Fellowship / Fellows

Kim Vaz-Deville

  • 2023–2024
  • Humanities
  • Lillian Gollay Knafel Fellow
  • Xavier University of Louisiana
Portrait of Kim Vaz-Deville
Photo by Kevin Grady/Harvard Radcliffe Institute

Kim Vaz-Deville is a professor of education at Xavier University of Louisiana. Her work in New Orleans studies focuses on the lives of African Americans from the early 20th century to the present, explicitly on their material and intangible culture. Her book The “Baby Dolls”: Breaking the Race and Gender Barriers of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Tradition (LSU Press, 2013) was the 2016 selection for the One Book One New Orleans campaign for literacy and community.

At Radcliffe, Vaz-Deville is writing “The Art of Resistance.” On Mardi Gras, African American maskers adorn themselves with hand-sewn regalia showcasing themes of slavery, segregation, strategies of resistance, and the COVID crisis. Over the past 60 years, with controversy, some began to characterize their practices as having an overt spiritual dimension. Her book draws on a decade of ethnographic and participant observation and chronicles these expansions to traditional Black masking subject matter designed to produce awareness among revelers of their community’s African and Afro-Caribbean heritage and shared global struggles.

Vaz-Deville has received additional support from the Center for the Study of Religion and the City, the Louisville Institute Sabbatical Grant for Researchers, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her cocurated exhibits include They Call Me Baby Doll: A Mardi Gras Tradition and Mystery in Motion: African American Masking and Spirituality in Mardi Gras, both at The Presbytère, Louisiana State Museum, and Black Indians from New Orleans, at Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac. Vaz-Deville earned her PhD from Indiana University.

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