Renee Alexander Craft
Renee Alexander Craft

Associate professor Renee Alexander Craft, the acting director of the Southern Oral History Program, was awarded a Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship, which supports faculty in the humanities who embrace public engagement as part of their scholarly vocation.

Craft, who holds a joint appointment in the department of communication and the curriculum in global studies, was among the first class of recipients to be awarded the fellowship to expand her project Digital Portobelo. The project focuses on the Congo, a unique Afro-Latin community on the Caribbean coast of Panama blending African, Central American and Caribbean traditions.

The web site includes visual art; audio and video interviews with rolling bilingual transcripts; and short contextual videos. At its center is the Congo carnival performance tradition, celebrating the resistance of Los Cimarrones, formerly enslaved Africans who escaped to the rainforests of the Americas to establish independent communities during the Spanish colonial period and developed a unique culture out of their diverse influences.

Renee Craft, center, poses with Delia Barrera, left, and Atanasia Molinar following a Congo performance. (photo courtesy of Renee Craft)
Renee Craft, center, poses with Delia Barrera, left, and Atanasia Molinar following a Congo performance. (photo courtesy of Renee Craft)

Craft has spent much of the last 16 years immersed in the Congo community, where she has received the rare honor for a non-community member outsider of being allowed to perform in the annual celebration herself. During the fellowship, she will also launch a new inter-generational oral history project bringing together middle- and high-school students and community elders.

The eight faculty members awarded Whiting Fellowships come from a range of departments: English, American studies, classics; history, global studies, environmental humanities and African-American studies. They will use a variety of media for engagement with the public, from web sites to exhibitions, from apps to curricula, and from podcasts to books.

More on the Whiting Fellows.

Read a feature story about Craft’s Digital Portobelo project.

 

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