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.

Residential Fellowship applications for the 2024-25 academic year are now open. The deadline to submit is November 1st, 2023.

Application criteria and instructions

Residential Fellows: 2023-24

Grace D. Gipson
Grace D. Gipson
Adin Lears
Adin Lears
Gabriela Leon Perez
Gabriela León-Pérez
Victoria Tucker
Victoria Tucker, PhD, RN

Grace D. Gipson, PhD, Department of African American Studies

"Creating 'New Normals' within Black Womanhood and Disability in Marvel Comics 'Misty Knight'"

Given the insufficiency of Black women and disabled protagonists in the popular arts and media, representations are particularly important as visualizing them contributes to their normalization (it un-others them, respects their otherness, and potentially destigmatizes otherness). As a scholar whose interests explore new territory surrounding Black female narratives in popular culture, particularly comic books, this project/chapter advocates for positioning disability as an empowering ability [not a weakness] through an exploration of the Marvel Comics character, "Misty Knight." Despite recent academic scholarship on comics and disability, narratives surrounding race and gender, specifically those featuring Black female characters are not as prevalent. In particular, Misty Knight's story provides a narrative that disrupts Rosemarie Garland-Thomson's argument that "female, disabled and dark bodies are supposed to be dependent, incomplete, vulnerable, and incompetent bodies that are portrayed as helpless, dependent, and weak." Depicting disability, from a Black woman’s point of view, as a part of one’s identity helps to normalize and humanize the character’s narrative, and potentially re-situate the gaze. Moreover, as an able-bodied Black woman, I aim to act as a scholarly ally who contributes to deconstructing hegemonic narratives that exclude Black, female, and disabled narratives in comics and beyond. Thus, this chapter examines the experiences of Black women superheroes' experiences with disabilities, such as Misty Knight, and offers an opportunity to investigate how fictional representations of Black women in comics act as archetypes of empowerment for real-life disabled Black women.

Adin E. Lears, PhD, Department of English

“Vital Flesh: Scales of Nature and Creature Futures in Later Medieval England"

My current project: Vital Flesh: Scales of Nature and Creature Futures in Later Medieval England turns to the literature, medicine, and natural philosophy of late medieval England to offer a previously unexamined premodern history of life force. In the aftermath of the Black Death, during a period of intense social and economic upheaval, the material conditions of everyday life shifted and drew new attention to some of the most vulnerable members of society—to laborers, to the poor, and to women. In this cultural and social foment, authors from Julian of Norwich to Geoffrey Chaucer imagined new ways of being, understanding, and expressing the liveliness of the flesh—historically understood as an antithesis of spirit in Western Christianity—in ways that can help us shift contemporary paradigms for understanding bodily and emotional care. By probing how medieval thinkers understood the complex movements of vital forces within humans, animals, and other beings and how they understood matter—particularly flesh—in ambivalent terms, this book adds important historical thickness to the histories and theories of vitalism that are currently being drawn and redrawn among new materialist and feminist ecocritical thinkers, shifting the terms of such theories toward problems at the center of bioethics and medical care. Vital Flesh shows how premodern conceptions of the scale of nature—the hierarchical structures of being and knowing that have historically produced and reinforced conceptions of the human—inform a logic of liberal individualism, which contributes to long-standing inequities in healthcare grounded in a conflation of the physical and the moral (e.g. the persistent idea that some patients make better choices in self care than others) and the elevation of the humanity of some bodies over others (e.g. the often racialized assumption that some patients are less prone to feel pain). At the same time, this book illuminates how medieval thinkers can help us to shift away from such an individualist paradigm and understand personhood in terms that are relational and creaturely, pointing to a future with new ways of living and practices of care. 

Gabriela León-Pérez, PhD, Department of Sociology

“Invisible No More: Understanding the Health and Well-Being of Indigenous Immigrants from Latin America in the US” 

There are approximately 1 million Indigenous immigrants from Latin America living in the US. While Indigenous peoples have historically comprised an important part of migration streams around the world, they are substantially underrepresented in the migration and health literatures. Indigenous migrants embody multiple statuses of marginalization (e.g., minority among minorities, undocumented, poor) which have direct and indirect impacts on their health and well-being. However, their health status and health care needs have received limited attention from policymakers, medical practitioners, and academics alike. Indigenous immigrants are rarely distinguished from other foreign-born Latinxs and, consequently, their perspectives, needs, and concerns have been obscured and have occupied a marginal place in policy and scholarly conversations. I will conduct a scoping review of the literature on the health and well-being of Indigenous immigrants from Latin America in the United States. The overall goals will be to (1) evaluate current knowledge on Indigenous immigrants’ health and well-being, (2) summarize findings related to how systemic conditions contribute to Indigenous immigrant health disparities, and (3) highlight findings on protective factors, including the role of Indigenous migrant communities and their traditional health systems.

Victoria Tucker, PhD, RN, VCU Health System

“Position, Power, and Identity: Black Nurses in Virginia, 1950s-1980s”

My research examines the important but largely unchronicled moment at the intersection of American and nursing history: the experiences and contributions of Black nurses in Virginia during the transition from segregation to desegregation. Expanding the intellectual boundaries of the current nursing history canon adds to a more comprehensive history of healthcare by reassessing which nurses’ stories are learned, celebrated, and acknowledged. Black nurses were central figures in the desegregation of the United States healthcare system and the move toward health equity in the 20th century. Personal accounts of Black nurses’ coming of age narratives, professional pursuits, and legacy within a central locality are rare. The oral histories center Black women’s voices and provide unmined memories told from their perspectives. A detailed exploration of Black nurses in Virginia not only brings a new lens to an underexplored area of the history of nursing and health care, but it can also help identify and dismantle discriminatory policies and practices from which health disparities arose.

Prior Fellows