CONGRATULATIONS TO NEW GRADUATE DEGREE HOLDERS AFFILIATED WITH OUR PROGRAM
Kate Carter | Ph.D. in Political Science | Advisor: Scott Straus
Kate is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science. Her research in comparative politics focuses on institutions and elections in sub-Saharan Africa. She is particularly interested in how digital technology use influences democratic institutions and outcomes. Her dissertation examines how the use of electoral technologies affects the quality of elections in East Africa. Technology use is changing the landscape of elections in Africa, where many countries have introduced the use of digital technologies in elections over the past fifteen years. In Kenya, technology is meant to bridge a deficit of political trust by reducing fraud, increasing transparency, and making elections more efficient to announce winners faster and with more certainty. Understanding what impact digital technology has is important because how elections are run influences whether voters and parties accept election results, the incidence of electoral violence, and ultimately a country’s democratic trajectory. Her project uses a mixed-methods approach to analyze electoral technology use in Kenya. While technology is intended to create high-quality elections, its use in new democracies can weaken electoral institutions, decrease perceptions of electoral legitimacy, and focus reform efforts on technology itself rather than on the broader electoral process. She is grateful for support for this research from her department, the university, and the federal government that enabled me to learn Kiswahili and conduct dissertation fieldwork in Kenya. She says, “it has been a pleasure to be an African politics doctoral student at UW.”
“I would like to thank the African Studies Program and all the ASP staff and faculty who work hard to provide resources, opportunities, and community for graduate students at UW, especially Aleia McCord. I am grateful for ASP funding that has enabled my dissertation fieldwork in Kenya and I appreciate the weekly opportunities to connect with the broader UW African Studies community each Wednesday. My African Studies graduate student colleagues have enriched my time in Madison and East Africa. Thank you to Evan Morier, Kaden Paulson-Smith, Irène Tombo, Carly Lucas, Lauren Parnell Marino, Safiya Jama, Vincent Ogoti, Lindsay Ehrisman, and Serah Kivuti for your friendship, wisdom, and support. I would also like to thank my ASP-affiliated faculty, Scott Straus and Aili Mari Tripp, whose support and mentorship have made my dissertation research and Ph.D. possible. I am also grateful to Will Reno, a fellow badger, and my undergraduate advisor, for his support and encouragement.”
Ellen’s dissertation examines the politics of women’s mobility in northern Mozambique through their participation in competitive dance associations that perform tufo, a popular genre of music and dance with historical links to Sufi devotional rituals.
Kathryn Mara | Ph.D. in African Cultural Studies | Advisor: Katrina Daly Thompson
Kathryn’s dissertation addresses the commemorative and discursive practices, attitudes, and processes of socialization among people of Rwandan heritage living in Toronto, including both those born in Rwanda and those born in the Diaspora. Through ethnography and critical discourse analysis, she examines how Rwandans talk about the genocide in simultaneously similar and different ways, learn and teach both each other and others how to represent it “appropriately,” and assign meaning to their commemorative practices. She suggests that Rwandan discourse about the genocide not only aims to represent their interests as individuals but also as members of what Bennedict Anderson calls “imagined communities.” Rwandans frequently position their stories in relation to other narratives about the 1994 genocide, and they are further invested in socializing others, particularly those who were not in Rwanda during the genocide, into telling similar narratives, through commemoration, conversation, and advocacy for genocide legislation in their new communities. While her research is centered on the discourse of Rwandans, through self-reflexivity and approaches drawn from linguistic anthropology, it also pays close attention to how influence and power operate situationally, at the local level of a conversation and, more broadly, across interactions, contributing to new ways of understanding the relationship between discourse and power. She argues we make discourse powerful through the ways we employ it and encourage others to do the same. Thus, power is always contextually configured.
In 2022, Kathryn will continue conducting research among the Rwandan community in Canada as an Albert Markham Postdoctoral Fellow. As for some words of wisdom for new graduate students, she has three pieces of advice:
“(1) Don’t just make ‘connections.’ Make friends. Try not to view your colleagues as competitors. Be their firmest supporters. (2) Advocate for yourself! Ask your advisor to nominate you for an award. Apply for your dream job. Send an email to a scholar you admire. (3) It’s wonderful if graduate school and/or writing your dissertation/thesis makes you happy, but don’t forget to seek joy elsewhere. Find a hobby. Your program will end, but you’ll still be able to bake bread (like me), take photos of bugs, paint, hike, kayak, etc.”
Olayinka Olagbegi-Adegbite | Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies | Advisor: Lesley Bartlett
Olayinka’s dissertation looks at the implications of language policies on early grade reading pedagogy in multilingual classrooms. She examines how primary school teachers are aware of and implement language policies within their multilingual early grade classrooms. She argues that language policies in her research location are, for the most part, equivocal and allows for the perpetuation of linguistic imperialism through reinforcing English hegemony in the early years of primary education. She shows how language policies shape teachers’ ideologies about language in ways that undermine mother tongue education in early grade multilingual classrooms.
Olayinka would like to continue to explore ways to ensure the provision and actualization of mother tongue education policies in complex sociolinguistically diverse settings in Sub-Sahara Africa. She shared, “I hope to be able to shape language policies in Nigeria such that many more children have access to education in their home language because it is a linguistic human right.”
Hermann von Hesse | Ph.D. in History | Advisor: James Sweet
Hermann’s research explores how Gold Coast merchant families increasingly deployed private property—stone houses, family heirlooms, and material goods —as new wealth-building mechanisms during the transition away from the Atlantic slave trade. His dissertation, “Materiality and Real Estate: Evolving Cultural Practices of Security on the Urban Gold Coast in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” situates Gold Coast merchant households in the context of African Atlantic and black diaspora history. With the British abolition of the slave trade in 1807, European and American-based commercial establishments increasingly began to demand stone houses and material goods rather than captives as collaterals or mortgages for foreign imports Gold Coast merchants obtained on credit. But houses were spaces of ancestral burials, as well as material and spiritual accumulation. Though Gold Coast merchants’ increasing subjection of their family houses to the market gave them greater access to European credit, they also became vulnerable as they risked losing their ancestral burial spaces and family heritage. Consequently, Gold Coast merchant families began to contest which measure of security, protection, and power was more important – monetary wealth through real estate or family/ancestral wealth and heritage. More broadly, his research contributes to the history of global capitalist expansion and how these processes influenced African and non-Western ideas about value, property, and security.
Rita Mawuena Benissan | Masters in Art | Advisor: Tom Jones
Rita is a Ghanaian American artist. Her art and research celebrate African and Black Aesthetic while exploring her cross-culture background and identity as both an African and an American woman. She considers herself a narrative photographer that engages with the mediums of painting, printmaking, and textile to explore the narrative of being Black. She is trying to understand the concept of the “Black Aesthetic” and its relationship to blackness in western society. Her blackness was influenced by her parents’ Ghanaian culture which is her foundation as a Black woman. This representation also influences the creation of her own fabrics. She embraces her own aesthetic, by reinterpreting the royal umbrella which is the symbol of hierarchy in the chieftaincy in Ghana. The umbrellas are used to protect and shade the King, Chiefs, and Queen Mothers. In her art, she is contradicting the monarchy and colonialist ideology that they stand for by using her “Black Aesthetic,” she incorporates symbols and everyday items from her culture as a way to reappropriate the umbrellas.
Words of wisdom: “Don’t wait for opportunity. Create it!”
“I’m currently looking forward to great career opportunities within higher education and also continue with a Ph.D. focusing on refugee and immigrant education and gender equity in the field of education. My time as a student has been filled with support, motivation, and challenges from my family, my peers, and my professors within the School of Education. For the new graduate students, keep a positive and open mind and don’t be hesitant to challenge yourself throughout the course of your program.”
CONGRATULATIONS TO UNDERGRADUATES
Biana Speed | Bachelors in Communications with a Certificate in African Studies
Biana is a graduating Senior receiving a B.A. in Communications: Rhetorical Studies and a certificate in African Studies. UW has taught her the importance of pursuing what you love and not be afraid of the unknown. Her very first time studying abroad in Africa was covered by UW-Madison and it’s been one of her most memorable experiences as a student. After graduation, she will work at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation as a Communication and Marketing Intern and serving as an Ambassador/ Board Member for the nonprofit organization Embrace Her Legacy to help young women step outside of their bubble and pursue their dreams confidently.
Other undergraduates who completed their degree and Certificate in African Studies are:
Jacob Guthrie Barbercheck
Alana Robie Tara Ceesay
Holly Catherine Dooge
Eleanor Katherine Elmudesi
Taiwo Sunmi Famule
Sirena Alicia Flores
Damitu Eyob Hamda
Alecia Kristen Hough
Dima Kenj Halabi
Benjamin Douglas Luginbill
Justyce Mae McGuire
Margaret Ivany Nilsen
Anitha Marie Quintin
Baileigh Ann Remy
Narik John Riak
Calice Jory Robins
If you recently graduated and would like to be added to this page, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.