Residential Fellowships

The Humanities Research Center’s annual residential fellowship program gives up to 4-6 faculty members release from teaching responsibilities for one semester so they can focus on individual research projects and at the same time engage regularly with each other. The goal is to foster intellectual exchange and to enhance the quality of research at VCU by exposing faculty to different perspectives and methodologies. Fellows meet as a group once a week during the Fellows' Seminar to discuss their works-in-progress. 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 closed. The deadline to submit was 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"

Vital Flesh: Scales of Nature and Creature Futures in Later Medieval England offers a previously unexamined premodern history of life force, shifting the terms of contemporary feminist ecocritical and new materialist theories toward philosophies of health and practices of care. In the cultural and social foment of England in the wake of the Black Death, 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. Ranging across intellectual contexts, from natural philosophy and medicine to theology, Vital Flesh examines the medieval discourses of liveliness and probes their literary and social effects among writers and thinkers in late medieval England. In certain theological and philosophical contexts, medieval thinkers rigidly deployed the idea of the scale of nature: the hierarchical structures of being and knowing that have historically produced and reinforced conceptions of the human. Their conflation of the physical and the moral inform an Enlightenment logic of liberal individualism in ways that continue to undergird inequities in health care, even in the present day. At the same time, the literature and life writing of late medieval England afforded others the opportunity to consider how the scale of nature might offer more fluid conceptions of life, death, and selfhood that speak to our own moment of crisis: environmental peril, the erosion of abortion rights, and the epidemic of deaths of despair. The premodern history I draw from later medieval English literature amplifies how to reorient attention toward ways of organizing human and non-human relations that are not grounded in the hierarchical verticality of the scale of nature. For medieval thinkers, poetry—the matter of language—was crucial in this regard, helping readers to feel, imagine, and acknowledge the creaturely nature of human life, amplifying literature’s social and ethical purpose today.

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. This project involves conducting 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