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Graduate Students Win Fulbright Awards

June 17, 2019

Brown is once again a leading Fulbright-producing university for the 2019-2020 academic year. Graduate students Melanie White and Keegan Cothern are among those selected this year. White is a doctoral candidate in Africana Studies who will travel to Nicaragua; Cothern is a PhD student in History who will travel to Japan. “Being awarded a Fulbright is an extreme honor and privilege that will allow me to conduct my international dissertation research in Nicaragua. I have been planning to conduct this research since my early years as an undergraduate, and it is incredibly affirming to know that the Fulbright program believes in and has decided to support my project,” says White. Read more.

Melanie White
Beginning in the fall, White will conduct dissertation research in the city of Bluefields on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Her dissertation is an ethnographic analysis of black women who are visual artists in Bluefields and how they imagine what life could look like for the black and indigenous peoples of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. Examining the art and life histories of three artists (June Beer, Nydia Taylor, and Karen Spencer Downs), as well as the experiences and art interpretations of the black women who witness their work, her research will consider the significance of black women’s art for black women who have experienced racial and gender violence in Nicaragua.

In centering the critical race, class, and gender insights black women artists have to offer, her research seeks to identify some of the political strategies and gendered approaches that might allow for more radical and transformative methods of organizing for black liberation in Nicaragua and beyond.

“As a second-generation Afro-Nicaraguan woman, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn more about where my family is from, to aid in local struggles there through my academic work, and to be able to share this knowledge in my communities in the U.S.,” says White. 

Melanie White received her bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania where she was a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. She is a Ford Foundation Predoctoral fellow, and earned a master’s in in African and African Diaspora Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. 

Keegan Cothern
Keegan studies modern Japan environmental history and the history of natural disaster preparation in Japan. His dissertation focuses on how the Japanese state attempted to transform its urban and rural landscapes into engineered, resilient spaces capable of better resisting natural disasters.

He will travel to the Greater Tokyo area in September for a year on Fulbright, followed by another doing regional research outside of the nation's center. Hosted by Keio University in Tokyo, he’ll be pursuing interdisciplinary research in archival centers, establishing connections with specialists who work on natural disasters, mapping his data with ARC GIS, and exploring disaster sites and seeing infrastructure in person through field trips. 

“In a world experiencing a sharp uptick in disasters across the globe, as well as ever-increasing urbanization, the complex Japanese encounters with multiple disasters (earthquakes, tsunami, flooding, urban fires, land/mudslides, and volcanic eruptions) serve as valuable lessons,” he says. 

Keegan is from rural southern Idaho and received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Boise State. He has also earned three master’s degrees – two in History and one in East Asian Studies (Ohio State University). He looks forward to experiencing the seasons in Japan during his Fulbright year. He’s pictured on Mt. Fuji.