Current Fellows

Post-Doctoral Fellows 2023-2025

Adrienne Rooney

A headshot of Adrienne Rooney standing against a brick wall.

Adrienne Rooney (she/her/hers) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute and in the Department of Black Studies at the University of Rochester. She is also the co-founder and co-leader of the Racial Geography Project, an initiative of the Task Force on Slavery, Segregation, and Racial Injustice at Rice University, where she received a PhD in Art History with certificates in African and African American Studies and Critical and Cultural Theory. Trained as an art and architectural historian, she also has a museum background. Prior to graduate school, she was a curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Research Overview

Dr. Rooney’s research interests are art, material culture, and the built environment of the wider Caribbean and Afrodiasporic art in the Americas, with an emphasis on the relationships between (de)colonization, culture, epistemology, racialization, and ecology. She also has interests in the politics of repatriation, the archive, and cultural heritage in the Caribbean region and its (former) colonial powers. Her work on these topics is indebted to Caribbean intellectual thought, Black Studies, and decolonial theory. She is currently working on her first book project, based on her PhD dissertation, A Worldbuilding Moment: Aesthetics and Economics in the Caribbean Festival of Arts’ (Carifesta) Revolutionary Era, 1966-1981.

Stemming from her research on Carifesta, she co-organized the three-day international symposium “The Inaugural Caribbean Festival of Arts as Prism: 20th Century Festivals in the Multilingual Caribbean” (August 2022), which was held as part of the Guyana Cultural Association of New York, Inc.’s Annual Guyana Folk Festival. The symposium also launched the Digital Archive of Guyanese and Caribbean Festivals, Culture and Literature, which will become a repository of cultural documents and oral histories of Carifesta and beyond.

Her work has been supported by the Paul Mellon Centre, the Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship, the Rose Library Fellowship, the Donald C. Locke Award, the Brown Foundation, and Rice’s Department of Art History, Center for Engaged Research and Collaborative Learning (CERCL), and Initiative for the Study of LatinX America.

Research Interests

Art and architecture of the Caribbean; Afrodiasporic art in the Americas; culture and (de)colonization; race, ecology, and the built environment

Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas (they/them/theirs) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Frederick Douglass Institute and the Department of Black Studies at the University of Rochester. They earned their PhD in Communication from the University of Maryland College Park with a certificate in Digital Studies in Arts and Humanities. While there, Alex aided in the foundation of the Black Communication and Technology Lab as a Graduate Fellow and served as a graduate ambassador.

Research Overview

Dr. Thomas’s research draws upon and combines environmental and visual communication, digital humanities, media studies, cultural studies, and Black feminism to address how social issues intersect with or are showcased through many different visual mediums. They study texts from across various forms of visual media including cinema and animation, photography, social media, and visual literature to examine how those who create and consume media influence, critique, and reflect on social issues widely and communication about the environment more specifically. Their interests also include research on the use of digital media for activism and how critique of popular media can challenge and change society for the better.

Dr. Thomas’s previous research covers topics such as the impact of certain social networks on Twitter, Black fandoms using hashtags to gain awareness to cosplay, the ability of environmental photography to capture climate change, drag and appropriation on TikTok, and issues of gender and race in environmental popular culture. Their article, “Craig of the Creek: Black Childhood and environmental racism”, published in Critical Studies in Media Communication, focuses on animation as an important source of environmental imagery for children to learn the relationship between race and environmental issues.

Their research is methodologically diverse using both critical and qualitative methods to interrogate how media and popular culture are used to circulate and oppose new ideas and histories of discriminated people and the environment. They are currently working on their first manuscript based on their PhD dissertation, “The Queer Ecology of Monstrosity: Troubling the Human/Nature Divide”.

Research Interests

Queer Ecology; Environmental Communication; Visual Media and Rhetoric, Black Feminist Theory; Cultural Studies; Digital Humanities