Saturday, September 22, 2018

UTSA associate professor travels to Cuba to research female folklore

UTSA associate professor travels to Cuba to research female folklore

UTSA English professor Kinitra Brooks

(June 26, 2017) -- Inspired by the research she did for her internationally recognized Fall 2016 undergraduate course, “Black Women, Beyoncé and Popular Culture,” UTSA English professor Kinitra D. Brooks will be in Cuba this month to conduct research on black female spirituality in Cuban folklore.

Last year, Brooks’ Beyonce course gained attention from journalists around the globe and was featured in Vogue Australia, MTV France, Good Morning America, USA Today and Time Magazine, to name a few. During Brooks’ top-tier course, she incorporated Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” album as a springboard for discussion to help her students understand complex theories of race, gender and sexuality.

Brooks will be accompanied on the trip by her student, Alexis McGee, a third-year doctoral candidate in the UTSA Department of English studying black feminist theory, black women’s language and rhetoric.

While in Cuba, Brooks and McGee plan to research a lesser-known orisha, or deity, named Nana Buruku.

They will be staying in Havana, collecting information about parables of Cuban orishas. Brooks and McGee also plan to visit an orisha shrine in Matanzas, Cuba. This site on the northern shore of Cuba is known for its history, poetry and Afro-Caribbean folklore.

“I plan to use this research for my future courses and for a Beyoncé chapter that will be included in my next book,” said Brooks.

Brooks was in Cuba in April and plans to return to do more research for future projects and top-tier courses at UTSA.

“It’s so important to develop new concepts for my UTSA courses that engage and challenge both undergraduate and graduate students to think critically about complex theories of gender, race and literature,” said Brooks.

In March 2017, Brooks and colleague received a $20,000 grant from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Women & Gender to create a research seminar called Beyoncé's Lemonade Lexicon: Black Feminism and Spirituality in Theory & Praxis. The seminar, which will be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan in October, will advance understanding of Black feminism, African diaspora models and popular culture.

The grant will also allow Brooks to develop an academic guide, called the #Lemonade reader, to support and help black feminist scholars incorporate teaching of Beyoncé’s Lemonade in the classroom.

Brooks is the recipient of the Ricardo Romo Endowed Professorship in the Honors College and is an associate professor in the UTSA Department of English.

Her research areas include, black women in horror, feminist theory, science fiction and fantasy, black women in popular culture, 20th Century African American and Afro-Caribbean literature, Black speculative studies and Afrofuturism.

- Kara Mireles

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