Dissertation Scholars

2024-25 Dissertation Scholars

Morgan Dacosta




Kevin Morris




2023-24 Dissertation Scholars

Mark Lockwood

Email: marklockwood@ucsb.edu

Office: TBD

Mark Lockwood is a resource mobilizer, community researcher, and harm reductionist who values the health, freedom, and equity of all racial and gender minorities. Both his professional and professional experience lie at the intersections of sex work, harm reduction, racial equity, and HIV/AIDS. He received a B.A in Women's and Gender Studies from Rutgers University - New Brunswick and a M.A. in Performance Studies from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Currently, Mark is a PhD candidate in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. His dissertation, "Black Inches: Masculinity, Visuality, and Performance in Thug Porn," explores the history, visual, and sexual representations of Black men in gay pornography's "thug porn" (also known as "Blatino porn") genre. In his research, he looks specifically at the figure of the "homo-thug", and how this archetype gets constructed within the pornographic realm. Using archival material and close readings of vintage gay porn film, erotic novels, porn magazines, hip-hop music, and play scripts, his dissertation explores how Black porn actors retool the homo-thug as a way of challenging, and sometimes subverting, their racialized stereotypes produced within this niche market. 
Outside of academia, Mark enjoys bottomless brunch; hip-hop step classes; traveling; solo movie dates; and quality time with friends, his partner (Jared), and imaginary dog (Remi).

Brittany Marshall

Email: blmarshall@ucsb.edu

Office: TBD

Brittany L. Marshall is a PhD candidate in mathematics education at Rutgers University's Graduate School of Education. Her research interests include the effects of Western imperialism and antiblackness in mathematics classrooms, K-12 mathematics teaching and learning, and math identity development, particularly among Black girls. She is also an outside graduate researcher at the PRISM Lab at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Before Rutgers, Brittany taught middle and high school mathematics in Chicago for almost a decade. Prior to education, she practiced architecture in both Chicago and DC. Brittany holds a Master of Architecture degree from North Carolina State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Brittany is a Chicago native and loves to debate the best city skylines and pizza. She is also a world traveler and unwinds by watching Chopped on the Food Network. She is thrilled to be spending a year learning from amazing scholars in UCSB's Black Studies Department



2022-23 Dissertation Scholars

Benjamin Jones 


Benjamin L. Jones (he/him) researches the speculative analysis and praxis of oppressed people. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in Northwestern University’s Department of Art History, with an interdisciplinary cluster certificate in Critical Theory. His art-historical interests include contemporary intersections of art and power, futurism, and Black radical visual culture and performance. Funded by the Social Science Research Council and the Mellon foundation, his work engages critical ethnic studies, critical pedagogical practices, and feminist mobilizations of onto-epistemology and quantum mechanics. A practicing artist, Jones graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute with a B.A. in the History and Theory of Contemporary Art (highest honors). He is currently working on two projects: What We Fin’na Do: Preface to a 5,000 Year Almanac, and What We Cain't Do: The Pedagogy of the Black Radical Aesthetic Tradition. In 2022 he was a facilitator for the Black Art Movement School Modality, (Iteration 2, East Coast), alongside co-facilitators: Romi Crawford, Theaster Gates, Sampada Aranke, Fred Moten, Stefano Harney, Kamau Patton, Michael Simanga.


Fatima Siwaju



Fatima Siwaju is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University, with a graduate certificate in African American Studies. Her research and teaching interests center on Islam in the Americas, race and religion in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Afro-American intellectual traditions. Her dissertation, which is based on fieldwork conducted in the Colombian cities of Buenaventura and Cali, explores the intersections of race, religion, and citizenship as they pertain to the historical trajectories, contemporary socialities, and religious practices of Black Shi’i Muslims. 

Fatima holds a Bachelor of Arts in French and Spanish and a Master of Philosophy in Development Studies from the University of Cambridge. She also received a Master of Arts in Religion from Syracuse University. 


2021-22 Dissertation Scholars 

Leonard Cortana 

Léonard Cortana is a P.hD Candidate at the Cinema Studies Department at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, an Affiliate Researcher at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University and a Research Fellow at the NYU Africa House. His research focuses on the transnational circulation of narratives about racial justice and activist movements between Brazil, South Africa, France & overseas departments and the US with a special emphasis on the memorialization of political assassinations and the spread of the legacy of assassinated anti-racist activists. In his dissertation, he looks closely at two anti-racist and feminist figures of resistance: Marielle Franco and Dulcie September and actively participates in the campaign #JusticeforDulcie to re-open the investigation into Dulcie’s murder in Paris.
He also investigates the development of AI-based deepfake technology, the online protection of frontline activists and the development of Afrodiasporic film festivals. He wrote several articles for the Francophone Journal Jeune Afrique and runs anti-racist practices workshops at the NYU School of Professional Studies. Prior to NYU, he conducted several artistic and educational projects with non-profits and UN agencies that engage with youths in Chile, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Australia, France and Bulgaria. He became a Trainer for European Commission Youth Program projects and designed methodologies in theatre and storytelling for social inclusion for youth workers. In 2012, Cortana founded the collective Inform’ART France, which brought together youth workers and artists. Among their projects, the collective drew upon the Human Library methodology to create a network of practitioners all over France and took part in the Youth delegation of the Festival Against Racism in Brussels and Montreal.
Cortana is also a documentary filmmaker. His last documentary Marielle's Legacy Will not Die follows activist movements spreading the intersectional legacy of Afro-Brazilian activist and politician Marielle Franco in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. As his film circulates transnationally, he creates networks of advocacy with other anti-racist activists. Cortana earned the EU Commission NOHA Masters in Humanitarian Assistance and holds a double-degree in Comparative Politics and Hispanic Literatures and Cultures at Sciences-Po Aix en Provence. He also received a BA in Cinema and Aesthetics from Panthéon Sorbonne University.

Candice Lyons 

Candice Lyons is a Ph.D. candidate in The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of African and African Diaspora Studies. She received her B.A. in Philosophy and her M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of Texas in 2012 and 2017, respectively. Lyons’ research interests include Black women's history, Black queer theory and Black feminist theory. Her dissertation project consists of a queer rereading of the U.S. slavery archive which evaluates the ways enslaved women conceived of and performed their own genders, as well as how they structured their relationships to other women.  
Lyons’ recent pieces “A (Queer) Rebel Wife in Texas” (2020) and “Rage and Resistance at Ashbel Smith’s Evergreen Plantation” (2020) can be found on the public history site Not Even Past; her writing can also be found in the 2021 E3W Review of Books, for which she served as special section editor. Lyons’ 2021 Feminist Studies article “Behind the Scenes: Elizabeth Keckley, Slave Narratives, and the Queer Complexities of Space” is the winner of the 2020 FS Graduate Student Award. 

2020-2021 Dissertation Scholars


Ana Rita Alves

Ana Rita Alves holds a degree in Anthropology and a master’s on Migrations, Inter-ethnicities and Transnationalism from the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at the New University of Lisbon that she concluded with the thesis "Understanding Residential Segregation: The Special Re-housing Program and Anti-racism" (2013). She is a PhD student on Human Rights in Contemporary Societies at the Centre for Social Studies at the University of Coimbra, where she is concluding thesis project "Periphery as a Symptom in Contemporary Portugal".

She was a researcher in the projects "RAP - 'Race' and Africa in Portugal: a study on history textbooks" (2010-2011), "Atlantic Crossings: materiality, contemporary movements and policies of belonging" (2014-2015), "ExPERts - Making Sense of Planning Expertise: Housing Policy and the Role of Experts in the Special Rehousing Program (PER)" and "COMBAT - Combating racism in Portugal: an analysis of public policies and anti-discrimination law" (2016-2020). She is currently enrolled in the project "AFRO-PORT - Afro-descendance in Portugal: Sociability, Representations and Sociopolitical and Cultural Dynamics. A Study in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area" (2020-2021) and she is member of the advisory board of "(DE)OTHERING - Deconstructing Risk and Otherness: hegemonic scripts and counter-narratives on migrants/refugees and 'internal Others' in Portuguese and European mediascapes" (2020-2021).

She is one of the founding members of "CHÃO - Atelier of Urban Anthropology", which develops collaborative work with the association and the inhabitants of the self-produced Neighborhood of Jamaika, in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. In the past decade, she has been engaged in activism, producing critical academic knowledge on institutional racism and urban segregation and working with several grassroots movements of peripheral self-produced and rehousing neighborhoods, where the impact of systemic violence towards Black and ROMA populations, namely evictions and police brutality, is tremendous.


Amanda Joyce Hall

Amanda Joyce Hall is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Departments of African American Studies and History at Yale University. Her dissertation is a transnational history that examines the international opposition to South African apartheid within the Black diaspora in the 1970s and 1980s. She chronicles the efforts of South African liberators and international grassroots activists to build a global anti-racist movement that challenged color lines domestically and internationally. A U.S. Fulbright and Ford Fellow, she has conducted extensive cross-border research that draws on archives and oral histories from four continents. Amanda is a former Visiting Scholar of the History Workshop at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Amanda is currently a host of the New Books in African American Studies podcast channel on the New Books Network. She also remains committed to engaging broader audiences and expanding historical analysis through her initiatives in the Digital Humanities. Amanda teaches histories of the Black Freedom Movement, Africa and the African diaspora, 20th century U.S. cultural and political history, and international history. 


2019-2020 Dissertation Scholar

Marques Vestal

Marques A. Vestal is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at UCLA, where he also earned his master’s degree in Afro-American Studies. He is currently the Team Leader of the Archives Division for Million Dollar Hoods, a community driven, multidisciplinary, research collaboration in the Ralph Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA committed to producing a “fully-loaded cost accounting” of mass incarceration in Los Angeles and California. He is also a researcher for the Luskin Center for History and Policy and a former Eugene Cota Robles Graduate Fellow.

In his dissertation, “Paying Rent for Promised Land,” he uncovers untold histories of property conflict in Black Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Watts Rebellion (1929-1965), revealing the contentious political and cultural economies of property that, in part, defined the terms of Black housing security within the context of segregation. Over these three and half decades, Black property—as rented and owned housing—was under threat. The Great Depression (1929-1940), World War II and reconversion (1941-1950), postwar urban renewal (1950-1965), and aggressive pre-Watts Rebellion policing (1955-1965) sets the context for four roughly chronological chapters, each serving as a case study for what have been identified as central conflicts of property and racial capitalism in each period. The study’s central question is simple: how have Black Angelenos confronted, in culture and practice, the changing political and cultural economies of property that undergirded the very foundations of Los Angeles as a global city on the make? This question takes us to unexplored but critical conditions of urban life and home. Under the racial capitalism of housing in Los Angeles, the Black home was not only segregated, but necessarily indebted, rented, sold, condemned, and criminalized. What entitlements in home did Black Angelenos conjure up and keep warm when their so divined promised land was actual property, an allotment of capital scribed into the land, where race determined both its value and rights? 


2018- 2019 Dissertation Scholars 

Olga Blomgren

Olga Blomgren’s research encompasses language hierarchies, master narratives, pedagogy, and access to literary studies in higher education.  She is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at Binghamton University, State University of New York.  She has taught literature and composition in California, where she participated in grant-funded retention studies in Hispanic Serving Institutions.  These experiences motivated her to enter doctoral study.

Working to articulate the ways certain texts resist placement into existing academic disciplines, Olga's current research in the Caribbean engages literary and translation studies, and archipelagic and spatial studies to examine of how/where "new" world literatures might emerge.  She is preparing a dissertation, Reading Dangerously:  Mobilities, Cannibalizing Language, and Archipelagic Thinking in Texts by Rosario Ferré and Edwidge Danticat, accentuating the relations between mobility and belonging, language and power, and the use of dominant language to directly counter state narratives. Researching the movement of language in the Caribbean, Olga's dissertation addresses reverberations of post/mono-lingualism and globalization, advancing the interpretative possibilities opened by Édouard Glissant's “archipelagic thinking.”

Raphaëlle Rabanes 


Raphaëlle Rabanes is a Ph.D. Candidate in the joint Medical Anthropology Program at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. She first trained in psychology and psychoanalytic research at the University of Paris Diderot, and practiced as a clinical psychologist in France. Her work now weaves together medical anthropology, black studies, postcolonial studies, and disability studies.

Raphaëlle has been conducting research in the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe since 2012 and focuses on community responses to health and racial inequalities in the long aftermath of colonialism and slavery. Her dissertation, “(Post)colonial Repair: Memory, Embodiment, and Therapeutics in the French Caribbean,” explores movements of resistance and repair enacted by Afro-descendant Guadeloupeans. This ethnographic research is based on a total of 20-months of fieldwork with rehabilitation therapists and patients, choreographers and dancers, and memorial activists. Through (post)colonial repair, Raphaëlle examines how Guadeloupeans mediate, address, and transform the presence of history in their everyday lives.



2017- 2018 Dissertation Scholars


Owen James Hyman

Owen James Hyman is a PhD candidate in the Agricultural, Rural, and Environmental History Department at Mississippi State University. His dissertation, “The Cut and the Color Line: An Environmental History of Jim Crow in the Deep South’s Forests, 1865-1965,” explores the material foundations of the American South’s culture of white supremacy as well as the environmental resources African Americans mobilized to accumulate capital and build communities after the Civil War and Emancipation. By analyzing the forests and forest industries of the Deep South, particularly those in Louisiana and Mississippi, the project shows how forms of racial violence, economic exclusion, and black resistance changed in relation to a changing landscape. 

The study further examines the “cut-over color lines” that have been obscured by a century of timber extraction in the region, especially the agricultural potential African Americans found in the forests and swamps of the Deep South as well as the legal means timber companies used to strip black landowners of their holdings. Through a close reading of oral histories, timber cutting contracts, lawsuits, and soil surveys, this study will demonstrate that white supremacy hastened the collapse of the South’s old-growth forests while reforestation perpetuated white supremacy. In turn, it will highlight the ways in which black voices provide an important counter-narrative to understandings of the southern environment perpetuated by the forest industries.


Vineeta Singh

Vineeta Singh is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her research and teaching interests center on social movement history, black feminist theory and methods, and critical university studies.

Her dissertation examines how higher education intervenes in academic and popular common senses about the place of black subjects in the U.S. nation-state. This critical university studies project is centered on black history, and uses black studies, cultural studies, critical gender studies, and Marxist geography theory and methods to tell a relational, intersectional history of American higher education. Through a series of case studies examining normal schools, land-grant colleges, vocational institutes, community colleges, and leadership training programs, this project brings to light the dialectic relationship between black political imaginaries and the racial projects embedded in twentieth century higher education innovations. 




2016-2017 Dissertation Scholars

SA Smythe

SA Smythe is a finishing doctoral candidate in History of Consciousness at UC Santa Cruz with designated emphases in Literature and Feminist Studies. Their dissertation, L’Italia Meticcia: Being and Belonging in the Black Mediterranean, is a ?transdisciplinary project engaging with Italian literary studies, post?colonial ?studies, Black British ?and Caribbean ?cultural studies, queer studies, and critical human geography. This work examines the legal, literary, and historiographical aporias in the narration of italianità in the Black Mediterranean from the Risorgimento to the present by meditating on canonicity and citizenship in the wake of Europe’s self-initiated “crises” of migration and the attendant levels of dispossession. SA is currently president of the Queer Studies Caucus of the American Association of Italian Studies (AAIS), publishing editor of THEM – Trans Literary Journal, former contributing curator/writer at okayafrica and Reviews Editor for Critical Contemporary Culture Journal at the London School of Economics. SA is also a poet and an activist who performs and organises in queer trans Black and abolitionist poetry collectives in the Bay Area, London, and Berlin.