Past Faculty Fellows – Center for World Performance Studies

Applications to the Faculty Fellows Program are accepted annually in March.

View the 2024-2025 Faculty Fellows.

Established in 2000, CWPS originated in the International Institute before shifting to the College of Literature, Science & the Arts in 2015 as part of the University of Michigan’s Residential College, and in 2024 became a part of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Past Fellowship Years

2023-2024 Fellows

Su'ad Abdul Khabeer (American Culture, Arab and Muslim American Studies)

Abdul Khabeer will continue work on Umi’s Archive, an interdisciplinary research project that engages everyday Black women’s thought to investigate key questions of archives and power, particularly: What new knowledge arises from narrating stories that officially don’t matter? Drawing on a family archive dating from the late-1920s and spanning multiple continents, Umi’s Archive is a scholarly exploration into the life of one New York City-based activist, Amina Amatul Haqq (1950-2017), née Audrey Weeks, whom Abdul Khabeer calls umi (Arabic for mother). This research and writing will support an hour-long solo performance based on the archive.

Ashley Lucas (Theatre & Drama, Art & Design, English)

Professor Lucas will travel to Manaus, Brazil to continue the next phase of research evolving from her book, Prison Theatre and the Global Crisis of Incarceration (Bloomsbury 2020). Lucas will be part of a working group about prison theatre at the I Congresso Internacional de Teatro do Amazonas, and will guest facilitate theatre workshops with incarcerated men and women in Parintins alongside a smaller gathering of prison theatre practitioners who have been working in Amazonas prisons for twenty years.

Charles Lwanga (Musicology)

“The Promise of Freedom: Bobi Wine and the Sonic Contours of Participation in Uganda”

Professor Lwanga will collect data for his book project, which seeks to examine how music – and the multiple spaces through which it is produced, circulated, and consumed has since the 1990s transformed Uganda into a participatory arena – by mediating the social aspirations of publics. “Publics,” referring to groups of people who exchange information, debate opinions, and advocate for social change in physical and virtual spaces. The book project centers on the rise of the “people power” public of youth led by Afropop musician and politician, Robert Kyagulanyi (a.k.a Bobi Wine).

Stephen Rush (Performing Arts Technology)

Professor Rush will continue long-standing work in Mysore, India, through a student-centered program focusing on the guru-shishya parampara (one-to-one, master-disciple) system of learning. Students also study Yoga each morning with a Yogi from the world-famous Mysore School of Yoga. At least ten exclusive lecture/discussions by guest faculty from The University of Mysore and esteemed non-traditional teachers from Mysore are provided for the group to cover the influence of Indian music on contemporary music, Kannada and Hindi languages, social/cultural issues in India with a focus on caste and gender, history of yoga; meditation, religion and epic stories of India, non-governmental organizations and development issues. Students perform a final concert for Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement students and staff at the end of the program.

Henry Stoll (Musicology)

“Reconstructing Haiti’s First Opera”

Professor Stoll will pursue the creation of a new performative work: a reconstruction of the earliest Haitian opera, L’Éntrée du Roi, en sa capitale (“The Entrance of the King in His Capital”). Published in 1818 by Juste Chanlatte (1766-1828), a prominent Haitian poet and man of letters, the opera was composed by retexting French songs and opera excerpts from the 18th and 19th centuries with original Haitian lyrics – an “opéra vaudeville,” as it is known to musicologists. Though largely unknown, even among scholars of Haiti, this opera has tremendous implications for the understanding of early Haiti and the Black Atlantic, featuring depictions of the Haitian monarchy, demonstrations of African dance, and an entire scene in Haitian Creole. It is also the earliest opera to have been composed specifically for Black audiences, and its reconstruction will help address the pressing, contemporary demand for opera by diverse and underrepresented composers.

2022-2023 Fellows

Samer Ali (Middle East Studies)

“Orientalism and White Supremacy: Race, Gaze Training, and Middle Eastern Studies”

The project begins with the simple observation that early modernity and the Enlightenment found the racialized figure of the Muslim (aka, the Moor) critical for producing white supremacist discourse and practice. In the Reformation, for example, the “Sons of Noah” theory subordinated Semites (meaning both Jews and Muslims) and Hamites (Africans) relative to white Japhetites; an estimated 30% of enslaved Africans in the New World were Muslim; the first enslaved African revolt in the Americas had Wolof Muslim leadership, which prompted the 16th-century Spanish Crown to prohibit their importation from that ethnic group; Queen Elizabeth I deported legions of London-based Moors in 1596, and shortly thereafter, Shakespeare’s Othello the Moor (1603) and The Tempest (1610) framed the characters of Othello and Caliban (the monstrous Arab) as the quintessential flies in the white ointment of a new world order; Linnaeus’s taxonomy of race (1767) painted the “Sooty Moor” as ungoverned and ungovernable; and Immanuel Kant described the Moor as spreading “an evil smell.” Like the Jew and the African, the figure of the Muslim was indispensable to white self-definition. Yet, despite this history, critical race studies from W. E. B Du Bois to Nell Irving Painter have overlooked the phenomenon. Simultaneously, in Middle East studies, scholars like Edward Said have studied orientalist discourses against the Muslim but have overlooked the concept of race and the process of racialization. The goal of this project is to place the two fields in conversation and to create a synergy of comparative insights about how white supremacy operates. This project conceives of white supremacy in the spirit of Du Bois as a global phenomenon with multiple sites of application—the plantation, the eugenic university, the gas chambers, the race sciences, the colony, and the ethnological exhibit.

Nachiket Chanchani (History of Art)

“War Dance”

Professor Chanchani will travel to Cambodia to study the position of dance in the region in the medieval period. Specifically, by melding clues preserved in the art historical record with surviving epigraphic evidence, Chanchani will explore his working hypothesis: that certain medieval dances concurrently recounted classical myths about cycles of cosmic dissolution and regeneration and masked struggles to reconcile the ethics of nonviolence with the need to use coercive violence as the Angkorian state as extended its authority across the vast Khmer Empire. Through his fieldwork and archival research he plans to publish an article and use this research to inform his upcoming special exhibition at UMMA.

Michael Gould (Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation)

Professor Gould will partner with former CWPS Graduate Fellow and Zimbabwean artist Masimba Hwati to focus on how climate change and man made intervention has affected the Tonga people who live on or near the Zambezi river. This work will use the story of the Zambezi river itself and how it has been altered by the dam. It will also consider the story of Nyami Nyami, known as the Zambezi River God or Zambezi snake spirit as inspiration while putting this in context with the broader impact and complexity associated with the Anthropocene. The two will collaborate while in Berlin, Germany at Tanz Tangente, a gallery space and dance company that Gould has collaborated with for the past 15 years.

Marc Hannaford (Music Theory)

This project comprises of archival work as part of Professor Hannaford’s research into African American music theorists. Specifically, Hannaford will spend time at the Institute of Jazz Studies (Newark, New Jersey) and the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center (New York City) examining the archives of Andrew Hill, Sonny Rollins, and Mary Lou Williams.Most people’s encounter with music theory is dominated by white male composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms. The vast majority of music theory textbooks are archetypal in this regard. The theories that shape these books and most music theory classrooms were developed in the Western art music tradition and by white men such as Heinrich Schenker, Hugo Riemann, Arnold Schoenberg, and Milton Babbitt. Whiteness thus operates largely unmarked in music theory on the levels of epistemology and representation.This narrowness is also evident in music theory’s academic spheres. At the level of both the classroom and academic society, music theory is white and male. These statistics are extremely problematic because representation is an important part of welcoming a more diverse range of students and scholars into the field. The issue here is not that there has never been Black music theorists, but that they have been excluded from the field and erased from its history. Following recent calls to work toward greater equity, diversity, and inclusion in music studies by scholars such as Philip Ewell (2020; 2021), Ellie Hisama (2000; 2018; 2021), and Loren Kajikawa (2019; 2021), Hannaford reexamines and redresses who counts as a music theorist.

Bethany Hughes (Native American Studies, American Culture)

Professor Hughes is working on a collaborative research project titled “Performing Indigenous Networks.” It seeks to understand Indigenous networks of cultural production as active processes and interconnected sets of relationships and resources that influence the possibilities and practices of Indigenous artists. It is motivated by the question, “How do Indigenous creatives produce work while navigating the constraints of existing networks of production and forge new networks in the process?” The collaborative project is comprised of scholars, archivists, and Indigenous creatives who will come together in August 2022. Hosted by the Clements Library we will spend time interacting with archival objects that captured Indigenous performances in early 20th century Michigan, hold a public facing panel on the relationship of Indigenous creatives to institutions and networks of production, and dedicate time for Indigenous theatre artists to develop new work as a pilot/lab space for the project’s central questions.

Holly Hughes (Art & Design, Theatre & Drama, Women's & Gender Studies)

INDELIBLE is a new multimedia solo performance that Professor Hughes is writing and will appear, under the direction of acclaimed theatre artist and designer Dan Hurlin. This work draws upon art history, psychological theories of trauma formation, feminist theory, court documents, and autobiography to examine how the current discourse in American culture on sexual violence places a great emphasis on the importance of victims’ narratives while neglecting to ask larger questions about the prevalence of such misconduct despite decades of feminist organizing.

Reginald Jackson (Asian Languages and Cultures)

Professor Jackson will continue work on his book, “Spectacular Dominion: Slavery, Performance, and the Boundaries of Personhood in Premodern Japan”, which explores the relationship between slavery and performance in premodern Japan by analyzing the intersection between embodiment, economy, and sovereignty. Jackson focuses on three historical moments over six chapters. First, on the early Muromachi period (1336–1573), when Noh plays about slavery emerged. Next, the late-sixteenth century, when slave trade by Jesuit missionaries occurred between Europe, Africa, Asia, and “The New World.” Finally, the book considers Commodore Perry’s mid-nineteenth century mission to Japan, when blackface minstrel shows by “Ethiopian Players” abetted U.S. gunboat diplomacy in Asia. In each of these contexts, the relationships between social status, spatial practices, gender, and racial formations become vital analytical concerns, particularly as they shaped how various forms of religious discipline or colonial subjection took hold. Spectacular Dominion ventures new lines of inquiry into how personhood was defined and contested in premodern Japan, tracing shifting responses to the central question: How is personhood performed – both literally and metaphorically – when one’s humanity is persistently threatened? The project engages questions significant to Performance Studies and Black Studies, drawing insights from critical race and queer theory.

Mbala Nkanga (Theatre Studies)

Professor Nkanga will explore the many facets of multidisciplinary performances currently taking place in Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Considering the history of Kinshasa, once known as Kinshasa-la-Belle, or Kinshasa-the-Beautiful to now Kinshasa-la-Poubelle, or Kinshasa-the-Trashy, Nkanga will observe the following: the language of the trash and its implication in the artistic creation of masks and performances; the techniques used by the performers to put together these masks and costumes; the contradiction of the symbolism of trash and SAPE (Société des Ambianceurs et Personnes Élégantes) known for their high fashion in the same neighborhood of Matonge and in Kinshasa; issues of individual and collective memories along with the daily experience of being Congolese and Kinois (a resident of Kinshasa); and the role played by Congolese traditional and the Rumba Music, along with dances in the performances.

Edward Sarath (Jazz & Contemporary Improvisation)

Professor Sarath will present performances in South Africa of his composition, His Day is Done. The piece sets to music Maya Angelou’s poem of the same title, which she wrote to commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela. Written for symphony orchestra, choir and jazz soloists, the work will involve 150 musicians, and – reflecting the length of Angelou’s poem – comprises five movements and is close to 40 minutes in duration. This work provides as musical example of a core principle of Sarath’s vision for the future of music studies, where the best of conventional practice coexists and coevolves with an expanded creative and cultural palette, with black music as a powerful galvanizing force. The performances are part of an ongoing initiative launched by Sarath with his collaborators called South Africa/America Music Exchange (SAME).

Kira Thurman (German, History)

Professor Thurman’s next project, entitled “Our Lives Can Be Made Beautiful,” takes a broad view at the politics of race and classical music in the twentieth century. The title – “Our Lives Can Be Made Beautiful” – is taken from the African American soprano and activist Aida Overton Walker’s 1905 essay encouraging Black musicians to perform art music in spite of white criticisms of their talent. Inspired by Walker’s essay, Thurman’s book explores both the history of systemic racism that has historically functioned to keep Black people out of classical music and also the discursive and musical practices that Black musicians developed to perform it anyway. Ultimately, her next project addresses the urgent contemporary question that Black people ask – “Is this music for us?” – by placing that question in a historical context.

2021-2022 Fellows

Charli Brissey (Dance)

“New Suns, Midwest Futures”

New Suns, Midwest Futures is a bi-weekly podcast series and interactive website focusing onqueer and BIPOC Midwestern performing artists (born or relocated) working loosely aroundthemes of land, place, identity, and social justice. Derived from Octavia Butler’s quote “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns” this project is positioned within a critical feminist science fiction framework, aligning with speculative fiction’s goal of collectively imagining new systems and spaces outside of cis-patriarchal white supremacist models. New Suns: Midwest Futures specifically asks how dance and performance might employ science fiction strategies to build just futures beyond the “end of the world,” and how strategies of world-making and embodied resistance create networks and infrastructures for performing artists with marginalized identities in the Midwest to thrive. While not directly focused on COVID-19, the timely launch of this project will undoubtedly integrate the issues, concerns, and possibilities of moving out of the pandemic and collectively dreaming up what happens next in a considerably different social-political-ecological landscape as we come back together in person.

Aliyah Khan (English, Afroamerican and African Studies)

“The Caribbean Qasida: Muslim Devotional Songs in Trinidad and Guyana”

The qasida is a single-subject, often mono rhymed or mono metered panegyric or elegiac Islamic devotional song or lyric poem, akin to the better-known qawwali and ghazal in its Sufi Muslim development, and incorporating the lesser-known forms of naatsung to the Prophet Muhammad and hamd sung to Allah. Khan traces the late 19th century and 20th century migration and adaptation of qasidas from India and Pakistan to the Caribbean, specifically to Trinidad and Guyana, half of the populations of which are people of Indian descent. There is no single existing academic essay on this diasporic religious musical form, the Indo-Caribbean iteration of the qasida; and certainly no book. She proposes to write the first such research essay, with the eventual aim of writing a book on the Muslim music of the Caribbean.

Melanie Manos (Art & Design)

“Visualizing Women’s Work”

Research on the work of indigenous and African American women’s labor in the era of the Thaddeus Kosciusko Monument, Detroit, including site-specific performance-based explorations for conveying women’s societal contributions to combat their erasure and devaluation in public historical commemoration as part of the Visualizing Women’s Work project.

Visualizing Women’s Work (VWW) is a research and community centered project examining gender bias in historic public monuments through site-specific performances that spotlight the historically erased, devalued contributions of women across identities. Performances are designed era-responsively, using multi-media formats and referencing materials, tools and physical movement of women’s paid and unpaid labor, intuitively and collaboratively choreographed.

Susan Najita (American Culture, English Language and Literature)

“Hula Consciousness”

This year, 2021, marks a significant moment in options for remote learning of the unique, often esoteric performance traditions of the Hawaiian hula kuahu (altar hula), a sacred and ancient form whose most vigorous and influential lineage is the Kanaka’ole family on the island of Hawai’i (also known as the Big Island). In March, one of the Kanaka’ole’s foremost kumu (master teachers), Kekuhi Keali’ikanaka’oleohaililani, will teach an inaugural class called “Ulu Ka ‘Ōhi‘a Hula Consciousness Seminar, Level 1.” In this course Kumu Kekuhi will be teaching hula‘aiha‘a, a specific form of the hula associated with the Pele clan of the volcano, from aholistic perspective that includes all of the dimensions of this form, including mindset, process, ritual, kinship with the hula family, and kinship with the first hula people, nature. She will be teaching these aspects of the hula in the manner that her own cherished grandparents taught her. This is different from the typical form of instruction one finds in most contemporary hālau hula (school of hula). “Ulu Ka‘Ōhi‘a” is a unique and unprecedented opportunity to learn from the most respected cultural practitioner alive today.

2021-2022 Fellows

Kwasi Ampene (Afroamerican and African Studies)

“Musical Expressions and Traditions in the Borderlands: Collaborative Field Research at Aflao-Ghana”

Based on ethnomusicological field research methods and in collaboration with Kofi Kudonu, a member of faculty at the University of Ghana, the project investigates the impact of ambience and soundscape in a major border town on drumming, song, and dance repertoire of Yeve religious rites. The suite of dances (and accompanying drumming and songs) selected for the project are Misago, Adzrowo, Sakpate, Tsorhue, Yekpe, Brekete, and Dah. At the end of the project, we shall jointly publish two journal articles, one in the US and the second in Ghana.

Larry La Fountain-Stokes (American Culture, Romance Language & Literatures, Women’s Studies)

Performing an Archipelago: Contemporary Performance Arts in Puerto Rico is a book-length multimedia project that focuses on contemporary alternative, black, queer, and women’s performance in Puerto Rico. Prof. La Fountain-Stokes will document how a select number of artists re-envision, transform, and challenge Puerto Rican culture and society under U.S.colonialism; how they address violence, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia; and how these performers negotiate the local situation of precarity caused by the longstanding (post-2008) financial crisis, given the added impact of natural disasters such as Hurricane María in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020.

Joseph Lam (Musicology)

Professor Lam will conduct interviews with Japanese kunqu practitioners, and examine documents in theatre archives. He will conduct a month-long research project in Japan, and will interview Tamasaburo and Japanese kunqu promoters, scholars, and fans. Professor Lam will also visit archives of Japanese theatres which have presented kunqu shows. The data collected will be used in a monograph on kunqu as a Chinese and global opera, which will historically and musicologically examine kunqu performance and reception in Japan, Taiwan, UK and the US. The chapters will probe and compare national phenomena with current and international theories, such as music as a social practice (Christopher Small), as cultural pragmatics (Jeffery Alexander), as tactical interactions (Michel de Certeau), and as diplomatic soft power (Joseph S. Nye).

Alaina Lemon (Anthropology)

As an ethnographer of theatrical performance, Professor Lemon has been following a group of acting and directing students who passed through the Russian State Theatrical Academy in Moscow. She has published descriptions of their social and cultural worlds, but none of that writing conveys how we felt inside this “space capsule,” or “aquarium,” as some called the Academy. This was performance boot camp, barely time to sleep or money to eat. Former students – now working in Moscow’s theaters and film companies – are collaborating with me to edit a film titled Tremors: Stanislavsky Rests. Drawing from 30 hours of video and audio material recorded from 2002-2005, they not only document students’ nervous struggles as they survive one of the world’s most rigorous theatrical academies, but also trace how small stages channel global conflicts. Seemingly cut off from traumatic historical events, students’ waking hours were all the same infused by them. Do we give up life to live in art?

Katherine Mendeloff (Residential College, Theatre Studies)

Professor Mendeloff will collaborate with Kenyan playwright Rogers (Aroji) Otieno, whom she met at a workshop at La Mama Umbria’s Director’s Symposium in Italy, on environmental staging of a play about Nobel prize winning eco-activist Wangari Maathai. The play “Wangari’s Prayer” tackles the subject of deforestation, pollution and climate change in East Africa, through the telling of the story of Africa’s first female Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement.

Tiffany Ng (Music, Carillon)

“Activating Local Partnerships to Decolonize Carillons in Southern Africa”

Twentieth-century war memorial carillons were lauded as democratic “voices” of their cities. Yet the first of these instruments, the Cape Town City Hall carillon in South Africa, has never sounded the voices of Black musicians. For the LSA Dutch Studies theme semester “Decolonizing the Netherlands,” Professor Ng is commissioning Xhosa composer Dr. Bongani Ndodana-Breen to write the first carillon piece by a Black South African, with local partners identifying a second commissionee. She will conduct fieldwork and performance research at the African carillons in Cape Town and Réunion to explore how marginalized listeners might build a sense of ownership over formerly oppressive soundmarks. In the fall, the commissions will be premiered by Professor Ng at U-M and by Alexios Vicatos in Cape Town.

2019-2020 Fellows

Christi-Anne Castro (Musicology)

Dr. Castro will travel to Winnipeg, Canada for Folklorama, the world’s largest and longest running multicultural festival, in order to examine how community groups deploy music and dance as acts of self-determination. While music festivals such as Folklorama maybe viewed as performative sites of multicultural domestication within a larger society, this research project seeks to explain how an aesthetics of agency is achievable through an inherent antagonism found in the politics of diversity that finds voice in cultural presentations. In doing so, Castro frames the amateur community performances of Folklorama as political identity work rather than mere cultural commodity.

Clare Croft (Dance, American Culture)

EXPLODE is a research project in which Croft explores how curating a mixed repertory evening of dance is the live performance corollary to print scholars editing of print anthologies. How might a research question – in this case, “What makes a dance queer?” – be explored across an evening of performance by artists from a broad range of identities and dance forms. This year, California performances are a collaboration with the Indigenous Choreographers Research group, led by University of California-Riverside professors Maria Firmino-Castillo and Jacqueline Shea Murphy, and Chicago performances are co-curated with Black, queer Chicago-based dance artist Anna Martine Whitehead.

Xiaodong Hottman-Wei (Residential College)

Professor Hottman-Wei will travel to Mongolia to learn how to play Ma Tou Qin, and take lessons on Chinese bamboo flute. Ma Tou Qin is a Mongolian fiddle which produces a unique sound, that transports you to the grassland. There are about 24 million Mongolians living in Inner Mongolia China. Her fieldwork will also include attending Mongolian Festivals in the Inner Mongolian region.

Mbala Nkanga (Theatre Studies)

This research is part of an overall project titled “Performance, Rumor, and Audience: The Theatre of Resistance in Central Africa.” Following the election and inauguration of Felix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi, Nkanga will observe changes in artists’ behaviors and works as compared to the previous years of autocracy and dictatorship under Mobutu and Kabila. How do the new generation of artists deal with radio-trottoir and the limitation of freedom of speech in public spaces? What are the new dramatic approaches in terms of political and social rhetoric? How is the memory of past and not too recent events negotiated by this generation of artists?

Stephen Rush (Performing Arts Technology)

The impetus for this research project comes from a groundswell for a re-considering of fundamental materials in all music with a keen acknowledgement of race and gender – whether or not talking about music from the “non-Western” canon. The research will focus on experience-based Music Theory – the project is not a piece of cultural criticism/cultural studies nor is it a redux on music history told from a wider cultural lens, but rather a proposal to create a way for students to experience basic elements of Music Theory with no presumption of a grounding or preference toward Western European music or history. Fieldwork will take place in Mysore, India.

Carlos Rodriguez (Music Education)

Dr. Rodriguez’s research will look at how higher education in Mexico helps prepare students for careers in the performing arts. This project seeks to to learn from neighboring countries whose cultures are co-influential to United States culture, in order to further conversations regarding how music conservatories are gradually changing to accommodate the increasingly diverse needs for musical involvement and understanding in the communities they exist to serve. The final product of this investigation might well be less of a direct comparison between conservatories in Mexico and the US, and more a naturalistic, descriptive report of Mexico’s growth in performing arts education.

Malcolm Tulip (Theatre & Drama)

Professor Tulip will work on the development of “After Unica,” a multi-media performance inspired by Unica Zürn, a German Surrealist writer and artist best known for her anagrammatic poems and automatic drawings. Her work was to be closely identified through the lens of her mental illness, her traumas, her partners, and her suicide. In-field research will take place in New York City and Paris, France.

2018-2019 Fellows

Naomi André (Afroamerican and African Studies)

Collaborative Research Trip to Opera Centers in Cape Town, South Africa

Nachiket Chanchani (History of Art, Asian Languages & Cultures)

Modern Postural Yoga in an Expanded Field

Petra Kuppers (English Language & Literature, Women’s Studies)

Queer Spiritual Contact

Priscilla Lindsay (Theatre & Drama)

South African Exchange

Nathan Martin (Music Theory)

Paris/Beijing: The Sino-French Axis in Eighteenth-Century Music

E.J. Westlake (English Language & Literature, Theatre & Drama)

The Outdoor Dramas of Kermit Hunter, Appalachian Identity, and Ethnicity