Harvard’s New Group of W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute Fellows

HutchinsCenterLogoThe W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center of Harvard University has been appointing fellows since 1975. Fellows spend one or two semesters on campus to conduct individual research in a wide variety of fields related to African and African American Studies. Fellows are able to use the full resources of Harvard University and participate in colloquia, public conferences, lectures, readings, and workshops. Since the programs inception, more than 300 fellows have been selected.

This year there are 16 W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute Fellows. Six are Black.


(L to R) Christopher Emdin, Shose Kessi, Achille Mbembe, Mark Anthony Neal, Wole Soyinka, and Deborah Willis

Christopher Emdin is an associate professor in the department of mathematics, science, and technology at Teachers College of Columbia University in New York City. He is also the associate director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education. His research project at Harvard is entitled, “STEM With No Root Bears No Fruit: Colloquial Appropriations of Canonical Science in Contemporary Hip-Hop.” Dr. Emdin is a graduate of Lehman College of the City University of New York. He holds a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and a doctorate in urban education from the City University of New York.

Shose Kessi is a lecturer in psychology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Dr. Kessi earned a Ph.D. at the London School of Economics and Political Science. At Harvard she is conducting research on her project entitled, “Students’ Experiences of Transformation in Higher Education: A Social Psychological Perspective.”

Achille Mbembe is a research professor in history and politics at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is the author of many books, including On the Postcolony (University of California Press, 2001). His Harvard research is entitled, “Democracy in the Age of Animism.” Dr. Mbembe holds a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne in Paris.

Mark Anthony Neal is a professor of African and African American studies at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. His latest book is Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (New York University Press, 2013). His Harvard research is called “What If the Greensboro Four Had Twitter? Social Justice in the Age of Social Media and Hip-Hop.” Dr. Neal holds a Ph.D. in American studies from the University at Buffalo of the State University of New York system.

In 1986 Wole Soyinka was the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. He is spending the entire academic year at Harvard as the inaugural Hutchins Fellow, on leave from his post as the President’s Marymount Institute Professor in Residence at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Soyinka, now 79 years old, has had a long career as a poet, playwright, novelist, educator, and political activist in his native Nigeria. His memoir You Must Set Forth at Dawn was published by Random House in 2006.

Deborah Willis is the inaugural Cohen Fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute. She is University Professor and chair of the department of photography and imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Among her published works are Posing Beauty: African American Images From the 1890s to the Present (W.W. Norton, 2009) and Black Venus 2010: They Called Her “Hottentot” (Temple University Press, 2010). Dr. Willis is a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Art. She holds a master’s degree from the City University of New York, a master of fine arts degree from the Pratt Institute, and a Ph.D. from George Mason University in Virginia.


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