Graduate School

Melanie White Awarded Joukowsky Dissertation Prize for Study of Colonial Violence against Black Women in Caribbean Nicaragua

Melanie White was selected for the Joukowsky Outstanding Dissertation Prize in the Social Sciences for her work entitled What Dem Do to We No Have Name: Intimate Colonial Violence, Autonomy, and Black Women’s Art in Caribbean Nicaragua.

Melanie WhiteHer dissertation traces a history of material and representational racialized, gendered, and colonial violence against Black women and girls from the Mosquito Coast and present-day Caribbean Nicaragua. She also examines how Black women visual artists from the region (June Beer [1935-1986], Nydia Taylor [1954-Present], and Karen Spencer Downs [1970- Present]) address and respond to ongoing forms of intimate colonial violence and re-imagine the Caribbean coastal landscape through a Black feminist framework of intimate justice.

“Her dissertation is poised to make an important contribution to the existing literature on black women’s activism in Latin America as well as to scholarship on the artistic production of Afro-Latin American women,” says Professor of Political Science, Juliet Hooker.

White shares, “My project arose out of a desire to illuminate and write and organize against the historical and cyclical nature of racialized sexual and gender-based violence against Black women and girls from Caribbean Nicaragua.”

With the support of internal and external grants, White’s dissertation is the result of over two years of archival and ethnographic research. The project is timely in the wake of recent political events in Nicaragua that have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of these challenges, she was forced to revise her more ethnographic dissertation plan and include more archival resources and cultural history, shares one of White’s nominators, Keisha-Khan Y. Perry, Associate Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (and formerly at Brown).

“Melanie is deserving of this award because of the theoretically rigorous nature of her analysis, her rich archival, literary, and artistic sources, as well as her profound narrative attention to Black women’s knowledge and artistic practices,” says Perry.

White is committed to spending her 2022-2023 academic appointment as a Provost’s Distinguished Faculty Fellow in the Department of African American Studies and the Program in Women’s and Gender Studies at Georgetown University to reworking and revising her dissertation for publication. 

She plans to take advantage of a manuscript review workshop offered by the Department of African American Studies at Georgetown where faculty members will review her dissertation and provide feedback as she works to turn her dissertation into a book manuscript. 

After her first year at Georgetown, she will begin as a tenure-line assistant professor of African American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies. 

During her time at Brown, White won several prestigious awards to support her dissertation research such as a Steinhaus/Zisson Pembroke Center Research Grant, a Global Mobility Research Fellowship, a Joukowsky Summer Research Award, and a Fulbright IIE U.S. Student Fellowship that she had to decline due to state violence and political turmoil in Nicaragua. This year, she finished the writing of her dissertation with the support of the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship and the Institute for Citizens and Scholars’ Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies. She was also a recipient of the Pembroke Marie J. Langlois Dissertation Prize in Feminist Studies.

“Because its subject is both near to my heart and critically important for processes of social transformation in all places indelibly impacted by colonial violence, it is incredibly affirming to know that the Graduate Council sees the importance and intervention of my research,” says White.