Latin Americanists Among Bilinski Dissertation Fellowship Recipients

April 12, 2014

Of the five University of New Mexico doctoral students who will receive a 2014 Russel J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski Dissertation Fellowship for their dissertation work, two are Latin Americanists - and both have been previously recognized by the Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) as LAII Ph.D. Fellows. Rebecca Ellis and Rachael Spaulding, respectively, research education among blind students in Argentina and the experiences of early modern Afro-women. The three other students who will receive the Fellowship are Mary Henderson, Nicholas Schwarz, and Gino Signoracci.

Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski's goal in life was to be independent and challenged intellectually. Both Bilinski's were true intellectuals; Adventuresome, independent and driven, Russell was a researcher, academician and an entrepreneur. Doro was an accomplished artist and patron of the arts. They believed that education was a means to obtain independence, and this is the legacy they wished to pass on to others.

The Bilinski Fellowship is offered to full time doctoral students studying English, American Studies, Foreign Languages & Literatures, History, Linguistics, Philosophy, or Spanish & Portuguese. They include a $12,000 stipend per academic semester for up to three semesters. The Bilinski Educational Foundation provides fellowship funds for students who maintain the highest academic achievement, but who lack the financial resources to pay for the highest caliber post-secondary education.

Rebecca Ellis is an advanced Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History. She spent the last year working and living in Argentina where she was developing her current dissertation project. In her research, Rebecca examines the creation of political communities among blind students and immigrants in Argentina during the first half of the twentieth century. Her project attempts to understand how the blind attempted to generate better and more diverse labor opportunities by differentiating themselves from other disability categories that policy makers in Argentina increasingly labelled as dangerous. Understanding how disability was differentiated in Argentina both internally and externally to the blind movement will help further our understanding of the ways in which early twentieth century political movements promoting the interests of disabled persons established the basis of later twentieth century movements grouping persons with disabilities into a single cause.

Rachel Spaulding is an advanced Ph.D. candidate in colonial literature in the Spanish and Portuguese Department. Her dissertation focuses on the textual productions and mystical experiences of three early modern Afro-women: Spain's Sister Teresa Juliana de Santo Domingo, also known as Chicaba, Peru's Úrsula de Jesés and Brazil's Rosa Maria Egipçíaca. Her interdisciplinary research applies performance theory to explain how these women's texts foster a reading of transformation from slave subject to mystical agent. She received the LAII PhD fellowship for the academic year of 2013-2014. During this time she completed two chapters of her dissertation and research for her final chapters. The research she completed during her time as an LAII PhD Fellowship recipient frames her literary analysis of the Afro-women's text within the historiography of the Ibero-Atlantic field. The Bilinski PhD Fellowship will facilitate the completion of her dissertation by May of 2015.