John L Warfield Center

Graduate Students

Gustavo Melo Cerqueira

Gustavo Melo Cerqueira 

Gustavo Melo Cerqueira is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies. He is also an actor, performer, director, producer, and playwright with relevant trajectory in Brazilian black theater. His research examines how the onstage and offstage performances of the black body complicate the political-aesthetic deployment of notions of racial and cultural identities, visibility, and representation in the work of Brazilian black theater group Cia dos Comuns. Gustavo holds an undergraduate degree in Law from Federal University of Bahia (Brazil), and a Master’s degree in African and African Diaspora Studies from the University of Texas, Austin.

Research Interests: Black Body; Black Theater in Brazil; Black Performance; Politics and Aesthetics of Blackness.

Jessi Ditillio

Jessi DiTillio

Jessi DiTillio is a doctoral student in the Department of Art and Art History. Her research focuses on American artists after 1945 with an emphasis on artists engaging the politics of race and gender, postmodernism and the politics of identity, parody and satire. She is currently the Mercer Curatorial Fellow at the Contemporary Austin as well as assisting with the Warfield Center's exhibitions program and permanent collection installations. Until beginning the doctoral program at UT Austin, she served as Interim Director of the Association for Academic Museums and Galleries. Prior to that, she worked for several years as the Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at University of Oregon. While there she curated the traveling exhibition Emancipating the Past: Kara Walker's Tales of Slavery and Power, which opened most recently at the David C. Driskell Center at University of Maryland in February 2015 and will continue traveling until 2017.

María Esther Hammock

María Esther Hammock

María Esther Hammack is doctoral candidate in the department of History and a portfolio candidate in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She specializes in US slavery with a focus on the African Diaspora in Mexico and the history of how Texas became central to Black diasporic movements across the global south. Her dissertation under the direction of Professor Daina Ramey Berry, “South of Slavery: Enslaved and Free Black Movement in a Global Frontier, Mexico, The United States, and Beyond, 1793-1868,” traces the journeys of escapees and migrants who left the United States for Mexico in the long nineteenth century. Maria’s work centers the experiences of enslaved and free Blacks, with an emphasis on Black women, who crossed the territorial and maritime US-Mexico frontiers because they saw Mexico as a safe haven. Maria is a transnational scholar who seeks to advance initiatives that link scholarly research, pedagogy, digital and public history. During the 2018-2019 she is a fellow at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Follow her on Twitter: @LorienTinuviel

Suzanne Nimoh 

Suzannw Nimoh

Suzanne Nimoh is a graduate student in the Department of Geography and the Environment.  Her research focuses on how the landscape guides collective memory through creating imagined racial histories. She studies the preservation of colonial landscapes in the Dominican Republic, and its relation to Anti-Haitianism and gentrification. Suzanne holds a BA in International Studies and Spanish Language/Latin American Studies from American University.

Research interests: memory, coloniality, critical tourism, Black Radical Tradition, urban studies


Paul Joseph López Oro

Paul Joseph López Oro is a doctoral student in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies. His dissertation project examines second and third generation Garifuna Central Americans in New York City and how they negotiate in the in-betweeness of their Blackness, Indigeneity, and Latinidad. He holds an undergraduate degree in History from St. John's University, master's degrees in Latin American Studies from The University of New Mexico, and in African American Studies from Northwestern University. 

Research interests: Blackness and Indigeneity in Central America, Garifuna activism, political mobilization, transnational migration, and Afro-Latin@ Studies.


Chinwe Oriji

Chinwe Oriji is a McNair Fellow and currently a PhD Student in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She recently completed her MPhil in Modern Societies and Global Transformations at Cambridge University and is focused on a doctoral dissertation examining notions of displacement and belonging and historical memory for children of African immigrants and the implications of multiple identities for African and American development. She is also the founder of the Unispora.Com diaspora website created to share cultural narratives of immigrants and children of immigrants globally.

Research Interests: African Migration, Children of Immigrants, African Diaspora, Transnationalism, Contemporary African Literature

Holly Genovese 

Holly Genovese

Holly Genovese is a doctoral candidate in the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies.

Ja'nell Ajani

Ja’nell N. Ajani is a doctoral student in the American Studies Department. Her research focuses on the amorphous boundary between art, commerce, and historicizing artistic legacies with an emphasis on black and brown artist estates.

Ja’nell is a graduate of Spelman College and holds a MA in Africana Studies with a concentration in Museum Studies as well as an MA in Studio Art, Photography from New York University.

Research interests: Visual Culture Studies, African-American Art and Art of the African Diaspora, Cinema and Media Studies, and Popular Culture.