998; Ferguson 2008) and my project responds to this lacuna by seeking to understand local narratives of violence and resistance within agrarian landscapes and lifescapes, as rural people are (re)incorporated into the structures of modern capitalism.

Justin Leroy


“Race, Empire, and the Global Intellectual Tradition of the Black Atlantic, 1750-1850.”

This work reconsiders the history of black political thought in the British Atlantic between the American Revolution and the first decade of the twentieth century by engaging black literary and oratical responses to the expansion of Anglo-American imperialism. Despite the prominence of recent scholarship on the nineteenth-century British Atlantic world focuses on the constitutive role of empire in national self-fashioning, the study of black political thought in this period remains framed by national boundaries and discrete periodization centered on emancipation.  This scholarship breaks from these forms of spatial and temporal categorization by arguing that black thinkers articulated the persistent importance of struggles againts empire both before and after emancipation.

Course: BK515 Race and Capitalism: Blackness in Global Economy from Slavery to Mass Incarceration.

This course explores how violence against black bodies has been an integral component of global economic development from the eighteenth century to the present. Focusing broadly on the African Diaspora, we will study the history of capitalism's racial violence as it leverages cultural nationality, and sexuality, among others. We will critique relationships among capitalist as they develop from histories of racial slavery, colonial expansion, ghettoization, mass incarceration, and overseas warfare.

Siphiwe Ndlovu


“‘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.

Peace Medie


“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.

Noah Tamarkin


"(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.