Producing Outstanding Scholarship
Dr. Bryce Henson
is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Communications at Texas A&M University and an Accountability, Climate, Equity, and Scholarship (ACES) Fellow
. We interviewed Dr. Henson about his research and current book, Diasporic Fugitives: Race, Gender, and Brazilian Hip-Hop Cultures.
What is the inspiration for your research?
In general, my inspiration for my research is Black people’s creative and cultural genius around the globe, particularly outside the English-speaking world.
With regards to my current book I’m working on, I’m inspired by quilombos, which are communities of fugitive Black people who refused slavery as a system and a way of life. Black people ran away from the plantation and formed alternative social and cultural systems for themselves, some as large as 10,000 people. So I wanted to delve deeper into how the histories and logics of quilombos are still at play today in contemporary Black Brazilian cultural politics.
How did you become interested in communications? Did you start off in communications?
I actually started off in accounting. Back then accounting represented dreams of social mobility, personal success, and job stability for a first-gen, low-income, and multiracial Black male student.
Before my fourth year in undergrad, I took a summer quarter of just communication classes. They legitimized what I had already known since my childhood, that media, popular culture, and communications are important sites of meaning, identity, politics, and belonging. That summer, I told myself I want to get a PhD in Communications and become a professor. So I ended up getting a double bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Communication. I then took two years working as an auditor and researching doctoral programs before I went back for my PhD under the supervision of my advisor Dr. Cameron McCarthy in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned from your research?
One of the most surprising things I learned is that Brazil received the most enslaved African peoples of anywhere in the Caribbean and the Americas, between 3 to 5 million. To put that in context, that’s ten times the number that arrived here in the United States. As a result, Brazil has the second biggest Black population in the world, only after Nigeria. Unfortunately, we do not consider and engage Brazil enough when it comes to studying and understanding Black people in a global context.
Do you have any suggestions to help others become a better researcher and have work published? If so, what are they?
Think outside the box. I mean this in two ways. The first is that there is still so much work to be done, especially as it pertains to racialized communities, globalization, and going outside English-speaking world. We are far from exhausting all the research that needs to be done.
The other way to think outside the box is to do interdisciplinary work. While everyone celebrates it, interdisciplinarity really is hard work, having to be deeply grounded in multiple fields and bridging them together. People think they read a few things in another field and suddenly they’re an interdisciplinary scholar. That ain’t it. Interdisciplinarity is not easy, and it shouldn’t be, but it will make you a better researcher in your own fields and others.
How did you learn about ACES?
About three different friends emailed me about the ACES program, saying that I should apply. I looked into the ad, liked how it was set up, and decided to apply.
How has being an ACES Fellow contributed to your success and/or publishing research?
I’ve really been able devote a considerable amount of time and energy towards getting my book written. I was also able to return to Brazil to do some follow-up fieldwork with my research participants.
What do you like about ACES? Why should scholars apply?
The program is for two years and it is research-based. You teach one class a year and the rest of the time you can focus on your research to make progress on your various projects.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I’m pretty boring. I mostly read non-academic stuff, ride my bike, and stay up on the culture.
Crystal S. Carter