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Dissertation Support Granted to Two Graduate Students Through RESI-Cantú Graduate Research Fellowship

The Race & Ethnic Studies Institute announces the Spring 2024 recipients of the RESI-Cantú Graduate Research Fellowship. A fellowship designed to support current Texas A&M doctoral students complete their dissertation or some significant component thereof.

RESI-Cantú Graduate Research Fellowship

The Race & Ethnic Studies Institute (RESI) and the Carlos H. Cantú Endowment & Scholarship Fund have once again collaborated to offer a fellowship opportunity for current doctoral students at Texas A&M University. The RESI-Cantú Graduate Research Fellowship, on its fourth award cycle, is made to assist in the completion or support the significant component of the dissertation. Both recipients will receive up to $5,000 for roughly one calendar year.

The fellowship funds will assist grantees with pursuing opportunities to advance their dissertation for research infrastructure, fieldwork, travel to archives, participant incentives, and other pertinent research expenses. It also provides graduate students with a chance to develop their grant-writing skills which are key to pivoting into careers in research and industry.

“We’re proud to give assistance to students whose earnest work will impact academia and the public alike. Work like theirs speaks to the institute’s mission to contribute meaningfully to race and ethnic studies,” says RESI Director, Dr. Wanzer-Serano.

Meet the RESI-Cantú Graduate Research Fellows

RESI and the Carlos H. Cantú Endowment & Scholarship Fund congratulate Hannah Bowling, doctoral student of English, and Vanessa Verner, doctoral student of Sociology, on their deeply personal proposals. Both RESI and the Carlos H. Cantú Endowment & Scholarship Fund are proud to support their development and provide funding for their research.

Hannah Bowling, doctoral candidate and instructor of record in the Texas A&M University’s English department, focuses in on and examines African diasporic adaptations of Shakespeare, or “Blackspeares” as articulations of the Black experience. As a scholar in premodern critical race studies, she has developed an ongoing digital humanities project: Blackspeare, which articulates a coherent praxis for teaching Shakespeare within the context of the Black experience. Blackspeare is an open-access educational resource, with designs to launch its first phase in the coming summer allowing for post-secondary educators to access supplemental course readings and activities. There are also plans for a secondary phase focusing on a digital archive of Black adaptations of Shakespeare including any texts that can be made open-access as well as reviews and ephemera from Black -authored, -produced, and -themed adaptations of Shakespeare. Through the RESI-Cantú Graduate Research Fellowship, she has received the funding to conduct archival research in institutions like the New York Public Library, Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and the UWI’s George Lamming Collection. The digital archive is ultimately intended as an asset to not only users of the Blackspeare teacher’s guide but also for scholars more broadly invested in the history of Shakespearean adaptations and the artist endeavors of the African diasporic communities When asked about the impact about her work, Bowling responded, “As of Spring 2024, there does not exist any digital archive of Black Shakespearean adaptations. In a white-dominated field like Shakespeare where systemic racism suppresses not only the creative endeavors but scholarly pursuits of non-white people, I see my work as a direct intervention within this status quo.”

Vanessa Verner, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology, is inspired by the Spiritually grounded Black women in her life. Her dissertation work focuses on such women in pastoral leadership within Black Pentecostalism which has historically been against women in such positions. Vanessa has engaged in some interdisciplinary work connecting Black rhetorics in church spaces as mechanisms of criticism against women. When she lived in Chicago, she learned about a Jurisdictional Bishop ordaining a woman as a pastor – a concept that she had been taught was “out of God’s order” within the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). This event made her curious about the impacts of a rich history of the foundational role Black women played in establishing new churches across the country, educational developments, fundraising, and civic engagement on contemporary COGIC members and church affiliates. The RESI-Cantú Graduate Research Fellowship, has given her the funding that has allowed her to expand her reach to obtain her target sample size within the 8 million+ COGIC population while balancing her teaching responsibilities and working on her dissertation by having the opportunity to work with and mentor undergraduate research assistants. Through her research, she hopes to advance knowledge on social behaviors, politics, racisms, classism, and gendered dynamics within racial homogeneous spaces for the effect of increased equity and advocacy. “The impact I hope my research will have on the academic community is to encourage race scholars to reach for the hard questions and not to be deterred from looking inward. Researching a religious space closely related to my personal experiences with church engagement and deep relational ties to friends, family and community, offers essential insight.”

The RESI-Cantú Fellow’s Research Projects

Hannah Bowling

A photograph of a smiling Hannah Bowling.Project Title: ‘So base a hue? A beauteous blossom, sure’: Race and Identity in Shakespearean Performance from the Early Modern to the Postmodern.

Abstract: Hannah read Black Shakespearean afterlives, or Blackspeares, through what she term’s the “genre-race paradigm.” Through the synthesis of philosophical blackness and the racial matrix, different creative genres such as drama, film, and novels produce different constructions of racial Blackness. Many 20th century Black artist-philosophers understood racial Blackness as dyadic: some non-Black people seemed closer to Blackness than those who corporeally embodied it, generating a notion of philosophical Blackness.

Under the “genre-race paradigm,” storytelling becomes a tool for Black artist-philosophers to provide access to philosophical Blackness for their audiences. The “genre-race paradigm” is predicated on a collaborative spirit, using the intimacy (or lack thereof) constructed between text and reader/viewer for the audience to obtain philosophical Blackness. Through historical, cultural, performance-based, and textual analysis Hannah read’s the dramatic, cinematic, and narrative works of Derek Walcott, Toni Morrison, Joe de Graft, Shakirah Bourne, Caryl Philips, Margo J Hendricks, and others. As artist-philosophers, these Black writers artfully employ Shakespeare’s global cultural capital from 1965 onward to engage their audiences in Black stories. By focusing on genre, she engages with Black storytelling as community- and culture-building praxis—through careful genre choices, artist-philosophers either produce or withhold access to philosophical Blackness for their audiences.

Vanessa Verner

Project Title: “Not by The Commission of Men’s Hands”: Gender, Race, and Class Politics within Black Pentecostalism

Abstract: Historically, women in the Church of God In Christ (COGIC) have been purveyors of upward social mobility and professionalization for Black Americans. Though Black women are vital to the church’s organizational structure, the current General Board, the senior governing board of the church, does not authorize women’s pastoral ordination. However, local and jurisdictional Bishops continue to ordain women as pastors. Recognizing the organization’s disagreement between the General Board and Bishops who ordain women, my work analyzes the ways this contradiction shapes the day to day operations of the church and the viewpoints of its congregants and affiliates.

Currently holding over 5 million members, the COGIC is one of the largest religious spaces in the United States. As such, it is crucial to understand Black religious life through their viewpoints and engagements with the social dynamics of gender, race, and class politics.

Using a Black Feminist epistemological approach, Vanessa delves into how meaning-making affects gender politics within the Black Pentecostal community. Using focus groups and survey methods of members and affiliates of the COGIC, she gains their perspectives on women’s pastoral ordination and how people feel about women in the church broadly. Vanessa is expanding the literature on Black religious life and offers sociological research to provide more context about Black Pentecostals. Her work also provides a more critical insight into how contemporary gender and racial patterns within society manifest in the church over time.