Africana Research Center welcomes new postdoctoral fellows

September 07, 2010

Penn State's Africana Research Center (ARC) recently announced its three fellows for the 2010-11 year and held its orientation on Sept. 1. The program supports early career scholars and junior faculty who conduct research centered on or related to Africa and the African diaspora and assists them in establishing themselves in academia.

The ARC Fellows are housed in departments within the College of the Liberal Arts. During their residency, fellows have opportunities to showcase their research and scholarship, as well as to engage with noted scholars in their respective fields. The fellows have no teaching or administrative responsibilities, allowing them undistracted time to focus on research and publication, as well as professional development. Each fellow also received the benefit of being matched with a mentor.

Two types of fellowships are available through the ARC: the postdoctoral fellowship and the Humanities Dissertation fellowship. The goal of this program is to support doctoral students at Penn State who have completed all but their dissertation and are researching topics related to Africa and the African diaspora. Dissertation fellows also have no teaching or related duties. For 2010-11, the Africana Research Center Fellows are:

-- Ikuko Asaka, who received a doctoral degree in history from the Gender and Women’s History Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After earning her master of arts degree in American studies from Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan, she began her doctoral studies at UW-Madison. Her work focuses on transnational African-American studies, 19h-century U.S., empire and race, and gender and women’s history. Ikuko’s dissertation is titled “Race across Empire and Republic: Black Migration to Canada and Racial, National and Gender Formations in Atlantic Context.” She is the recipient of a number of fellowships, including OAH La Pietra Dissertation Travel Fellowship in Transnational History and Graduate Scholars Associates Fellowship at UW Institute on Race and Ethnicity. She is also a finalist for Gene Wise-Warren Susman Prize for the best graduate student paper presented at the American Studies Association. Her current project examines how people of African descent in Canada and the U.S. both, in their own way, countered and negotiated notions of tropicality -- a racialized language of geography and the body -- by appropriating a broad range of subject positions available within such gendered and racialized political and social relations as settler colonialism, African diaspora, and republicanism. As such, the project places U.S. racial formation and African-American history within the transnational flows of ideas about race in the 19th century. Ikuko is a fellow and research associate in the history department.

-- Jasmine Cobb, who completed her doctoral degree in communication and culture at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on both historical and contemporary representations of race, class, gender and sexuality in visual cultures with published works on sexuality in popular music, Black filmmaking, and race on television. For her book manuscript, "Picturing Freedom: Black Visuality in the TransAtlantic Home, 1780-1850," she uses 19th century media to examine freedom as a crisis of visual culture that demanded reconfigurations of race and spectatorship. Cobb is a fellow and research associate in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences.

-- Ariane Cruz, who received her bachelor of arts degree from Stanford University with honors in art practice (drawing and painting) and African-American studies; master of arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley in African diaspora studies; and doctorate from UC Berkeley in African diaspora studies with a designated emphasis in women gender and sexuality. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral fellowship, and the UC Berkeley Center for the Study of Sexual Culture Dissertation Grant for her dissertation, titled “Berries Bittersweet: Visual Representations of Black Female Sexuality in Contemporary American Pornography.” Her research and teaching interests include images of black female sexuality, black visuality and race and representation. During her tenure of the ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Department of Women's Studies she will be researching violence and the black female body in Internet porn as well as revising her dissertation into a manuscript.

For more information about the fellows programs or the Africana Research Center, contact Tracy Beckett, managing director, at 814-865-6482 or

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Last Updated August 29, 2011