By María Carrasquilla
On April 29, 2023, the annual Transcending Boundaries symposium, organized by the Diversity Advisory Board (DAB) with support from UChicagoGRAD, welcomed 13 students from several divisions across UChicago who presented research projects around the theme of “Truth, Transformation, Healing.” Four graduate students from the Division of the Humanities presented a broad spectrum of research, including dance in soccer, representation in archives, and grief.
For Rachel Chery, who co-presented “Baile Donde Quieras”: The Global Politics of Black Dance in Fútbol, with Jonah Francese, both PhD candidates from the Music Department, Transcending Boundaries allows for more collaboration in her work. “In the humanities, we don’t get to present our work together often,” Chery said. “Presenting together allows us to respond better to specific questions. In our case, Jonah does the dance activism part of our research. I am more interested in how people talk about it—the social media part.”
Chery and Francese’s research analyzed soccer player Vinícius Jr.’s expressions of joy, Brazilian cultural identity, and activism through his dancing on the soccer field while playing for La Liga club Real Madrid. They analyzed how his dance triggered opposite reactions among the club’s fan base—hateful and racist on one end and supportive and encouraging on the other. Their research will be submitted to The Journal of Sport and Social Issues for publication later this year.
Meralis Alvarez-Morales also supported the theme of collaboration. She received her MAPH degree, focused on Latin American and Caribbean Studies on June 3, 2023. During the symposium, Meralis presented her MA thesis, “Writing Yourself into the Fabric of Life,” in short story form. “When I saw the request to apply to be a part of the symposium, I didn’t know that students from the Humanities and outside of the Humanities were invited to present,” Alvarez-Morales said. “I saw many connections between my work and the work of presenters from other divisions. It was wonderful to receive questions, genuine curiosity, and interest about the historical narratives I found doing my archival research on the history of Puerto Rican women. I found many of those narratives to be misconstrued, and those I aimed to re-write.”
In presenting at the symposium, Alvarez-Morales “realized that my project and research were unfamiliar to the group, even those in my field.” The questions she received helped her to provide more context in the short stories.
For Abby Delio, who also graduated from the MAPH program on June 3, 2023, the highlight of the symposium was its intersectionality. “Representation and inclusion are important to me, on and off the screen,” she said. “The theme of Truth, Transformation, and Healing spoke to me as my film relates to these topics. Historically, media lacks complex queer characters, and I wanted this project to represent queer experiences… I really appreciated the symposium’s encouragement of creative work.”
Delio presented a cut of their film Friends at a Funeral, which explores the ideas of queer kinship persisting after death and questions what it means to grieve.
DAB’s Transcending Boundaries is a student-led and organized research symposium for underrepresented minority graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. The symposium started in 2017 and is open to students from across UChicago, offering the opportunity to share interests and work, to prepare to present at a future conference, to consider other perspectives, and to build community.
“DAB is a group I sought to broaden my sense of community at UChicago and meet others who share a similar background or experience; I see the Transcending Boundaries Symposium as an extension of having that community,” said Chery, a former symposium organizer. “The symposium’s goal is for underrepresented students to know: your work matters, and we want to hear it. We want you to succeed and give you all the tools you need to use this space as prep for a conference, as a resource, and as a place to find community.”