The Senior Doctoral Fellows for 2019-20 are: 

Fellows’ Bios

Jing Jing Liu (African Studies)

Jing Jing Liu is a PhD Candidate in socio-cultural anthropology at the University of Toronto.   Her ethnographic project explored the day-to-day lives of Nigerian traders in Yiwu, China, a city that is home to the “world’s largest small wholesale commodity market”, and the epicentre for the purchase and export of the globally ubiquitous ‘Made in China’ consumer goods.

Her dissertation explores the continuities and changes Africans in China share with other established African diasporas around the world.  Within this context, she examines what non-colonial histories versus neo-colonial entanglements mean for China-Africa relations, particularly under the mediation of the English language.  Furthermore, she traces how global hierarchies and geopolitical pivots manifest in the everyday lives of Nigerian traders in Yiwu, and how these young men, some away from home for years at a time, navigate the dangers of both sociality and intimacy – virtual and real.  Finally, she interrogates what the desires and realities of these young men instantiate for the African present, as well as African futures.

Jing Jing has a Masters from the London School of Economics, and is the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including the Canada-China Scholars’ Exchange, SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, The Canadian Anthropology Society Richard F. Salisbury Student Award, and the Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant.  In Fall 2019, she will be teaching “The Anthropology of China and Africa: People, Language and Goods” as a course for Topics in Emerging Scholarship (Society, Culture and Language) (ANT485H1F).

Mariam Momodu (Olafuyi) (African Studies)

Mariam Momodu (Olafuyi) is a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. She specializes in international trade law, law and development and law and globalization. In her doctoral thesis, she re-evaluates economic integration in Africa by exploring the concept of bottom-up economic integration- an analysis of the use of private regulation by non-state actors to facilitate trade within Africa. She also routinely engages in debates about the informal economy and trade facilitation initiatives that affect women and youth in Africa. Mariam is currently a Vanier Scholar at the University of Toronto.

She obtained her undergraduate degree in law from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where she was elected as the first female president of the law students’ society and set a record for the most outstanding academic result from the faculty. She then obtained a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from the University of Cambridge, where she was awarded the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship and the Cambridge Trust Scholarship. During her time at Cambridge, she was a co-editor of the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law and one of the organizers of the annual Cambridge Africa Business Network conference at Judge Business School.

Prior to commencing her doctorate program, Mariam was an adjunct lecturer at the Centre for Law and Business, Lagos. She also worked as in-house counsel for a multinational company and practiced in a tier-one law firm in Nigeria, advising on regional economic integration and trade in Africa.
In addition to her academic endeavours, Mariam is involved in several initiatives that equip young people from underrepresented backgrounds with the skills and knowledge required to access quality education. She also actively advocates for quality education in developing countries.
She has received several recognitions for her work in law, education and development. She was recognized by McKinsey and Co. as one of the 40 Next Generation Women Leaders in Nigeria and was a delegate at the World Youth Forum in 2019.

Sarah O’Sullivan (African Studies)

Sarah is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto, also completing a collaborative specialization in Global Health. Her research responds to long-held assumptions about aid dependency and HIV stigma in post-conflict societies. She is particularly interested in how a history of HIV-exceptionalism in the Acholi region of northern Uganda has influenced current politics of post-conflict ethical living for HIV-positive Acholi people. Sarah’s project is based on archival and long-term ethnographic research since 2011. In recognition for outstanding research, Sarah was awarded the Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant that allowed her to complete 16 months of fieldwork in Uganda between 2016 and 2018. Sarah’s research reveals that HIV stigma persists in Acholi in part, due to a history of an over-saturated—yet incredibly uneven—landscape of humanitarian and development aid where an HIV-positive status often opened doors to material aid not afforded to others.

Sarah commits herself to promoting and engaging with ethical, anti-colonial, anti-oppressive research and teaching practices and has taught a number of courses both at the undergraduate and graduate level that interrogate colonial epistemology. At the University of Toronto, she has designed and taught a medical anthropology course on social justice, and, most recently, a course on the ethics of humanitarianism. This course asked students to reflect on their assumptions about Africa that may uphold white saviourist desires to “do good” and to consider the ways they direct or withhold their compassion and the consequences of those decisions. Sarah was also a visiting lecturer at Gulu University where she taught a course about the social determinants of health to the Master of Medical Anthropology and International Health student cohort.

Sarah regularly gives guest lectures to health care providers and development workers both within Canada and Uganda where she talks about HIV, structural violence, and decolonization. She is a graduate associate at the UTSC Centre for Critical Development Studies, and is currently the Director for Got Anthropology, a public speaker series run in collaboration with the Toronto Public Library, that seeks to make anthropology accessible to the public.

Mónica Espaillat Lizardo (Caribbean Studies)

Mónica (she/her) is a direct-entry PhD Candidate at the Department of History and the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies. As an Afro-LatinX immigrant who lived and grew in a family and community of undocumented migrants in the United States her intellectual pursuits are directly motivated by these material political considerations. Her current dissertation project examines the construction of Dominican citizenship from the Trujillo dictatorship (1930 – 1961) to 2012. The project investigates the formalization of the Dominican historical imaginary, the introduction of legal and institutional structures aimed at surveillance and citizen education, and the construction of a shared social identity via the use and protection of national patriotic symbols. By triangulating the discipline’s traditional archives with oral histories and ephemeral archives she argues that the Dominican state undertook a eugenicist nation making project that created, enforced, and enforces Dominicans of Haitian descent and Trans Dominicans as impossible citizens. Mónica has been the recipient of the Junior Jackman Fellowship in the Humanities and the Vanier Graduate Scholarship. Her work as an educator is motivated by her desire to create accessible (un)learning spaces, particularly for students who exist on the margins of the education system. She believes that by changing the narratives through which we educate ourselves and future generations we can also alter the systems of exclusion that manifest violently on the lives of marginalized communities. 

Genevieve Ritchie (Equity Studies)

Genevieve Ritchie is a doctoral candidate in Adult Education and Community Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). In 2017 she received the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Scholarship (SSHRC) for her dissertation research with refugee youth. Genevieve’s research explores the migration experiences of refugee youth from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) as they move through cycles of transit, transitions, and resettlement. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, her dissertation research, Youth in Transition: The political economy of migration, aims to materially situate the lived realities of refugee youth and to interrogate the political economy of displacement and the NGOization of resettlement. Her recent publications include a book chapter retheorizing emergent approaches within youth studies, as well as scholarly journal articles on issues of private sponsorship in Canada and youth consciousness of democracy and dictatorship. She is currently working on a co-authored essay interrogating the quelling of youth dissent with the rise of civil society organizations across the MENA region.

Working in collaboration with other critical adult educators, Genevieve developed and coordinated an English language learning course for refugee youth. The non-credit course worked toward an anti-colonial pedagogy by engaging English language learners with the local and global realities of colonial dispossession and Indigenous resistance. Genevieve is committed to critical community-centred education that builds critical consciousness of hetero-patriarchy, racism, capitalism, colonialism, and imperialism.

Zhila Semnani-Azad (Human Biology)

Zhila Semnani-Azad is a PhD candidate in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. Her research interests include examining metabolic biomarkers and lifestyle factors as it relates to cardiometabolic health, with a focus on type 2 diabetes (T2D). She currently holds the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Doctoral Award for her doctoral research, which assesses the role of chronic subclinical inflammation in the etiology of T2D through a novel biomarker of adipose tissue macrophage activation, namely soluble CD163. Her research utilizes data from the Prospective Metabolism and Islet Cell Evaluation (PROMISE) cohort, an ongoing longitudinal observational study of Canadian adults at high-risk for T2D.

In addition to this, Zhila collaborates in public health nutrition and nutrition policy research. This work includes assessment of the nutritional quality of the Canadian food supply, specifically restaurant and grocery store foods. Furthermore, she is investigating the effectiveness of University of Toronto developed, novel eHealth tools aimed to provide and educate information on personal dietary sodium intake in an effort to raise awareness and reduce sodium consumption.

Zhila has published work in top journals including the Journal of American Medical Association Internal Medicine and has presented at several international conference. Ultimately, Zhila hopes to continue to conduct epidemiological research focused in identifying factors that impact cardiometabolic health, specifically obesity and T2D, in an effort to improve risk classification and potentially lead to novel prevention therapies.

Michèle Irwin (International Foundation Program)

Michèle Irwin is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto. Her research seeks to explore how English academic writing instruction can become a site where scholarly inquiry and creativity meet the negotiation of self, culture, and society, while supporting the development of confidence and skill in writers. Using bricolage and grounded theory methodology, her research explores the efficacy of expressive writing (storytelling) for different purposes and in a number of contexts including an English classroom, a narrative writing psychotherapy group, and as a research methodology. This fall (2019), she will run writing workshops as part of her research at New College within an EAP context at the International Foundation Program where she is an instructor.

Michèle has lectured internationally on writing as it affects personal and academic development, and most recently has explored the relationship between writing and neuroscience. She has published her research in the Journal of Transformative Education and is a contributing editor of Teaching from the Thinking Heart: The Practice of Holistic Education and on the editorial team of The Palgrave Handbook of Race and the Arts in Education. Michèle has held the SSHRC and numerous other scholarships for her research.

Michèle holds an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. As a fiction writer, she has participated in conferences and residencies including Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and mostly recently at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.