Summary of Research Highlights

One of my major goals since assuming leadership at the Center has been to establish a strong research foundation. Research is central to the Center's mission and is conducted at two levels: (1) research originating from various faculty and students for whom we administer grants; the Center offers administrative and secretarial support for these grants as well as a venue to present the work during our colloquium series; (2) research projects originated by the Center in light of its own research agenda; the director and associate director work closely with our faculty affiliates and board members who are all encouraged to participate in the planning stages and at the level of conducting the actual research. Center-based projects are expanding as more ideas are generated.


1. Indigenous Religion Project - The Spirit and The Reality: Vodou and Haiti

This research is part of a larger Indigenous Religions Project that the Center plans to pursue. Under the auspices of the Center for Black Studies and The Congress of Santa Barbara--A Scholarly Association for the Study of Haitian Vodou, four conferences were organized on the theme of "Vodou and Haiti". The first conference, "The Spirit and The Reality: Vodou and Haiti," took place at UCSB on April 25 and 26th 1997 and the second at Brooklyn College in New York City on April 3 and 4, 1998. The third conference, "Ancestors and Progeny: Vodou and Haiti," took place at Trinity College in March 2000. The fourth gathering of the association was held conjointly with the 13th annual meeting of the Haitian Studies Association in Vermont in October 2001. The theme was "Vodou and Development." A book titled The Spirit and The Reality: Vodou and Haiti is completed and is in press with the University Press of Florida, a leading publisher in the area of Caribbean studies. A second volume also to be published under the auspices of the Center and the Congress of Santa Barbara is currently in progress.
This research is of utmost importance. This is the first time that a group of highly respected Haitians joined together to research and present their views collectively on the Vodou religion which impacts almost all social, political and economic Haitian institutions. This research is by far the most extensive conducted in the area of Haitian Vodou by contemporary researchers and the two books promise to become "the authority" in the field.
The research group includes Patrick Bellegarde-Smith, a most distinguished scholar in the area of Haitian, Caribbean and Latin-American politics and culture, who is also involved in a number of other projects at the Center for Black Studies as he served as visiting scholar in residence during the academic year 2000-2001. Other prominent scholars working with the research group include Karen McCarthy Brown, from Drew University, the leading non-Haitian scholar on Vodou, Professor Laennec Hurbon, a leading scholar on Haitian religion and a researcher at the Centre Nationale de la Recherché Scientifique in Paris, Professor Leslie Desmangles, the chair of the Religious Studies Department at Trinity College in Connecticut, and Professor Gerdès Fleurant from Wellesley College who serves as the current president of the Congress.
Considering that we have created a permanent scholarly association for the study of Haitian Vodou, the Congress of Santa Barbara, housed at the Center, we expect that research on the Haitian religion will remain one of our core research projects. About 15 scholars who constitute the core group of researchers are at work studying different aspects of the religion ranging from rituals and theology to education, politics, economics, gender and sexuality. KOSANBA is making plans for the next two conferences to be held respectively in Havana, Cuba in 2003 and in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 2004.
Furthermore, Drs. Jacob Olupona, Ines Talamantez and I are continuing the planning phase of the larger African Indigenous Religion Project with additional components on Yoruba and Native American religions. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith is pursuing similar goals for African religions in the Americas. His book, Fragments of Bone, will be published under the auspices of the Center. Fragments is one of the projects Dr. Bellegarde-Smith worked on while in residence at the Center in 2000-2001.


2. Disney Project - Culture of Illusion and Illusion of Culture

A first draft of a collection of essays titled Culture of Illusion/Illusion of Culture: The Case of Disney is completed. The book will be published under the auspices of the Center and completion is expected in Fall 2001. The proposal is currently under review at a university with a broad interest in popular culture and media representation. The collaborative research project involves the study of historical omissions, representations and mis-representations in the productions of Disney and their impact on Blacks and the general American population.
A number of UCSB faculty along with graduate students are actively researching various aspects of the Disney phenomenon (DISNEYLAND PHOTOS) and its impact on the American and world populations. They include: Christopher McAuley who examined the early political and economic aspects of the Disney Empire; Claudine Michel and Francoise Cromer who investigated Disney's far-reaching influence on racial and ethnic identity development and on children's acquisition of values in general; Claudine Michel and Crystal Griffith who are researching the influence that the Disney Theme Parks, and their excessive reliance on mechanization and technology, have on patrons, particularly young patrons. Crystal Griffith was formerly at UCSB and is now at Smith College. Others include Gérard Pigeon who studied ethnic and racial representation in Disney films, Douglas Daniels who explored the theme of racial colonialism in Disneyland's "Frontierland" and "Adventureland" and Richard Appelbaum from the Sociology Department who contributed a piece about Disney and the garment industry. Auliya Yasuda, a UCSB graduate who worked with Claudine Michel on an independent research project, examined racial and gender stereotypes in one of Disney prototype, "Mulan."
Scholars from off-campus are also participating in the research. They include: George Lipsitz, a cultural historian from UC San Diego, who has written on the history of Disney theme parks; Ioannis Pissimissis, an urban planner in the Los Angeles area, who is analyzing Walt Disney World as "commodified leisure" and "escapism", and Gerald Horne from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who is at work on an essay titled "Re-reading Disney, Race and Class from Mickey Mouse to Mulan."

3. Black Studies in the 21st Century - Book Series

The Center has conceived a series of books, "Black Studies in the 21st Century", which aims at documenting the current state of the discipline after thirty years of existence. Five such anthologies have either been published or are in progress. These volumes fill the void of practical texts in the field of Black Studies. In the series, we have attempted as often as possible to include Center affiliates, former dissertation scholars and other UCSB faculty who are engaged in ground breaking research in the discipline. The goal of the series is to re-visit traditional assumptions and paradigms and to offer new perspectives and organizational frameworks leading to alternative analyses of phenomena and events. The series is published by Kendall/Hunt. Two volumes have already appeared. Three more are in preparation. Other books may be added later to the series. Original artwork for the book covers has been designed and is copyrighted by Dr. James D. Smith, Professor Emeritus of Art Studio and Black Studies and Chair of the Center's Advisory Board (2000-2002).
Black Studies: Current Issues, Enduring Questions edited by Claudine Michel and Jacqueline Bobo (2001) is a case study of decades long inquiries central to the current and future welfare of Black people in this country and in the diaspora. It examines how as an interdisciplinary field, Black Studies, draws on and connects various methodologies and theories to produce knowledge. The second volume, Centering Black Studies, edited by Jacqueline Bobo, Cynthia Hudley and Claudine Michel (forthcoming 2002) further maps the interdisciplinary nature of Black Studies and includes essays on current history and politics, the dynamics and definitions of socio-economic locations, race relations, Black feminism, the effects of cultural forms, literary milestones and interventions, educational problems and academic achievement, homophobia and issues of social justice.
Three more volumes are in preparation, one on women in Africa, edited by Dr. Oyeronke Oyewumi of Stony Brook University and the other on women of African descent in the Americas, Europe and Canada, edited by Caribbean scholar, Helen Pyne-Timothy, visiting professor in the Department of Black Studies at UCSB. Professor Gerald C. Horne will take the lead on the fifth volume in the series which will focus on Black popular culture in the United States.


4. The Ethnic Studies Project/Comparative Ethnic Studies Journal

This project is a continuation of the Ethnic Studies conference-Celebrating 30 Years of Ethnic Studies Research: A Dialogue Among UC Ethnic Studies Faculty- held at UCSB on December 2 and 3, 1999. The Center for Black Studies was the principal organizer of the conference and worked with a steering committee that included representatives from the Women's Studies Program, Department of Chicano Studies, Department of Black Studies, Center for Chicano Studies, Department of Religious Studies and Department of Asian American Studies. Sponsors included the UC Office of the President, and at UCSB, the Offices of the Chancellor, Executive Vice Chancellor, Vice Chancellor for Research, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, College of Letters & Science, Office of Affirmative Action, the MultiCultural Center, EPCA, and Project Crossroads.
This follow-up project examines the myriad ways scholars in Ethnic Studies have expanded academic canons and disciplines, developed new theories and methodologies, and integrated their teaching and research with the struggles faced in peoples' daily lives. It brings together a diverse range of ethnic studies disciplines which explore and analyze how teaching and research is employed to maintain a commitment to the profession and the communities they are seen to represent. Discussions in this project include ways in which communication can be increased between Ethnic Studies programs, how to narrow the gap between communities of color and the academy, and the important role Ethnic Studies components must play in the current cultural, political, and economic landscape. An edited book on this project is in preparation through the Center for Black Studies. The proposal has been submitted to a publisher. Also, we are in the process of editing a 2 hour broadcast quality video on the Ethnic Studies project.
One of the other goals of this research project is the establisment of a UC-wide Comparative Ethnic Studies Journal to be housed at the Center for Black Studies at UCSB. The proposal is currently under review. We plan to do the groundwork for the establishment of the journal during the academic year 2001- 2002. The launching of the first issue is projected for Winter 2003. (see Ethnic Studies Project for abstract and program for the 1999 conference).

5. The Critical Issue Project - Ethnic Studies Dialogue: A Critical Issue for Twenty-first Century America

The Center's Associate Director, Dr. Jacqueline Bobo, and I were awarded the College of Letters & Science "Critical Issues in America" grant for the 1999-2000 academic year. In 2000-2001, we received grants from ISBER, the Academic Senate, and the Office of Research to futher pursue this project and document our findings on video.
Our project, titled "Ethnic Studies Dialogue: A Critical Issue for Twenty-first Century America", was administered through the Center for Black Studies and featured speakers, seminars, films and performances. It included a Black Women Filmmakers Series which showcased the talents of major filmmakers such as Julie Dash, Dianne Houston (the only Black woman nominated for an Academy Award in the Director category), and Camille Billops, among others. We hosted Haitian author Edwidge Danticat, a National Book Award Finalist and the winner of the 1999 American Book Award. These and other distinguished scholars attracted community members to campus and increased the national prominence of the Center as well as UCSB. (Activities for Critical Issues Dialogue/Posters)


6. The Route of the Slaves - Economic, Social and Political Implications of the Slave Trade

We decided to pursue a project originally proposed by Dr. Charles Long, a former director of the Center for Black Studies. This project, "Route of the Slaves", is interdisciplinary in nature and offers great potential for collaborative research both on campus and in the larger community. It ties in well with a worldwide project sponsored by UNESCO in a number of countries.
The first-stage for this collaborative research project took place in 2000-2001 as we were preparing to submit a proposal to the Office of the President for a conference which would consider the political and economic implications of the slave trade with special reference to the state of California. The California legislature passed a bill on September 30, 2000 asking the UC system to hold a symposium on the ramifications of the trade which continue to affect the life of African-Americans. Our proposal was successful and the conference will be held in May 2002 on the UCSB campus. A Professor of Black Studies and History at UCSB, Douglas H. Daniels, also Acting Director at the Center in 2001-2002, will serve as lead organizer for the project. An edited volume to be edited by Daniels et. al is expected to result from this conference in addition to the recommendations which are to be issued to the state of California. UCLA is pursuing a similar effort with an emphasis on public policy and the Center plans to work closely with the organizers of that other symposium.


7. Middle Passage Curriculum

A second project associated/related to the Route of the Slaves is the Middle Passage Curriculum which we are currently implementing in a number of 5th grade classes at three different elementary schools-El Rancho in Goleta and Adams and Washington-in Santa Barbara. The curriculum covers language arts and social studies as well as science and math (see Outreach Project for further details). We have received two FOG grants for this project (2000-2001 and 2001-2002). The first year served as a pilot project for the curriculum itself; we plan to collect research data during the second year of implementation. Nicole Williams, the coordinator for the Center's outreach, is in charge of data collection which will allow us to measure the extent of the learning taking place among students from the various groups involved with the curriculum. Monthly workshops and training sessions are held for the participating teachers. In 2002, the teachers and the students from our project will be respectively participating in our academic conference and in visits to the Karpeles museum where the Henrietta Marie exhibit will be held.
The collaboration between these teachers and the Center is proving to be quite successful and we would like to further expand this project in order to establish an even stronger presence in the local schools in years to come. The long-term plan is to continue to work with these students as they reach middle school and high school. The other objective is to increase the number of classrooms that we are able to reach, therefore, maximizing the number of UC eligible students, especially from traditionally under-represented groups.

8. Black Los Angeles Historical Research Project

Though there have been a number of studies of Black Los Angeles in recent years, none have undertaken the kind of basic research which allows a meaningful detailed analysis of family structure, social life, household composition, residence patterns, migration patterns, schooling, occupations, unemployment, and home-owner or renter's status using census data. The published census of 1920 gives the rough contours for the Black population in Los Angeles, and allows one to locate them spatially. This particular project lays the groundwork for analyses that are essential for comprehending family structure, living patterns and the degree for racial integration, all of which are necessary for an understanding of the changing social and cultural life of Black Los Angeles. Research assistants-graduates and undergraduates-learned the methods of the urban historian, using the 1920 U.S. Manuscript Census (more recent data is not yet available) and the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for the city as the evidential base. Los Angeles streets maps allow us to view the entire region, and gauge the relationship between the different areas selected for close study. The fire insurance maps permit us to visualize and portray a particular street, household by household. The census data enables us to characterize the population of each residence and then make generalizations about the targeted area regarding household and family structure, place of birth, origins of parents, migration patterns, schooling, occupations, unemployment, and home-owner or renter's status. The faculty mentor, Douglas H. Daniels, and the undergraduate students have produced a video, Black Angelenos: The Los Angeles Social History Project, based on their research findings.


9. Research associated with the Haitian Studies Association and the Journal of Haitian Studies

The Journal of Haitian Studies has been revamped and has recently moved to the Center for Black Studies, as I became its editor in 1999. It is the only refereed journal focusing solely on Haiti and Haiti's rapport with the international community. The Journal is published in three languages and is interdisciplinary in nature. I have formed a new editorial board comprised of scholars from major universities in the United States as well as in France, Canada and the West Indies. We have successfully published so far three issues of the journal. A fourth - a special issue on noted Haitian writer, Edwidge Danticat - is forthcoming in Fall 2001 (JOHS - Vol. 7. No. 2).
JOHS offers a forum to present the most current research available on Haiti. The journal as it is presently envisioned represents a major contribution to the fields of Black Studies, Ethnic Studies, Diasporic Studies and International and Global Studies. The Center not only plays a central role in disseminating research on Haiti but also in shaping sound scholarship by providing a venue for constructive intellectual exchanges through detailed readers' reports and editorial feedback. The editorial process makes a significant contribution to what is still a fairly new field of inquiry - Haitian Studies.

10. Research by Dissertation Scholars

The 2000-2001 dissertation scholars pursued the following projects as part of their dissertation work: Damion Thomas, PhD candidate at UCLA, studied the U.S. sport exchange program and the treatment of Black athletes in the 1950s and 1960s.

11. Research Grants/SPUR Awards

Under the direction of Professor Cedric Robinson, three undergraduate students conducted research for their thesis in Black Studies through GENESIS grants received from the College of Letters and Science. They are Maria Rodriguez who did her research in the LA school district, Cara Moyer who went to South Africa to collect data, and Clarke Weatherspoon who conducted research in Brazil. Brittany Ballard went to Italy to do research again under the supervision of Dr. Robinson. Stacey Smith worked on a Summer research project with him also and conducted her interviews in the Los Angeles area.