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Meet the Fellows: 2016 Newcombe Fellow Daniella Santoro

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This is one of a series of posts featuring Fellows from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation network.

The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph. D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. The 2016 class of Fellows includes Daniella Santoro, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at Tulane University. Below, Ms. Santoro talks about the form of expression that inspired her research:

My research into the social histories of gun violence and disability in New Orleans originated—somewhat unexpectedly—with dance. Like many New Orleans transplants, I became transfixed by, and later, affixed to, the high-energy weekly brass band jazz parades. Called second lines, the parades have been a feature of life in many historically black New Orleans neighborhoods for over a century.  I was also immediately compelled by the visibility of wheelchair users, and other persons with physical disabilities who “took to the street” at these second lines parades. These individuals over time developed their own social club called “Push For Change.”

The group became the focus of my research into the social and political context of disability from gun violence and the social histories of violent crime and related health disparities.   I became magnetized by the people I met—storytellers with and without words— and by the social spaces in which they critiqued and refashioned racist and ableist social scripts about how and where in the city they belong. At the same time, I was beginning training in my personal life as a flamenco dancer, obsessively counting in 12ths and wondering how far I could push my body to do combinations of moves so foreign to me. I began to move and interpret the world like a dancer, thinking about bodies and corporeality all the time. My dissertation is now concerned with interpreting and exposing the social and political conditions that render invisible  people who have been disabled by gun violence. I think it began with and is still informed by these basic curiosities about the social expectations and assumptions about our bodies as beings marked by race, class, and gender; how physical injury and trauma affect these assumptions; and how dance both acutely marks and transcends these identities.

Ms. Santoro’s dissertation title is Wheelchair Life: Race, Disability and the Afterlife of Violent Crime in New Orleans. For more information on the 2016 Newcombe Fellows and to see a list of their dissertation titles, click here.


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