Penn State Africana Research Center welcomes new post-doctoral fellows

Penn State's Africana Research Center welcomed the fellows for the 2015-16 academic year on Aug. 24. Standing, from left, are fellows Nicole Myers Turner, Juli Grigsby, Aditi Malik and Margaret Ariotti. Seated, from left, are the fellows' mentor, Professor Sinfree Makoni, and Professor William Dewey, director of the African Studies Program.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State's Africana Research Center (ARC) recently announced its three postdoctoral and three dissertation fellows for the 2015-16 academic year and held its orientation on Aug. 24. 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 receives 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 2015-16, the ARC fellows are:

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Juli Grigsby — Post-Doctoral Fellow for the Department of Women’s StudiesCultural Anthropology African Diaspora program, University of Texas at Austin, 2014Email:

Juli Grigsby is a social cultural anthropologist and received her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin. The past recipient of Davis Putter Fellowships and a Humanities, Arts, Science, Technology & Advanced Collaboratory Scholar (HASTAC), her photographic work has appeared in the Black California Dreamin’ journal and at the Metro Art Gallery in Pomona, California. A U.S.-based anthropologist, her areas of expertise include critical race theory, feminist and queer theory, urban ethnography, violence, and U.S Social Movements. She will spend the fellowship year revising two articles and her current book project, “Grim Sleeper: Gender, Violence, and Reproductive Justice in Los Angeles,” which explores black women’s experiences of structural violence through a form of racial neglect and black women’s commitment to social transformation through reproductive justice.

Aditi Malik — Post-Doctoral Fellow for the African Studies ProgramPolitical Science, Northwestern University, 2015Email:

Aditi Malik received her doctorate in political science from Northwestern University in 2015. Her dissertation, "Playing the Communal Card: Elites, Parties, and Inter-Ethnic Electoral Violence in Kenya and India," is a comparative study of election-related ethnic conflict in Kenya and India. As part of this project, Aditi built an original event dataset on electoral violence in Kenya for the period between 1991 and 2013. In addition, she conducted fieldwork in both countries — including 175 elite interviews — to better understand how and why politicians instrumentalize ethnic violence around elections for their power-seeking goals. Apart from election-related conflict, Aditi's broader research interests lie in the study of political violence and post-conflict reconstruction. She will spend the year revising her dissertation manuscript for publication, as well as submitting articles based on this project to academic journals.

Nicole Myers Turner — Joint Post-Doctoral Fellow of the Richards Civil War EraHistory, University of Pennsylvania, 2013Email:

Nicole Myers Turner obtained her doctorate in history with certificates in Africana studies and college-level teaching from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. Longstanding interests in religion and power focus her research on the dynamic intersection between religion and politics in Virginia’s black communities during the post-emancipation period. Her dissertation, “Faith and Freedom: The Politics of Black Religious Institutions in Post-Emancipation Virginia”, explores how Virginia’s free and freed people used their churches, conventions and religious educational institutions to define political strategies, gender roles and community membership. The study delves deeply into the limited but extant records of black religious institutions and incorporates GIS mapping techniques to visualize the church and political networks that supported black participation in electoral politics. Through this local study, she offers a social and political history of late 19th century black religion. She will spend the year revising her manuscript for publication and writing two articles—one on religious education of black church leaders and the other on enslaved women and religion—in addition to expanding her digital mapping project.

Dissertation Fellows

Margaret (Molly) Ariotti, Department of Political ScienceEmail:

Molly Ariotti is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science. She received her bachelor of arts in political science and geography from Binghamton University and her mater of arts in political science from Penn State. Her dissertation focuses on political institutions in Africa, particularly the effects of bureaucratic structures on local governance and the provision of public goods. She has conducted exploratory field work in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, and her work focuses on Francophone Africa. More information can be found at her website.

Jessica Baker Kee, School of Visual ArtsEmail:

Jessica Baker Kee is a doctoral candidate in the Art Education Department. She obtained her bachelor of arts in art history from Duke University in 2004 and her master’s degree in art education from East Carolina University in 2011. She has also worked as a public and private school art teacher, a federal disaster relief agent, and an educational research consultant. Her narrative ethnographic research explores constructions of identity and trauma in pedagogical contexts, examining the impacts of institutional education policy on the lived experiences of students of color, particularly in relation to the "achievement gap" and the school-to-prison pipeline. She is currently conducting arts-based participatory inquiry with middle and high school students in New Orleans as part of her dissertation research. Her research ultimately seeks to develop new curricular models based on traditional aesthetic and spiritual epistemologies of the African diaspora.

Susan Cooke Weeber, Department of EnglishEmail:

Susan Cooke Weeber is a doctoral candidate in English. She received her master of arts in English from Penn State and her bachelor of arts in English and political science from Georgetown University. Susan specializes in African American and 20th century American literature, particularly aesthetic and media theory, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism, and the place of Haiti and the Haitian Revolution in Caribbean and American literature. Her dissertation, “Poetics of Interruption: Media and Form in Twentieth Century American Literature,” investigates poetry and fiction that turns to other media—jazz, photography, and cinema—in order to interrupt, escape, or reorient narrative and historiography.

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

Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated August 28, 2015