Through the Race and Ethnicity Cluster Hire Initiative, Washington University in St. Louis has taken important steps toward building a world-class research program on race. Three rounds of this cluster hire initiative took place in 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 and were funded by the Office of the Provost. It is supported by the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity (CRE2), which was founded in 2019 and launched in 2020 to catalyze research and learning related to race and ethnicity scholarship at Washington University. Information on the faculty and units involved in this cluster hiring initiative is provided below.
Assistant Professor, English and Comparative Literature, Fall 2021 | G’Ra Asim, a writer and musician, is the author of Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother (Beacon Press). He has served as a writing director at the African American Policy Forum and a graduate teaching fellow in Columbia University’s Undergraduate Writing Program. His work has appeared in Slate, Salon, Guernica, The Baffler, and The New Republic. When not writing or teaching, he sings, plays bass and writes lyrics for DIY pop punk quintet babygotbacktalk, who were named one of Alternative Press’s “17 rising Black alternative bands who are leading the next generation.”
Professor, African and African American Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies, Fall 2022 | Marlon M. Bailey is a Black queer theorist and critical/performance ethnographer who studies Black LGBTQ cultural formations, sexual health, and HIV/AIDS prevention. Marlon’s book, Butch Queens Up in Pumps: Gender, Performance, and Ballroom Culture in Detroit, was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2013. In 2014, Butch Queens Up in Pumps won the Alan Bray Memorial Book Prize awarded by the GL/Q Caucus of the Modern Language Association. Dr. Bailey has published widely on Black LGBT cultures, HIV prevention, and sexual health in peer reviewed journals and edited volumes. He holds a PhD in African Diaspora Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from the University of California, Berkeley.
Assistant Professor, Architecture, Fall 2022 | Seth Denizen is a researcher and design practitioner trained in landscape architecture, evolutionary biology, and human geography. His published work is multidisciplinary, addressing art, design, soil science, urban geography, and the politics of climate change. He is currently a member of the editorial board of Scapegoat Journal: Architecture | Landscape | Political Economy. He holds a PhD in Geography from the University of California Berkeley, where he studied the political ecology of soil in the Mexico City-Mezquital Valley hydrological system. In 2019 he was a recipient of the SOM Foundation Research Prize and has previously taught at Harvard, Berkeley, the University of Hong Kong, and Princeton, where he was a Princeton-Mellon Fellow in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities.
Assistant Professor, Art, Fall 2023 | Chris Dingwall is a historian of American and African American design with particular interest in race, material culture, political economy, and the relationship between art and power in scenes of everyday life and labor. Currently, he is writing Selling Slavery: Race and the Industry of American Culture, a book for Cambridge University Press, and co-editing Black Designers in Chicago, a collected volume and exhibition catalogue for the University of Chicago Press. His work has been supported by the Terra Foundation of American Art and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and his writing about cultural history and contemporary art and design has appeared in AIGA Eye on Design, Archives of American Art, and the Gagosian Quarterly.
Associate Professor, Law, Fall 2023 | Sheldon A. Evans focuses his teaching and scholarship on criminal sentencing, punishment theory, and its intersection with immigration policies. He earned his undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Southern California, his JD from the University of Chicago Law School, and served as a federal law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit for the Honorable Lavenski R. Smith. His work has appeared in several leading law reviews such as the Columbia Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and California Law Review, and has received national scholarly recognition for its contributions to anti-incarceration efforts. Professor Evans is also a co-host of the Black Authors Book Club, which furthers his commitment to antiracism by promoting and discussing books written by Black authors that highlight the Black experience in America and across the African diaspora.
Assistant Professor, Jewish, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies, Fall 2023 | Mona Kareem (she/they) holds a PhD in comparative literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her research focuses on literary cultures of race, class, and gender in the Global South, with a focus on Afro-Asian encounters in the Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf region. Her scholarship is comparative and interdisciplinary, crossing the bounds of Arab, South Asian, and African studies. She has been a fellow at the Crown Center at Brandeis, the Center for Humanities at Tufts, the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, the Arabic program at the University of Maryland College Park, and the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. She is also the author of three poetry collections, and the translator of Octavia Butler, Ashraf Fayadh, and Ra’ad Abdulqadir, among others.
Associate Professor, Sociology, Fall 2021 | Zakiya Luna is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Dean’s Distinguished Professorial Scholar at WashU. Her research, teaching and community work focus on social movements, reproduction, human rights and intersectionality. She has published multiple peer-reviewed articles and chapters and secured multiple grants including from the National Science Foundation. Her research on the reproductive justice movement includes the book Reproductive Rights as Human Rights: Women of Color and the Fight for Reproductive Justice (NYU Press), which was included on the Oprah Daily list “The 12 Books You Need to Read Post the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade Smackdown.” She is coeditor of Black Feminist Sociology: Perspectives and Praxis (Routledge) with Whitney Laster Pirtle. Her other writing includes contribution to Ms. and Refinery 29. She was recently named the 2023 Distinguished Feminist Lecturer Award by Sociologists for Women in Society.
Assistant Professor, Biology, Fall 2022 | Liz’s research focuses on the causes and consequences of variation in the gut microbiome both within and between species. Much of her research examines how diet, environmental change, and host physiology influence wild nonhuman primate gut microbiomes, but her recent work identifies factors shaping microbiome variation in adults and children in the United States. In particular, Liz focuses on how exposure to environmental pollutants and soil-transmitted helminths negatively impact the gut microbiome and cardiometabolic health. Liz completed her PhD in biological anthropology at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana (2016), followed by postdoctoral training at Northwestern University, Dartmouth College, and Vanderbilt University.
Assistant Professor, African and American Studies, Fall 2023 | Themba is a scholar of African and Afro-diasporic literature and global black thought, focusing on the intersections between the histories of blackness and the politics of memory in the postcolonial world. His doctoral project looks at the significance of the SS Mendi shipwreck, the Herero and Nama Genocide, and the South African apartheid archive, to chart the possibilities of a decolonial rubric for the mourning and witnessing of black pasts. In May 2023, Themba will earn his PhD in English from Princeton University with a certificate in African American Studies.
Assistant Professor, Education and African and African American Studies, Fall 2023 | Nichols Lodato’s mixed methods research examines how shock events (e.g., the Great Recession, COVID-19) impact identity development and education outcomes among diverse adolescents and young adults. In her study of the effects of shocks, which have had enduring negative impact on African American communities, she applies an interdisciplinary, strengths-based approach to interrogate the dimensions of context that support or undermine positive identity development. Nichols Lodato’s interest in human development and person-context dynamics is enhanced by her work with community groups advocating for equitable public park policies in urban minoritized communities. Her research agenda engages the effects of endemic inequality and racial discrimination in order to advance social justice and improved education outcomes at the local, state and national levels. Nichols Lodato earned MA degrees in International Studies and Comparative Human Development and a PhD. in Comparative Human Development, all from the University of Chicago.
Walter D. Coles Professor of Law, Law, Fall 2022 | Rafael I. Pardo researches and teaches in the areas of bankruptcy, commercial law, contracts, and legal history. His published work over the last five years has focused on the intersection of the 1841 Bankruptcy Act, slavery, and race in the antebellum United States. This research serves as the foundation for Pardo’s current book project, The Color of Bankruptcy: Financial Failure and Freedom in the Age of American Slavery, which is under contract with Columbia University Press. Professor Pardo received his BA in history from Yale College and his JD from New York University School of Law. He is an elected member of the American Law Institute and has testified as a bankruptcy expert before both houses of Congress.
Professor, Performing Arts & American Culture Studies, Fall 2023 | Elaine Peña’s teaching and research interests include border studies, hemispheric Latinx performance, and religious studies. She is the author of Performing Piety: Making Space Sacred with the Virgin of Guadalupe (University of California Press, 2011), an ethnographic study of transnational devotional practices between central Mexico and the greater Chicago area. Her recent book, ¡Viva George!: Celebrating Washington’s Birthday at the U.S.-Mexico Border (University of Texas Press, 2020), critically examines acts of playing Indian, playing Mexican, and playing Colonial as part of the long-standing tradition of celebrating Washington’s Birthday between Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. Peña‘s current manuscript project–Time to Pray–builds on her research at the Port of Laredo to consider the global diversity of religious practice and place-making. She is also a co-Principal Investigator on a project that explores border enactment theory, border festivals, and practical governance in West Africa. Her work has been published in a wide range of journals that reflect the transdisciplinary reach of her scholarship, and has been recognized by the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright-Hays Program, and the McNair Scholars Program.
Assistant Professor, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Fall 2023 | Allison S. Reed’s work connects Black Feminist Studies with Disability & Mad Studies. She aims to help Black Feminist Studies more actively grapple with everyday lived experiences of madness, sickness, and disability as neglected categories within the intersectionality discourse, particularly in the domain of political participation. Her research has received funding and/or recognition from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Fahs-Beck Fund for Research and Experimentation, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology. Reed holds an MA and will receive her PhD in June 2023, both in sociology from the University of Chicago.
Assistant Professor, Musicology, Fall 2023 | Parkorn Wangpaiboonkit will join WashU as Assistant Professor of Musicology in Fall 2023. His innovative research in the emerging field of global music history examines musical and intellectual exchanges between Europe’s colonial powers and the empire of Siam (present-day Thailand) in the decades around 1900. Parkorn has been awarded three prestigious fellowships by the American Musicological Society: the Alvin H. Johnson AMS50 Dissertation Fellowship, the Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship, and the Holmes/D’Accone Fellowship in Opera Studies. He will complete his PhD in musicology this spring at the University of California, Berkeley, and he holds a BA in comparative literature from Oberlin College.
The following faculty served on the Race and Ethnicity Cluster Hire Review Committee between the Fall 2020 and Spring 2023:
David Ahn, Olin Business School
Jean Allman, African and African-American Studies, Arts & Sciences
Kia Caldwell, Office of the Provost (Co-chair, 2022-23)
David Cunningham, Arts & Sciences (Co-chair, 2022-23)
Adrienne Davis, Law School (Co-chair, 2020-21)
Bettina Drake, Department of Surgery, School of Medicine
Cynthia Feliciano, Sociology, Arts & Sciences
Joe Jez, Biology, Arts & Sciences
Sean Joe, Brown School
Pauline Kim, Law School
Hedwig Lee, Sociology, Arts & Sciences (Co-chair, 2021-22)
Stephanie Li, English, Arts & Sciences
Eric Mumford, College of Architecture, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Tim Portlock, College of Art, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Rodrigo Reis, Brown School
Jon Silva, Biomedical Engineering, McKelvey School of Engineering
Vetta Thompson, Brown School
Rebecca Wanzo, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Arts & Sciences (Co-chair, 2021-22)
Geoff Ward, African and African-American Studies, Arts & Sciences (Co-chair, 2020-21)
Carol Camp Yeakey, Education, Arts & Sciences