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College of Arts & Sciences
Institute for African American Research

Research Fellows

The IAAR Research Fellowships are competitive awards that support projects in any area of African, African American, or African Diaspora research and primarily focus on encouraging research and creative activities to generate projects that will enter the mainstream, raise public awareness, and have the potential to secure additional funding for extended study. These grants emphasize interdisciplinary research, seek to encourage development of traditional grant applications, and work to promote scholarly interchange.

2016-2017 Research Fellowship Recipients


Graduate Students


Andrew Agha, MA, PhD Candidate
Department of Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences

Archaeological Excavations and Ethnobotanical Analysis of the Earliest Slave Cabin in South Carolin

Agha’s archaeology at St. Giles Kussoe plantation will focus on the oldest known slave cabin ever discovered in South Carolina, on a site that dates from 1674 to 1685. These excavations will unearth artifacts that will help reconstruct the daily lives of 15 enslaved West Africans that are the oldest, largest African enslaved population known in South Carolina’s history. Due to an already identified, rare watermelon seed, new soil samples will be processed for botanical remains for more evidence of the oldest African cultivars in the state. His primary research focuses on the position enslaved Africans held in the origins of Carolina’s agriculture. St. Giles Kussoe was established by the First Earl of Shaftesbury, Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, who was in charge of the settlement and governance of Carolina when it was founded in 1670.  Shaftesbury played an influential role in the crafting of the English Atlantic World through his government positions and leading involvement in both the Royal African and Hudson’s Bay Companies. My work uses St. Giles Kussoe to see how enslaved Africans were incorporated within Shaftesbury’s colonialism and plan for Carolina to be a colony of agriculturalists.

Christina Brooks, PhD Candidate
Department of Anthropology
College of Arts and Sciences

The Materiality of Death: Understanding Identity through Material Culture and Landscape in South Carolina’s Enslaved African Cemeteries 

African-American cemeteries are often valuable repositories of cultural information containing intentionally placed material culture that may be fundamental to the interpretation and understanding of African and AfricanAmerican cultural systems. Brooks research seeks to address four significant questions in regards to perceptions and practices of death and dying in South Carolina’s enslaved African communities: What was the changing role (both physical and social) of the cemetery for enslaved Africans on South Carolina’s back country plantations? How did the materiality of enslaved African burials correspond with changing ideals on death and dying and self-perception/ placement within the larger community through time? What role did landscape play in the materiality of death for enslaved Africans? How did the constant reformation and/ or negotiation of identity affect the materiality of burials within enslaved African communities? The overall goal of this research is to construct cross-cultural comparisons of this group’s burial practices through the use of interdisciplinary examination.

Robert Greene II, PhD Candidate
Department of History
College of Arts and Sciences

The Newest South: African Americans, Southern Identity, and American Politics, 1965-1994

This project will examine the relationship between African American Southerners and the National Democratic Party from the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 until the Republican victory across Southern congressional seats in the 1994 midterm elections. During this time, African Americans became a valuable part of the Democratic Party’s voting base. Without African American voters, the Democratic Party would have died a quick death in Southern polling places during the 1970s and 1980s. “The Newest South” argues that African American voters were wooed to the Democratic Party by the latest iteration of the idea of a “New South” built on racial tolerance and pro-business economic policies. Political leaders such as Governors Jimmy Carter of Georgia and John C. West of South Carolina used this “New South” ideology to win governorships in the 1970s while fending off conservative challengers. At the same time, Greene’s project studies the growth of African American political power through the study of activists and grassroots campaigns, which all pushed the Democratic Party to recognize the strength of the African American vote. Such information is essential to understanding current African American voting trends, a topic on the minds of many political analysts in 2016.

Andrew Kettler, PhD Candidate
Department of History
College of Arts and Sciences

Smelling Race in Atlantic Slavery

His dissertation project analyzes the historical belief that black bodies smell more pungent than white bodies. This project is a qualitative analysis of historical source material that will discover the original beliefs in the pungency of Africans, when those beliefs changed from ideas about the smells of sweat and hard labor to an assertion of scent as a sign of biological inferiority, and how Africans responded to those allegations during the era of Atlantic slavery. Through a preliminary reading of published sources he has discovered that the social construction of African odor as a biological inheritance was developed within early modern English popular literature. Specifically, English authors formulated racial stereotypes about odor for stage performances, within children’s folklore, and in sermons preached from the Reformation lectern. His continuing analysis focuses upon unpublished documentation of such sentiments housed at the Public Records Office near London. The sources in London will show how the published literary cues he has discovered made their way into colonial slaveholder’s conceptions of African’s pungent inferiority. This analysis reveals the roots of how racism became an embodied experience, rather than a reasoned belief, through deeply cultured sensory perceptions.

Tamara Estes Savage, MSW, PhD Candidate
College of Social Work

African American End-Stage Renal Disease Patients and Medication Adherence: What are the Effects of Everyday Racism

The proposed research seeks to understand the medication adherence racial health disparity which exists within the end-stage renal disease (ESRD) population.  ESRD is a chronic disease that occurs when kidney function deteriorates and waste products reach dangerous physiological levels (USRDS, 2015).  African Americans are almost four times more likely to develop ESRD than Whites (USRDS, 2015).  African American ESRD patients are also less likely to successfully manage their medications compared to White ESRD patients (Browne & Merighi, 2010; Curtin, Svarstad & Keller, 1999).  However, the reasons for this racial inequity are not understood beyond the identified proximal risk factors.  Broader social issues such as the possible impact of everyday racism have not been explored in regards to this racial health inequity.  This is troubling since ESRD patients who do not adhere suffer decreased quality of life, increased morbidity, and death (Browne, 2012). As a first step in understanding poor medication adherence in the African American ESRD population beyond the aforementioned proximal risk factors, a qualitative study exploring the potential impact of everyday racism within the healthcare system and the dialysis clinic setting is proposed.

Jillian Weber, PhD Candidate
Department of English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences

Performing Sport: Black Female Athletes in 19th Century Literature and Culture

Today, sports serve as a site through which power struggles about race, class, gender, and sexuality circulate. These conflicts and power structures, though, are not new. Black female athletes in the 19th century have largely been ignored in academia, despite their historical presence during that time period. Weber’s project looks at black sportswomen and physical culture in 19th-century literature and periodicals. Understanding how sportswomen fashioned their identities and how others then responded to them provides information about 19th-century social, economic, and political culture. Because female sport was often performative in nature, typically spectacularized in the 1800s, black female athletes—as both women and black Americans—had to negotiate their positions within the sports world and the larger national project. Put another way, black physical culture was a nexus through which various power structures ran and both sportswomen and onlookers responded to those structures of power in various ways. Through archival research she will explore questions of race, class, and gender in 19th century athletic spaces, as they are depicted in print culture and literature.