The National Research Council announced results of a national competition to award approximately 40 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Dissertation awards. Two awardees are from UNM's American Studies Department. Gina Diaz and Melanie Yazzie, both Ph.D. students, received the prestigious award, which provides an annual stipend of $20,000, travel funding and tuition.
Diaz's graduate research focuses on queer Chicana visual culture, with an emphasis on the politics of "queering" museum displays. By staging Chicana feminist art and critique as performative acts that "queer" (trouble, problematize, disturb) Mexican, American, and Chicano culture, Diaz's research investigates the representational realm, for example the prevalent circulation of this art on the covers of feminist books rather than in museum exhibitions. Diaz's project seeks to produce nuanced readings of Chican@ subjectivities and social agency by employing queer theory to critically examine cultural and institutional politics.
Yazzie's graduate research focuses on Native America history and decolonization. Yazzie is interested in ways cultural politics, particularly in Navajo public culture, are bound up in colonial histories of forced assimilation, land divestment and resistance that all Navajos share. Yazzie plans to examine these issues by looking at the ways Navajos historically defined themselves through public culture. Yazzie's graduate research will trace the rhetoric of resistance through contested governmental, cultural and political sites, in order to reveal the often-overlooked, intimate connections between indigenous resistance and colonial structures.
Alex Lubin, chair, said, "The American Studies Department is proud of our graduate students' accomplishments. The Department of American Studies, the first department to give a PhD at UNM, has a national and international reputation as one of most distinguished American Studies Departments in the country. Diaz's and Yazzie's accomplishment in winning two of the approximately 40 Ford predoctoral fellowships this year is evidence of our graduate students' excellence and our department's commitment to graduate student success."
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