Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

CLACS Announces Recipients of the Center's 2022 Dissertation Prize

May 13, 2022

Photos of Lauren Deal and Melanie White.

We are thrilled to announce that this year's CLACS Dissertation Award winners are Lauren Deal from the Department of Anthropology and Melanie White from the Department of Africana Studies.The prize is awarded to the best dissertation(s) in the area of Latin American and Caribbean Studies written by a current Brown University graduate student from any discipline who will defend and submit the PhD dissertation by April 30 of that year.

Congratulations, Lauren and Melanie!

Learn more about Lauren and Melanie here:

Lauren E. Deal is a linguistic and cultural anthropologist and former fellow for the Mellon-Sawyer Seminar on Race and Indigeneity in the Americas at CLACS. Her dissertation explores the ways in which everyday actors in Buenos Aires seek to disrupt official constructions of Argentine national identity as exceptionally white and European through the appropriation, or "recuperation," of Andean Indigenous language and music. Her analysis considers the intersections of racialization, colonialism, and decolonization as she explores how this reimagining of Argentine identity is framed, performed and experienced by her interlocutors. She reveals how this reimagining is understood as shifting away from aspirational “Europeanness” and toward an embrace of “Latin Americanness,” and traces how the categories of whiteness, indigeneity, mestizo, and Latin American are made and remade in the process. Her work also holds in tension frameworks of interculturalism and cultural appropriation as she examines the politics of cultural circulation at stake in appropriating Andean Indigenous cultural forms in the name of decolonial work thereby also illuminating meanings of colonialism and decolonization for her interlocutors. Finally, her dissertation advocates for an approach that considers both the harms and the transformative potentialities of this type of work, which, while ethically and politically fraught, is also a site of profound joy and creativity vital to the work of imagining an otherwise. Lauren is currently Senior Experience Design Researcher, VP at Bank of America. 

Melanie Y. White earned her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Posse Scholar and Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. Prior to pursuing a PhD in Africana Studies at Brown University, she obtained her M.A. in African and African Diaspora Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. She is the recipient of multiple grants and fellowships, including a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship, a Brown Global Mobility Research Fellowship, a Steinhaus/Zisson Pembroke Center Research Grant, a Joukowsky Summer Research Award, a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, and a Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies. Most recently, she was awarded a Joukowsky Family Foundation Outstanding Dissertation Award and a Marie J. Langlois Dissertation Prize. Her dissertation, "What Dem Do to We No Have Name: Intimate Colonial Violence, Autonomy, and Black Women's Art in Caribbean Nicaragua," charts a history of intimate colonial violence in the Nicaraguan Mosquitia, or Caribbean Coast. Through careful examination of enslavers’ wills, colonial correspondence, Euro-American travel narratives, US survey photography, Moravian missionary photography, and Nicaraguan cultural production, her dissertation traces the racialized, gendered, and sexual violence Afro-Mosquitian women and girls have experienced at the hands of key colonial actors in their history. These intimate colonial violences are then juxtaposed with the counter-visualities of Black women artists from the region who engage Black women and girls’ histories of gender-based violence and the critical yet taken-for-granted importance of bodily autonomy in their work. In light of the contemporary Nicaraguan political crisis and a masculinist regional Black autonomy movement that has been centrally concerned with civic harms and rights to land, her dissertation highlights how Black Caribbean Coast women’s art offers an alternative, gendered vision of Black autonomy that would enable the flourishing of intimate justice in the region. In the fall, Melanie will begin a tenure-track position 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.