Residential Fellowships

The Humanities Research Center’s annual residential fellowship program gives four faculty members who are working on related issues or topics release from all teaching responsibilities for one semester so they can focus on individual research projects and at the same time engage regularly with each other. The topic or issue that unites the group can be broad—for example, race relations in urban environments, gender and sexuality in the early modern world or the politics of virtue. The goal is to foster intellectual exchange and to enhance the quality of research at VCU by exposing faculty to different perspectives and methodologies. Applicants need not be working collaboratively and indeed we anticipate that in most cases they will not be doing so; but applicants must be open to thinking about their own projects in new ways and to asking new questions of their material as a result of engaging with colleagues who are considering similar issues in different contexts and/or using different methodologies. Applicants must demonstrate in their proposals the specific benefits to their individual projects that they anticipate from engaging with the other group members.

Fellows meet as a group once a week to discuss their own works-in-progress and readings of common interest. Fellows are given the opportunity to give public presentations about their projects during the academic year following their residency at the Center. Publications resulting from this fellowship program must acknowledge the Center’s support.

Application criteria and instructions

Residential Fellows: Spring 2022

Michael L. Dickinson, Ph.D.
Michael L. Dickinson, Ph.D.
Michael Hall
Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Indira Sultanić, Ph.D
Indira Sultanić, Ph.D
Kevin L. Clay, Ph.D.
Kevin L. Clay, Ph.D.
Jonathan Molina-Garcia
Jonathan Molina-Garcia

Michael Dickinson, Ph.D., Department of History

"A Separation Worse Than Death: Richmond and the Domestic Slave Trade during the Antebellum Era.”

This project will examine the lived experiences of captives who became victims of the  domestic slave trade. Specifically, I will examine the forced separations of black families in Richmond, VA along with enslaved black efforts to forge new communal ties while confined in the city. Richmond became a vital hub of oppressive commerce as surrounding slaveholders frequently brought captives to market for sale and merchants swarmed upon the developing city for the chance of fortune in the brutal trade. This was a traffic that captives throughout the nation knew well, as  evidenced by the words of Frederick Douglass which supplied the project’s title. If sold away as he  feared, Douglass would have likely passed through the streets of Richmond in his Southern descent  into further destitution.

Michael Hall, Ph.D., Department of English

"Between Leisure and Servitude: (Photo)Postcards and the Early Cultural History of African American Travel, 1850-1930.”

“Between Leisure and Servitude” proposes a study of (photo)postcards produced roughly between the 1850s and 1930s which not only reflect the early emergence of tourism as an industry in the US, but, more importantly, illustrate the ways Jim Crow discrimination and historical exclusion functioned to relegate enslaved Africans and their descendants in the US to positions of servility in the face of a budding industry open to European American leisure and recreation. The result is a paradoxical situation in which African Americans oscillated between leisure (as they challenged barriers to their ability to experience rest and recreation) and servitude (as European American employers limited many African Americans to service work which provided the foundation for the hospitality guests and patrons expected, but also served as painful reminders of European American refusal to consider enslaved Africans and their  descendants in the US as little more than fit to provide service). Based on archival research in the Robert Langmuir Photograph Collection of the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) at Emory University and employing interdisciplinary methods—visual analysis,  literary analysis, and cultural historical inquiry and criticism—my proposed study aims to show  how (photo)postcards offer a contemporary primary resource for understanding the unique and paradoxical position in which African Americans found themselves from the historical point of Emancipation through the early decades of the twentieth century which saw increasing numbers of Americans engaging leisure and recreation notably via tourism.

Indira Sultanić, Ph.D., School of World Studies

"Achieving Language Justice through Increased Capacity for Provisioning Professional Translation and Interpreting Services.”

This research project explores current practices around language access and the provision of translation and interpreting in health and social service settings in the United States. It does so within the broader framework of language access as a catalyst for achieving greater equity and social justice among minoritized, Limited English Proficient communities. It builds on existing translation and interpreting research on (in)equities in access to social services for these communities. Despite existing state and federal policies that require health and social services to comply with language access guidelines, the COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on the inconsistencies, and the ad hoc approach to provisioning translation and interpreting services. This project, in addition to examining the obvious faults in the approach to ensuring language access, seeks to identify areas for improvement and potential for building better language justice frameworks.

Kevin Clay, Ph.D., School of Education

“'I Guess This Is Activism?:' Youth Politicization and Free-Market Common Sense."

“'I Guess This is Activism?:' Youth Politicization and Free-Market Common Sense,” reflects on challenges related to politicizing and organizing with youths to effect material social change against the omnipresent entrappings of neoliberalism. Inspired by Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy, the youth participatory action research (YPAR) approach submits that as youths lead social scientific inquiry and act for change, they develop transformative sociopolitical enlightenment (i.e., critical consciousness). This ethnographic book reflects on several conflicts at the heart of this schema of political education in my experience facilitating YPAR in one of the poorest, majority-Black cities in the Mid-Atlantic. It demonstrates how the common sense of neoliberalism emerged authoritatively to influence youths’ political development and conceptions of activism in ways that were reinforced by committing to YPAR’s youth-led ethos. I argue that didactic approaches to political education are crucial in YPAR. While Freirean-inspired YPAR has advanced important accomplishments in student-voice and led to numerous youth-led campaign victories, the book questions YPAR’s incumbent attachment to critical pedagogy as its approach to political education and considers how more expansive understandings of political education and organizing might serve YPAR in neoliberal times.

Jonathan Molina-Garcia, Department of Photography and Film, School of the Arts

"Brown Sadness"

The contemporary moment is marked by a stillborn melancholy. As hordes of disaffected and diasporic subjects crowd borders and detention centers, a global pandemic has arrested essential processes of grief and renewal. “Brown Sadness” is an adaptive ethnological reader centering depressive psychology and subaltern cultural studies, remixing Freudian, Jungian, and postcolonial contributions to rethink neoliberal fantasies of productivity. Displacing identity politics in favor of a nuanced affective methodology, the text provides a manual for the use and revision of racial traumas, depressive resistance, and communal mourning.


Prior Fellows