Africana Research Center welcomes 2018-19 postdoctoral, dissertation fellows

August 21, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State's Africana Research Center (ARC) recently announced its three postdoctoral and three dissertation fellows for the 2018-19 academic year and held its orientation on Aug. 21. 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 typically 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 is also 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 2018-19, the Africana Research Center Fellows are:

Postdoctoral Fellows

J. Marlena Edwards

Postdoctoral Fellow for African Studies, the College of the Liberal Arts

Edwards obtained a dual-major doctorate in African-American and African studies and history from Michigan State University. At MSU, she was a University Enrichment Fellow and Dr. Martin Luther King Endowed Fellow. Her research interests include multiethnic African-American identities, Cape Verdean and Afro-Caribbean immigration, U.S. imperialism, women, gender, immigration in the United States, and African diaspora history. Her dissertation, “‘…To Do Credit to My Nation, Wherever I Go’: West Indian and Cape Verdean Immigrants in Southeastern New England, 1890–1940,” explored the role of Cape Verdean and West Indian immigrant organizations, social networks, and neighborhood connections as sites of adhesion to tradition and ethnicity, maintaining relations with their homeland, and forging diasporic communities in the United States. Edwards is currently developing a book manuscript building expanding on her dissertation project and working on an article about New York’s American West Indian Ladies Aid Society. Edwards obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in history from the State University of New York at Binghamton University. Prior to attending Michigan State University, she was proud to serve as volunteer manager and educational coordinator for several community-based non-profits, community centers, and schools in New York City.

Sam C. Tenorio

Postdoctoral Fellow for Comparative Literature and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the College of the Liberal Arts

Tenorio holds a doctorate in African-American studies with a subfield in political theory from Northwestern University (2018). Their research interests revolve primarily around black political thought, anarchism, carcerality, as well as the history of chattel slavery and its afterlives. They have regularly presented their work at the American Studies Association, National Women’s Studies Association, and Law and Society Association. Tenorio is currently working on a book manuscript that explores the spatial and anarchist lineages of black political practices.

Dara Walker

Postdoctoral Fellow for the Richards Civil War Era Center, the College of the Liberal Arts

Walker holds a doctorate in history from Rutgers University. Her research and teaching interests include African-American history, urban history, 20th century U.S. history, public history, and the digital humanities. She received her bachelor of science in African-American studies from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and a master's in Pan-African studies from Syracuse University in 2011. She is currently writing her dissertation, "Black Power, Youth Politics, and Education in Detroit, 1966-1973," which examines the role of the high school organizing tradition in the development of black radical politics. Her research has been funded by the Ford Foundation’s Dissertation Fellowship, the Walter P. Reuther Library's Albert Shanker Fellowship for Research in Education, and Rutgers University.

Dissertation Fellows

Brandon M. Erby

Dissertation Fellow for English and African American Studies (Spring 2019), the College of the Liberal Arts

Erby is a dual-title doctoral candidate in English and African American and Diaspora studies. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from Tougaloo College and master’s degrees in American literature and rhetoric and composition from Seton Hall University and Penn State, respectively. His research interests include African-American rhetorical and literacy practices, rhetorical education, and the rhetoric and historiography of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. Erby's dissertation, currently titled “Look What They Did to My Boy: Mamie Till-Mobley and the Rhetorics of Emmett Till,” details the activist work of Till-Mobley and traces the ways the Till murder informs rhetorical theory and issues of pedagogy, community organizing and social justice. 

In addition to receiving predoctoral research grants from the Social Science Research Council-Mellon Mays program, Erby received a Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) "Scholars for the Dream" award in 2016; a National Endowment for the Humanities award in 2017; and a Marcus Garvey Memorial Foundation research fellowship in 2018. During his ARC fellowship semester, Erby will present parts of his dissertation at the 2019 MLA in Chicago, IL and the 2019 CCCC in Pittsburgh.

Aurelie Matheron

Dissertation Fellow for Comparative Literature (Fall 2018), the College of the Liberal Arts

Matheron is a doctoral candidate (ABD) in the Department of Comparative Literature. She received her master's degree in Anglophone literatures and cultures at the University of Rennes, France (2012). Her research focuses on contemporary French and Francophone, Hispanophone, and Italian literature and visual art that seek to address and redress issues linked to cultural disposability in the contexts of colonization and trans-Mediterranean migration. More particularly, she traces the aesthetic and cultural role of trash in the reconstruction of marginalized experiences and explores how the works of Benino-Belgian photographer Fabrice Monteiro, or Spanish novelist and activist Andres Sorel, among others, reclaim trash to resist socio-cultural and historical erasures.

Matheron has presented her research at conferences such as the MLA, the 20th- and 21st-century French and Francophone Studies International Colloquium, and the SCLA. In June 2018 she was awarded the Young Researcher Award at the International Council of Francophone Studies where she presented her work on the trash crisis in Senegal. Thanks to the Africana Research Center grant, she was also able to attend the Dak’Art festival in Dakar, Senegal, in May 2018, where she conducted interviews with Senegalese artists for her dissertation.

Mudiwa Pettus

Dissertation Fellow for English and African American Studies (Fall 2018), the College of the Liberal Arts

Pettus is a dual-title doctoral candidate in English and African American and Diaspora studies. Her research is located at the intersection of rhetoric/rhetorical education, poetics, historiography, public intellectualism, and racial politics, with a particular focus on the Post-Reconstruction/Pre-Harlem Renaissance era. In her dissertation, "Black Protest Rhetoric in the Age of Booker T. Washington," she interweaves these myriad interests by tracing the development of a collective African-American rhetorical consciousness through the oratorical career of Booker T. Washington. She will defend her dissertation in May 2019. 

For more information about the Fellows’ Programs or the Africana Research Center, contact Dawn M. Lavera at or visit

  • ARC 2018-19 fellows

    Penn State's Africana Research Center welcomed the fellows for the 2018-19 academic year on Aug. 21. Seated are postdoctoral fellows Dara Walker, Sam C. Tenorio and J. Marlena Edwards. Standing are dissertation fellows, Aurelie Matheron, Brandon M. Erby and Mudiwa Pettus.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated September 14, 2018