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A Whole New World

Hello, new friends. I am Shavaun Sutton, the inaugural research fellow for the Humanities Center’s World Making/World Building Fellowship 2023/2024. I am in my fourth year in hin Northeastern’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. My dissertation work explores place and world-building in Staten Island, NY through Black feminist epistemologies, DuBoisian frameworks and storytelling/creative writing. Since my master’s, I have been on the search for homeplace. bell hooks defines homeplace as sites where Black people can “recover our wholeness” and “where we can be affirmed in our minds and hearts … where we could restore ourselves the dignity denied us on the outside in the public world” (hooks 1990).  In each institution I have been a part of, I hoped to find it. I slowly came to the realization that my homeplace did not reside in institutional halls. I came to the conclusion that if I wanted it, I would have to make it myself.

As a doctoral student, my world has become small, especially during the onset of the pandemic. Moving to a new city for a new journey in a new program wasn’t an easy task in Fall 2020. My cohort and I had each other to lean on. We shared struggles, questions, and occasionally, laughter. The more advanced cohorts offered advice and camaraderie. Reading a new theory book weekly, rediscovering a dislike for statistics, and what felt like an endless list of articles to read prior to each class truly hindered me from exploring a new world. Additionally, Covid-19 prevented real exploration of the city. My new world was condensed to calls from home. Coursework, in my small apartment, the Charles River and the Public Garden. As COVID restrictions were lifted rapidly, my academic world grew slightly. I met more students from other departments and years. The connections that I previously made with others grew.

As a fourth year, my world continues to grow.  Is the HC fellowship my homeplace? I’m not sure but I am sure that growth continues to occur. My academic community has grown to include a diverse group of scholars present during our first fellows meeting on Thursday, Oct 5th:

Layla Brown: Assistant Professor, Cultural Anthropology and Africana Studies. Dr. Brown will use he fellowship year to work on her book project on Pan-Africanism and 21st century Socialism. The ethnography will detail Pan-African worldbuilding in Latin America.

Patrice Collins: Assistant Professor, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Cultures, Societies and Global Studies. Dr. Collins’ work looks at intergenerational incarceration, which not only includes the person incarcerated but also family members who experience the loss of their loved one while they are separated. Dr. Collins’ worldbuilding project reimagines a shift in the structure of familial visitations and court appearances.

Denise Khor: Associate Professor, Asian American Studies and Visual Studies, Associate Director of Asian American Studies. Dr.  Khor will further explore Asian American Animation History. Dr. Khor contends that Asian American animators were thought of as low-skill, non-artisan workers. Such designation produced racialized labor within worldbuilding.

Rachel Rodgers: Associate Professor, Department of Applied Psychology, Bouve College of Health Sciences. Dr. Rodgers will explore body image, sociocultural influences, among young women ages 18-25. Dr. Rodgers is interested in the relationship between changes in social media use and body image. data

Sarah Riccardi-Swartz: Assistant Professor, Religion and Anthropology. The focus of Dr. Riccardi-Swartz’ second book is reactive world-building and cults. Dr. Riccardi-Swartz’s first book was completed during the pandemic/postdoc years.

Pierre-Valery Tchetgen: Assistant Professor. Music and Art and Design.  Dr. Tchetgen will further explore drumming and early childhood education. Dr. Tchetgen will use the fellowship year to complete copious amounts of writing.  

Jeffrey Lamson: History PhD Candidate. Jeffrey’s dissertation looks at the history of technology and policing, specifically the police car as a technological advancement.

Vivek Mishra: Public Policy PhD Candidate. Vivek’s work focuses on elite informal colonies in Delhi, and the relationship between property rights and citizenship.

This may be a doe-eyed nascent reading of the first fellowship meeting. I prefer to say that I am hopeful. Hopeful for the academic year. Hopeful that all our goals will be incubated with care and attention. Hopeful that my student colleagues and I can enter our respective fields in a manner that not only fills the intellectual gap in literature but also recognizes the humanity of the scholar and shared humanity on site and as we write.  

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