Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society 2019-20 annual newsletter

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A Message from the Director

Dina Okamoto

June 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

It has been an unprecedented year. The world has changed in the wake of COVID-19, as we have adjusted to a new normal, where we are no longer able to build community through in-person gatherings for social and intellectual exchange. The pandemic has also laid bare racial inequalities, such as the disproportionate number of deaths experienced in Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities, and the rise in anti-Asian harassment and violence. The world changed again, when we experienced the nationwide uprising against the unrelenting attacks on Black lives, police brutality, and systemic racism. The senseless killing of George Floyd ignited a widespread and sustained collective response to an accumulation of Black lives lost and to the racist systems and structures that allowed it to happen. The world has had a racial awakening and some of the hardest work is yet to come: how to translate and buoy the movement for Black lives, into real change in our institutions and policies, on and off campus, and in our daily lives.

As we enter our eighth year, CRRES will continue its work of facilitating, amplifying, and engaging in scholarly inquiries about race and ethnicity. We will continue to contribute to IU’s intellectual climate, build interdisciplinary networks and community, extend research opportunities and support, and serve as a research resource for the campus and community. Our work will need to shift in the coming months to create and sustain a virtual community, and provide online programming and projects, and we look forward to new collaborations and initiatives.

CRRES is well positioned for this moment. We now have 56 faculty affiliates, 5 postdoctoral scholars, and 34 graduate student affiliates from departments and schools across campus. This past academic year was cut a bit short due to COVID-19 and we were unable to hold our annual research symposium in the Spring. Nevertheless, we had robust programming and campus engagement through our Speaker Series and collaborations with other units on campus. We also had extensive participation in our Small Grants Program, Undergraduate Research Program, and Coffee Hours. The Postdoctoral Scholars Program remains a key part of the Center, as CRRES provides a supportive, interdisciplinary environment that centers the mentorship of a new generation of scholars. We invite you to read this newsletter to see a slice of what the Center and our affiliates have accomplished this year.

Our deepest gratitude for an outstanding year of scholarly engagement, support, and community. A special thanks to our campus partners for 2019-20: Arts and Humanities Council, Asian Culture Center, Asian American Studies, Black Film Center/Archive Film Series, College Arts and Humanities Institute, First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, Kinsey Institute, Platform/Indiana Studies, Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities, Latino Studies, Native and Indigenous Studies, Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs, Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion, Program on Race, Migration, and Indigeneity, Themester, The Media School, School of Education, O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the Departments of African American and African Diaspora Studies, American Studies, East Asian Languages and Culture, Gender Studies, History, and Sociology.

As always, we welcome collaborations and suggestions for advancing research on race and ethnicity, and developing programming that uplifts our communities. Please reach out to crres@indiana.edu – we’d love to hear from you.

Dina Okamoto, CRRES Director

CRRES representing at First Thursdays on the Arts Plaza!


Our Speaker Series, in collaboration with other university departments and centers, invites scholars and artists to present their work in a lively public forum. These events contribute to the intellectual climate and relevant campus conversations on race and ethnicity.

Tennisha Riley, CRRES Postdoctoral Fellow and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University

Tennisha Riley kicked off this year's Speaker Series with a presentation about her research on African American adolescents, where she sought to understand how cultural and peer contexts shape their emotional development and decisions to engage in risk or prosocial behaviors. To measure emotions and cognition, one of Riley's experiments recorded images of their facial expressions while they were asked to work on a specific task.

Ross Gay, Poet and Professor, Department of English, Indiana University

Ross Gay gave a reading and book signing for his recent publication, The Book of Delights, a collection of daily essays written over the course of a year on the topic of delight. He told the audience that this exercise affected his observations of life's everyday moments, especially in these tumultuous times: "In the midst of despair, there are glimmers of sweetness."

Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Assistant Professor, Department of Transnational Studies, University of Buffalo

Alyssa Mt. Pleasant shared her new research that stems from her documentation of roadside markers across New York state through indigenous Haudenosaunee homelands. She showed images of the signage and explained their significance in conveying narratives of state violence. You can follow Mt. Pleasant's #roadsidemarkers series on Twitter at @BettyRbl.

Steven Thrasher, Daniel H. Renberg Chair and Assistant Professor, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University

Steven Thrasher's talk addressed the critical link between Blackness and HIV/AIDS, making race central to a conversation that the U.S. media has largely ignored. Integrating his work as a journalist and a scholar, Thrasher outlined how HIV/AIDS was criminalized by both the media and the laws/policies that disproportionately and negatively affected Black Americans.

Meredith Oda, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Nevada-Reno

Meredith Oda presented on research from her book, The Gateway to the Pacific: Japanese Americans and the Remaking of Transpacific San Francisco. She showed how San Francisco commemorated U.S.-Japan relations following World War II through forms of "selective remembering" to gain distance from its grim past of incarcerating hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans.

Amrita Chakrabarti Myers, Ruth N. Halls Associate Professor, Departments of History and Gender Studies, Indiana University

Amrita Chakrabarti Meyers' talk provided a snapshot of her forthcoming book on Julia Chinn, a woman of color and wife of former vice president Richard Johnson. In exploring the lives of Julia and her daughters, Myers’ book centers the lives of Black women to understand how sex, gender, race, and power worked in Antebellum America.

Carl Suddler, Assistant Professor, Department of History, Emory University, Ph.D. from Indiana University

Carl Suddler gave a talk on his new book, Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York. Beginning with the 1930s in New York City, Suddler explores how key actors, policies, and programs have worked to tether Black youth to the criminal justice system, resulting in marked racial inequalities today.


Beyond our Speaker Series, we held additional events in collaboration with other university units. Below are just a few of our activities this past year:

Vivian Tseng, Senior Vice President of Programs, William T. Grant Foundation

We had the honor of hosting Vivian Tseng from the William T. Grant Foundation, which invests in research focusing on two goals: reducing inequality in youth outcomes and improving the use of research evidence in decisions affecting young people in the U.S. Tseng presented two workshops, the first on the William T. Grant Scholars Program and the second on the Foundation's mission and various funding opportunities.

This event was co-sponsored with IU Foundation Relations.

Later that day, we brought together IU leadership and diversity stakeholders for an engaging discussion with Tseng about her experiences as a woman of color working in philanthropy and foundation relations.

Imani Perry, Hughes-Rogers Professor, African American Studies, Program in Law and Public Affairs, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Princeton University

In addition to giving the Patten Lecture, a preeminent lecture series on campus, Imani Perry spoke at a more intimate event at the Neal Marshall Black Culture Center. She read from her latest work, Breathe: A Letter to my Sons, which grapples with anti-Blackness as well as Black dignity and endurance in American society, and participated in a moderated discussion with Janae Cummings, the Director of Communications & Marketing at IU's Hamilton Lugar School.

This event was co-sponsored with IU's Center for Law, Society, and Culture.

The Bloomington Farmer's Market

This past summer, our community experienced high tensions surrounding the Bloomington Farmers’ Market and the presence of a local vendor with ties to white supremacist organizations. In the Fall, CRRES and the IU Food Institute hosted a community conversation on the role that academics can and should play during the controversy. Participants shared concerns and implications for residents of color, how current farmers’ market practices may exacerbate inequality and prevent access to newer vendors, and the phenomenon of U.S. farmers’ markets becoming the domain of the predominantly white and affluent.

Alison Alkon, Associate Professor, University of the Pacific

In the Spring, members of the IU and Bloomington community came together to hear Alison Alkon speak about farmers' markets and food justice. Drawing from her research on California farmers' markets, Alkon explained that minority-run markets face challenges remaining sustainable while predominantly white markets have difficulties attracting racially diverse attendees, which have implications for racial equity.

This event was co-sponsored with the IU Food Institute.

To facilitate community engagement, Alkon's talk was held at Bloomington's I Fell Building, which houses artist studios, a bakery, and a gallery space.

The I Fell Building was also where we held our Welcome Back Party, an annual event that brings together affiliates with CRRES, African American and African Diaspora Studies, Asian American Studies, Latino Studies, Native American and Indigenous Studies, and the Program on Race, Migration, and Indigeneity.

Guests at our Welcome Back Party enjoyed food from a Bloomington favorite: Bivi's Tamales! We thank Bivi Torres for continuing to feed and nourish our community.


Race, Ethnicity, and the Midwest through Objects

What is a History Harvest?

Every day, we make history. It’s in what we eat, what we say, what we post to social media. It’s also in our homes, our backpacks, and our classrooms. A History Harvest is an open digital archive of artifacts gathered from our communities. It brings scholars and community members together to collect, preserve, and share the histories that are meaningful to, and usable by, the communities involved in the project.

This past year, CRRES partnered with the Institute for Digital Humanities (IDAH), the historic free Black community of Longtown, Ohio, and the Indiana University Black Graduate Student Association to conduct three History Harvests. Our aim was to document and amplify the histories and voices of local communities, and to complicate our understanding of the different histories of Indiana. We are grateful for the support of the Arts and Humanities Council, the Mellon Foundation, and the Indiana Studies/Platform project. We hope to continue building bridges by honoring community efforts to sustain heritage. Website: IU History Harvest.

How does one participate in a History Harvest? (keep scrolling)

Step 1

Find an object that has meaning to you.

Step 2

Bring your object to our stand and fill out a brief survey.

Step 3

Briefly share with us what this object means to you.

Graduate students, Jazma Sutton (History) and Chavonté Wright (Sociology), presented on the History Harvests at the Indiana Studies Symposium at Bloomington's Dimension Mill.


The URP allows undergraduates the opportunity to conduct research under the mentorship of a faculty member or postdoc. Activities include coding texts and visual media, analyzing datasets, and preparing experimental and audit studies. In addition to research training, students attend professional development workshops on topics such as creating a research poster, writing abstracts, and applying to graduate school and fellowships.

Projects & Pairings

Check out the research posters designed by the students.

John F. Matheus, Blackness, and the Harlem Renaissance Archive - Professor Clark Barwick (Communication, Kelley School of Business) and Margaret VanSchaik (International Studies, Near Eastern Languages & Cultures majors)

The Noble Mark: Noble M. Johnson and the Performance of Race - Professor Cara Caddoo (History, The Media School) and Sam Bowden (History, Media majors)

An Imperfect Match? Gender and Racial Discrimination in Hiring Across Relative Qualification - Professor Koji Chavez (Sociology) and Maria Martinez (Neuroscience, Philosophy majors)

Evidence-Based Internet Treatment of Mental Health and Substance Use in a Community Sample and Subjective Social Status as an Indicator of Mental and Physical Health Among Black and Latinx Adults - Professor Tennisha Riley (Psychological and Brain Sciences) and Kendall Riley (Psychology, Human Biology majors)

The Vampire Britannia: Monsters of the Empire in Helen Oyeyemi's White is for Witching - Professor Maisha Wester (African American and African Diaspora Studies, American Studies) and Daun Fields (English major)

See all 2019-20 projects.

URP workshop on financial literacy.
URP participants doing an activity on communication skills.


Each year, CRRES provides funding to support research and travel for faculty and graduate students. This funding helps scholars across campus to continue to develop their research. Congratulations to all recipients!

Graduate Student Research Grants, Fall 2019
  • Nelson Zounlome (Psychology), An Experimental Evaluation of a Black Encouragement Intervention for University Students
  • Nilzimar Vieira (Spanish & Portuguese), Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Portuguese Women Voices in Literature and Cinema
Graduate Student Travel Grants
  • Asher Lubotzky (History), The Ambiguous Nature of Settler Colonialism in Africa: Examination of Settlers' Construction and Interpretation of Race and Nation in German Southwest Africa
  • Daniel Runnels (Spanish & Portuguese), Manifestos of the Partido Liberal Mexicano: The Written Sign, Abandoned (from the Other Side of the Border)
  • Soleil David (English), I See What you Mean: Visualization as a Stage in Translation
  • Donovan Watts (Political Science), The Generational Divide: Police Violence, Political Attitudes, and African American Youth
  • Morgane Flahault (Comparative Literature, American Studies), "Our Problems, Our Solutions": Building a Polyvalent Community Organization in North Oakland
  • Nilzimar Vieira (Spanish & Portuguese), Curly Hair: Memories in the Short Film K-bela (How Beautiful) by Yasmin Thayna and in the novel Esse cabelo by Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida


Our CRRES Affiliates are highly accomplished scholars in their fields. Below we provide just a brief snapshot of their achievements during 2019-20.

New Publications
Promotions, Placements, & Awards
  • Ani Abrahamyan (Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures) won the Jerzy Kolodziej Excellence in Teaching Award.
  • Samuel Bowden (CRRES Undergraduate Researcher) received the M. Jeanne Peterson Prize from IU's Department of History.
  • Deborah Cohn (Spanish & Portuguese) was named Provost Professor; she also received the MIND Award for Impactful Teaching to Students of Spanish from the Alpha Alpha Phi Chapter of Sigma Delta Pi.
  • Denia Garcia (CRRES Postdoc, Sociology) accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor at the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
  • LaTeeka Gray (Anthropology) received the Skomp Opportunity Fellowship.
  • Daun Fields (CRRES Undergraduate Researcher) will be pursuing a Ph.D. in English at the University of Florida; she also received the Executive Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity.
  • Vivian N. Halloran (English) was named the new Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Arts & Sciences.
  • David Konisky (O'Neill/SPEA) received an IU Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge grant for his project, "Understanding Energy Insecurity among Indiana Households."
  • Marissa J. Moorman (History, The Media School) was promoted to Full Professor.
  • Rasul A. Mowatt (American Studies), who was previously in the School of Public Health, will move to the College of Arts and Sciences in the Departments of American Studies and Geography; he also secured a National Park Service grant to conduct an ethnographic study on Camp Mueller (Cleveland, OH).
  • Michelle Moyd (History) was awarded an Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities (IDAH) Summer Incubator Fellowship to pilot CRRES's first History Harvest.
  • Koji Chavez (Sociology) received grants from the National Science Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation for his research on workplace racial discrimination.
  • Kendall Riley (CRRES Undergraduate Researcher) will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Sociology/Criminology at the University of Iowa; she also received a Psi Chi Research Award at the Midwestern Psychological Association Conference.
  • Tennisha Riley (CRRES Postdoc, Psychological and Brain Sciences) accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology in the School of Education at Indiana University.
  • Daniel Runnels (Spanish and Portuguese) received a College of Arts & Sciences Dissertation Research Fellowship.
  • Nilzimar Vieira (Spanish and Portuguese) received a summer fellowship for her project, “Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Portuguese Women’s Voices in Literature and Cinema.”
  • Donovan A. Watts (Political Science) was selected as an IU Graduate Student Emissary.
  • Phoebe Wolfskill (American Studies, African American and African Diaspora Studies) was promoted with tenure to Associate Professor; she also received a Paul Mellon Visiting Senior Fellowship through the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC).
  • Ellen Wu (History, Asian American Studies) was awarded the Senior Ford Foundation Fellowship for her book project, "Overrepresented: Asian Americans in the Age of Affirmative Action."
  • Ani Abrahamyan (Slavic and East European Languages and Cultures) co-organized the first international interdisciplinary Ukrainian Studies Conference in the U.S.
  • Faye Gleisser (Art History) wrote an exhibition catalog essay, “The Archives Within the Archive: Hương Ngô and the Making and Unmaking of Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai” (2017), which was translated into Vietnamese and will be distributed with Hương Ngô's exhibition at The Factory Contemporary Art Centre in Ho Chi Minh City.
  • Vivian N. Halloran (English) delivered the keynote speech, "From Melting Pot to Sancocho: Imagining Cross-Ethnic Allyship Across Food Narrative Genres," at the Comparative Literature Graduate Student Annual Conference in March.
  • Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez (School of Public Health) released the Spanish language version of her book, An Introguide to a Sex Positive You: Lessons, Tales, and Tips; she was also hired to write for Pure Romance's Buzz Blog.
  • Ellen Wu (History, Asian American Studies) consulted for and was a featured expert in PBS's recently-released documentary series, Asian Americans.


The aim of the CRRES Postdoctoral Scholar Program is to nurture the careers of the next generation of scholars conducting research on race and ethnicity. Each year, CRRES conducts a nationwide search and selects postdoctoral scholars in the social sciences and humanities to be housed in departments and schools across campus.

Being quarantined does not stop our weekly postdoc meetings! These regular check-ins provide postdocs a community to write and gain professional development support.

Incoming Postdocs

Two new fellows will join CRRES in Fall 2020.

Chinbo Chong will be a CRRES Postdoctoral Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science. She is a first-generation college student who grew up in South Korea, Alaska, Kansas, Washington, and California. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2019). Her main fields of study are in American politics, political behavior, and race and ethnic politics. At CRRES, she will be working on her book manuscript titled, Identity Appeals in the Age of Immigration. Her book project uses original survey experiments, large observational political surveys, and qualitative data, which speaks to the discussion about the formation of political identity, how this differs for Asian American and Latino voters, and its impact on mobilizing these two important American electorate. She has also examined how immigrant voters form their party identification, and the role of discrimination and xenophobic rhetoric on their political behavior and collective action.

Vivek Vellanki will be a CRRES Postdoctoral Scholar and Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the School of Education. Vivek earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education from Michigan State University. His scholarly and artistic work is centered on issues of migration, transnationalism, and youth identity/culture. He draws on visual methodologies and research-creation in order to question the boundaries between scholarly/creative work. Vivek’s dissertation examined the experiences/stories of immigrants and refugees in the U.S. using the photographic medium. He curated an exhibition titled, Do you have anything to declare?, which featured his dissertation work in the fall of 2019. He has worked with teachers and youth in India and the U.S. in exploring the role of the arts and the possibilities for envisioning the classroom as a site for exploration, play, and imagining socially just futures. At CRRES, Vivek’s work will explore the relationship between photography, migration, and youth identity/culture through a collaboration with South Asian youth living in the Midwest.


Save the dates for our Speaker Series:

September 10 | Oscar Patrón, CRRES Postdoc & Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Education, Indiana University

September 24 Freda Fair, Assistant Professor, Department of Gender Studies, Indiana University

October 8 Christine Peralta, CRRES Postdoc & Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of History, Indiana University

October 22 | Iván Chaar-López, Mellon Diversity Postdoctoral Associate, Latina/o Studies Program, Cornell University

November 19 | Candace Miller, CRRES Postdoc & Visiting Assistant Professor, O'Neill School, Indiana University


Keep scrolling for our jazzy bios!

  • Dina Okamoto, CRRES Director, keeps the Center moving forward. She deals with the budget, oversees all programs and staff, advocates for the Center and its affiliates, and interfaces with administrators and other campus leaders.
  • Michelle Moyd, CRRES Associate Director, has lots of ideas. She plans and coordinates the Speaker Series, helps with professional mentorship of the postdoctoral fellows, and supports the Director in a variety of capacities.
  • Jessica Smith, CRRES Administrative Assistant, holds the Center together. She reserves rooms for events, arranges travel, processes small grants, keeps track of money, answers emails, and - most importantly - makes sure that you are fed and caffeinated during the monthly Coffee Hours.
  • Mai Thai, CRRES Graduate Assistant, facilitates the Undergraduate Research Program, helps coordinate Center activities, and completes miscellaneous tasks, like making this newsletter. Prior to the pandemic, you probably saw her sprinting around CRRES events to make sure that everything ran smoothly.
  • Monica Heilman, CRRES Graduate Assistant, develops our communications and media. She delivers a fresh email to your inbox every Monday morning, oversees social media accounts with Alicia Harmon, and works website magic.
  • Chavonté Wright, CRRES Graduate Assistant, coordinates the annual Graduate Student Symposium, emails the Graduate Student Affiliates without relent, and manages myriad tasks with the help of the team. On occasion, she cracks a joke.
  • Samanta Zapien, Cox Scholar Intern, is probably the only staff member who knows how to use our fancy SLR camera. In addition to taking great pictures for CRRES, she helps set up the Coffee Hours, distributes fliers, and assists with other communication tasks.
  • Alicia Harmon puts her Generation Z knowledge to use as our Social Media Intern. She keeps our Twitter and Facebook content up-to-date, designs and distributes fliers, takes photos, and assists with History Harvests and other CRRES events.
  • Lillian Cox, Center of Excellence for Women in Technology Intern, is our transcriber extraordinaire. She transcribed the interviews that we and our collaborators conducted during the History Harvests.

We could not do this work without the generous support of Provost Lauren Robel, College of Arts and Sciences, and Office of the Vice Provost for Research.

Thanks to all for another successful year!

We wish you good health and spirits, and we hope to see you again soon.