Xavier University Professor Kim Vaz-Deville named Harvard Radcliffe Institute 2023-2024 Fellow

Vaz-Deville will write “The Art of Resistance: Sacred Visual Creations of New Orleans’ African American Mardi Gras Maskers,”

Data News Staff Edited Report

Kim Vaz-Deville, PhD, Professor of Counseling and Education at Xavier University of Louisiana, was recently named a member of Harvard Radcliffe Institute’s 2023–2024 class of fellows, a cohort whose projects contend with the urgent, the beautiful, and the vast: from reckoning with the challenges of climate change to creating digital models of iconic Italian violins to detecting distant galaxies.

A Radcliffe fellowship offers scholars in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and arts—as well as writers, journalists, and other distinguished professionals—a rare chance to pursue ambitious projects for a full year in a vibrant interdisciplinary setting amid the resources of Harvard. The 2023–2024 fellows represent only 3.3 percent of the many applications that Radcliffe received.

At Radcliffe, Dr. Vaz-Deville, a Lillian Gollay Knafel Fellow, will write “The Art of Resistance: Sacred Visual Creations of New Orleans’ African American Mardi Gras Maskers,” a book that chronicles the story of maskers informed by spiritual practices outside mainstream Christianity who expand traditional Black Masking subject matter. During the Carnival season, African American maskers adorn themselves with regalia showcasing themes of racial trauma. Over the past sixty years, and with controversy, some began to characterize their practices as having an overt spiritual dimension. Her book draws on a decade of ethnographic and participant observations and chronicles these expansions to traditional Black Masking subject matter designed to produce awareness among revelers of their community’s African and Afro-Caribbean Heritage and shared global struggles.

Vaz-Deville is among a cadre of fellows who will spend the year at Harvard Radcliffe exploring a large variety of topics across disciplines.

“This year’s cohort promises, once again, to accomplish incredible things,” said Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Daniel P.S. Paul, Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “As ever, we have outstanding fellows with expertise in a wide range of fields. Many are grappling with some of the most urgent challenges facing humanity, including seven exemplary scholars working at the forefront of research into climate change and issues of climate justice.”

“I look forward to welcoming the new class of fellows,” said Claudia Rizzini, Executive Director of the Fellowship Program. “I look forward to fostering a community that transcends individual disciplines and is fueled by collective intellectual energy and creativity.”

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