Circulation: Africa and its Diasporas

This research group focuses on migration to/from/on the African continent, and on the resulting circulation of objects, languages, and ideas between the continent and its Diasporas in Asia, the Americas, and Europe.

The group is co-led by Antje Ziethen (French, Hispanic, & Italian Studies) and Calisto Mudzingwa (Linguistics; African Studies).

Research Group Members

Dr. Dina Al-Kassim is a critical theorist, who works on political subjectivation, sexuality and aesthetics in transnational modernist and contemporary postcolonial cultures, including the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the United States. She is the author of On Pain of Speech: Fantasies of the First Order and the Literary Rant (University of California Press, 2010), which examines parrhesia and the politics of address in the practice of literary ranting. Al-Kassim’s publications have appeared in Grey Room, International Journal of Middle East Women’s StudiesPublic CultureCultural Dynamics, and the volume Islamicate Sexualities. Her current project, entitled Exposures: Biopolitics and New Precarity under Globalization asks why and how exposure has come to be a condition of contemporary truth through selective soundings in literature, arts practice, protest and politics from Lebanon, South Africa, and the United States. Other projects include discrepant histories of colonial psychoanalysis and theories of anti-colonial solidarity.

Formerly a professor of Comparative Literature and Critical Theory at UC Irvine, Al-Kassim now teaches in the Department of English and The Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, where she is also an Associate at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.  Al-Kassim has been a Mellon Postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, a Senior Seminar Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute, and a Sawyer Seminar, Residency Fellow at the UCHRI. A much invited speaker here and abroad, Al-Kassim now divides her time between Vancouver and Los Angeles.

My research uses a gendered lens to examine how diversely situated individuals and groups are affected by climate change, domestic and foreign investment, health inequalities and rural migration in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and other parts of the world. I am particularly interested in learning about the experiences of rural migrant communities, women and those whose livelihoods depend on environmental/natural resources (e.g., farmers). I am also interested in understanding how factors such as gender, climate-vulnerability and migration status may act as social determinants of health.

I research immigrant and refugee settlement in Canada with particular attention to intersections of gender, racialization and class. My recent research charts the emergence of a new African diaspora in metro Vancouver, and my current work explores gendered outcomes for the second generation of African-Canadians.

Dr. Joash J. Gambarage is a sessional lecturer in the UBC's Linguistics Department.

Currently, he is teaching introductory courses to African languages and linguistics as well as the Swahili language. Dr. Gambarage earned his Ph.D in linguistics in 2019 from UBC.

His area of research is syntax, semantics, syntax-semantics, applied linguistics, and language documentation.

Ayasha Guerin is an interdisciplinary artist, curator, and professor of Black Diaspora Studies in the Department of English Language and Literatures. Dr. Guerin is also faculty affiliate of the Centre for European Studies, the Department of Central, Eastern and Northern European Studies, and a member of the Critical Image Forum research cluster at UBC.

Dr. Guerin received her PhD in 2020 from New York University’s American Studies program. Her first book project, Making Zone-A: Nature, Race and Resilience on New York’s Most Vulnerable Shores, explores Black social life and ecology in the city’s floodplain from the 17th-19th centuries. Tracing how colonial capitalism has cultivated a hierarchy of racial and species difference on urban landfill, it considers how activism on the waterfront has been shaped by diasporic relationships and interspecies entanglements. Her second project is focused on transnational Black feminism and arts activism in Berlin, Germany.

At UBC Dr.Guerin teaches courses ENGL 224 (World Literature in English: Imperial Intimacies) ENGL 368 (U.S. Literature from 1890: African Americans in their own Words) ENGL 551 (Studies in Literary Movements: Black Feminist Theory and Praxis) and ENGL 337 (Text and Image: Lovecraft Country). Dr. Guerin has also developed a Go Global summer course for undergraduate study, ENGL 377 (World Literature and Social Movements: Black Art and Literature in Berlin.)

During the 2022-23 Academic year, Dr. Guerin will be a scholar in residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies,where they’ll be prioritizing manuscript writing, art creation and curatorial work for the Liberated Planet Studio.

Uma Kumar moved to Vancouver from India in 2003 and has been teaching with the Department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies (CENES) since 2007. She holds a PhD in German Studies, a Master’s in German Studies, and a Master’s in English Literature from the University of Bombay, India. Uma spent six years at the University of Vienna, doing research on Austrian literature. Uma has near-native proficiency in German. Her goal as a German instructor is to inspire students to learn German and expose them to the culture and literature of the German-speaking countries. Uma also teaches GERM 426-001, a course on Literary Representations of the Holocaust. She is passionate about teaching about the Holocaust because she wants her students to understand that the devaluation of people with perceived differences in beliefs prompted one of humanity’s worst genocides. Our strength in a global world lies in embracing our diversity.

I am a historian of southern Africa, African urbanism, and decolonization, with specific expertise in informal settlement and the histories of Mozambique and its capital Maputo.

I am on research leave during academic year 2022-23.

Dr. Calisto Mudzingwa immigrated to Canada from Zimbabwe in 2004. Currently, besides teaching at UBC, he works for a non-profit organization that helps immigrants resettle in Canada. Dr. Mudzingwa is an active member of the Zimbabwean Diaspora in Vancouver.  His research interests include Immigrants and the Canadian Labour Market, Canadian Immigration Policies, Migration, Internal Displacements, and African Diaspora, focusing on Southern Africa.

Nuno Porto received his PhD from the University of Coimbra, Portugal. He holds a joint appointment with the Museum of Anthropology where he is Curator for African and South American collections.

Before joining UBC in 2012, Nuno taught at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, on subjects related to theory in social anthropology, material culture, critical museology, visual culture, photography and African studies. His work has been published in four different languages in ten different countries. He coordinated the Graduate Program in Social and Cultural Anthropology between 2006 and 2011, and also taught in the Graduate Program on Design and Multimedia. He served as Director of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Coimbra between 2002 and 2006, where we developed a series of temporary exhibitions and the notion of ethnographic installation. His PhD dissertation explored the articulation of colonialism, science, and museum culture, and how these merged in the co-development of the Dundo Museum in Northeast of Angola and of its proprietor, the Diamonds Company of Angola. This dissertation was awarded the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation award for the Social Sciences Thesis and was published by the same foundation in 2009.

Between 2006 and 2012 he integrated the Commission for the re-opening of the Dundo Museum, led by the Ministry of Culture of Angola that successfully concluded its works in 2012. During this period he also led a team that developed and implemented the website on the archival materials of the Diamonds Company of Angola held at the University of Coimbra, He also collaborated with the research team for the project ‘Bearing Waters’ led by Lisbon sculptor Virginia Fróis, on the renewal of traditional Cape Verdean women ceramics, in the municipality of Tarrafal.

His curatorial work at MOA has focused on self-representation of African identities in contemporary Afro-Cuban Art and in Kenyan popular photography. In 2016, he curated Cherie Mose’s sound installation in the museum’s Multiversity Galleries, questioning how the status of migration can apply both to artefacts and to persons, and disrupting the ocular centric regime of displays. On his project on Amazonia – the Rights of Nature, he explored the transformations of indigenous knowledge into national legislation, and brought new understandings to Amazonian material culture. His most recent curatorial work Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Roots, co-curated with Nya Lewis (Black Arts Vancouver) and Titilope Salami (AHVA Phd candidate), articulates African and Black contemporary Art with African and Black heritage from MOA’s collections. At AHVA he has been teaching ARTH 410 001 Seminar in African Art – Key debates in the arts of Africa and the African diasporas and ARTH 309 Arts of Africa and the African Diasporas. Both courses are cross listed with the UBC African Studies Minor.

My primary research area is phonological theory, with interests in overlapping areas of phonetics, morphology, syntax and learnability. The focus of my work has been featural properties, for example, tone and vowel harmony. I have concentrated on African languages, particularly languages of Nigeria, and have a long-standing research interest in Yoruba. 

Alessandra Santos is Associate Professor of Latin American Literatures and Cultures. Her interdisciplinary research examines modern and contemporary literary and cultural production. She is interested in utopias, technology, media, gender, race, and social justice. Her research has been supported by multiple grants.

My research revolves around understanding how Black people negotiate space and place when they migrate to East Asia, more specifically to Japan and South Korea. In other words, I am interested in the ways Afro-Asian placemaking can articulate itself, and the role race and ethnicity play in how they are received by their host societies. By comparing this newer diaspora to more established Black communities around North America and Europe, I would like to see the ways in which “Blackness” can be understood and deployed differently in various parts of the world, as well as how the concepts of multiculturalism and integration can be deployed politically in countries outside of North America. My research not only seeks to understand how race and citizenship play a role in informing Black people of their positionality in urban Japan but also looks at how their presence may affect Japanese people’s perceptions of their own “Japaneseness”.

Ramón Antonio Victoriano-Martinez (Arturo) was born in the Dominican Republic (1969), where he graduated with a B.A. in law at the Universidad Católica Santo Domingo (Class of 1994). He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in the area of Hispanic and Latin American Literatures in 2010. After graduation he taught in the Department of Language Studies (University of Toronto Mississauga), the Caribbean Studies Program and the Latin American Studies Program (University of Toronto) from 2011 to 2019. His primary area of research are the literatures and cultures of the Hispanic Caribbean with an emphasis on issues of race, gender, diaspora and national belonging.

Gaoheng Zhang is Associate Professor of Italian Studies at the University of British Columbia. He researches broadly on Italy’s global history and connections using a cultural-studies approach. His more recent works address migration and mobilities in relation to Italian-Chinese exchanges, the longest-standing “West-East” communications in written record. His first book is titled Migration and the Media: Debating Chinese Migration to Italy, 1992-2012 (University of Toronto Press, 2019), which is the first detailed media and cultural study of the Chinese migration from both Italian and Chinese migrant perspectives, as well as one of the few book-length analyses of migration and culture. His new book project is tentatively titled “Migration and Material Culture: Mobility between China and Italy, 1980s-2010s” (under contract with University of Toronto Press), which uses the Chinese set expression of 衣食住行 (clothing-food-residence-mobilities) to frame analyses of Chinese migrant cultures in Italy and Italian migrants and cultures in China.

I specialize in francophone literatures with a particular focus on urban space, migration, and gender. My research spans several geographical areas such as West Africa, the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, as well as North and South America. My most recent publications deal with the Black Mediterranean, African speculative fiction, and the concept of geographic metafiction. Currently, I am preparing a manuscript that reads African literature through the lens of migration to Canada, Brazil, and the US. My new research project will address the concept of reverse diaspora formation by exploring the history of Afro-Brazilian returnees (Agudas) to West Africa.


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