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English Professor Receives Prestigious Wilson Fellowship

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Shanté Paradigm Smalls, Ph.D., assistant professor of English at St. John’s University, has won a 2017 Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The fellowship is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Wilson Foundation. It helps exceptional junior faculty achieve tenure by facilitating their scholarly research and writing during the fellowship period.

The Wilson fellowship will allow Smalls to prepare her manuscript, Hip Hop Heresies: New York City's Queer Aesthetics, for publication and do necessary archival research for the book. The manuscript, which grew out of Smalls’ dissertation project, is an interdisciplinary study of New York City hip hop culture that rigorously applies critical race theory and queer theory to the genre. Smalls’ manuscript won the 2016 Center for LGBTQ Studies (CLAGS) fellowship award for Best First Book Project in LGBTQ Studies. She is also working on a second book project, Androids, Cyborgs, Others: Black Afterlives in Futurity, which investigates black sentient life beginning in the nineteenth century.

Smalls is one of 30 fellows to receive the award this year, and part of an even more selective group within that number who received full-year awards (rather than six months of funding). Her award provides for a year-long sabbatical and a stipend for research, travel, or publication. She will attend an annual conference with the other fellows in Tampa, Florida in August 2017, and will have the opportunity to work with a mentor of her choosing; she has chosen Georgetown University professor Soyica Diggs Colbert.

“In addition to the prestige of the award, I’m also grateful for the opportunity to show my undergraduate students that research is part of our work as professors,” said Smalls. “They only see us in the classroom, and don’t always understand that most of our time is taken up doing research and writing. It’s a chance to show students at St. John’s that humanities work is vital and sustainable.”

"The  Wilson fellowship is one of the most prestigious fellowships awarded for junior faculty," said Stephen Sicari, Ph.D., professor and chair of English. "It is a great honor for her that the entire English department – faculty and students alike – benefits from."

Smalls won a Faculty Recognition Award from SJU in 2016, having joined the English faculty in 2014. Her research and teaching focus on African American literature and culture, hip-hop and queer aesthetics, race and genre fiction, and performance studies. She was previously a tenure-track assistant professor in the American Studies department of the University of New Mexico, and an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow and visiting assistant professor in the English department of Davidson College.

Smalls is truly an interdisciplinary scholar whose interests reach throughout and beyond academia. In addition to her teaching and research at St. John’s, she teaches meditation at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Manhattan. Smalls also collaborates on music and film projects as part of her interest in hip hop, visual art, and film. She holds a B.A. from Smith College. Her M.A. and Ph.D. are from New York University.