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Whitted wins university’s top research award

Dr. Qiana Whitted has won the University of South Carolina’s 2022 Russell Research Award for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Recognition for outstanding contributions to her fields

Dr. Qiana Whitted of the Department of English has won the University of South Carolina’s 2022 Russell Research Award for the Humanities and Social Sciences. Given annually by the Office of the Provost—one in math and the hard sciences, one in the humanities and social sciences—the Russell Research Award is the most prestigious prize for research and scholarship at the University.

Whitted earned this award with a body of scholarship that’s remarkable for its depth, its breadth, its originality, and its ever-widening influence. She has been contributing to the field of African American literature and culture since arriving at the university in 2003. Her first book—A God of Justice? The Problem of Evil in Twentieth-Century Black Literature (2009)—provided a transformative reading of how even apparently “secular” Black authors considered questions of social justice inseparable from those of theological justice. The book pays special attention to the generative force of religious doubt in the African American tradition, as well as to the mourning bench as a site where negative affective intensities are transmuted for socially transformative (positive) ends. A God of Justice? has influenced a generation of scholars and helped to put Dr. Whitted on the map.

Since publishing that book, Whitted has focused her attention and her erudition on a different scholarly area: the burgeoning field of Comics Studies. This journey began with her co-editorship of a groundbreaking anthology of scholarly essays, Comics and the U.S. South (2012); it continued with a series of important articles and book chapters that set a new standard for scholarship on race and comics; and it reaches new heights with the publication of Dr. Whitted’s most recent book, EC Comics: Race, Shock, and Social Protest (2019). This is a field-defining work about the social-issue comics or “preachies” published for years by the Entertaining Comics Group. Whitted shows how these preachies employ the shock aesthetic characteristic of EC’s more famous, luridly violent tales (think: Tales of the Crypt), while marshaling that aesthetic for expressly antiracist and politically progressive purposes. In 2020, this book was recognized with the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Academic/Scholarly Work, the most prestigious award in comics studies.

Professor Whitted’s influence in her field extends to the major role she has played in cultivating the work of other scholars. In the last seven years she has served as a member of four different national and international editorial advisory boards, on the executive committees of three different scholarly organizations, and as Chair of another. Most significantly, after a two-year term as Associate Editor, Whitted has since 2018 been the Editor of Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society. In this capacity, she has contributed directly to the field’s recent flowering while tirelessly mentoring emerging scholars in the field.

Whitted’s current book project is a collection of essays entitled Desegregating Comics: Debating Blackness in Early American Comics. It promises to be another major contribution to both comics and African American cultural studies. But perhaps coolest of all, Dr. Whitted was recently invited to write the Introduction to the Penguin Classics reissue of Black Panther (June 2022). That she was asked to write this piece, and hence to frame conceptions of an enormously popular and important work to an exceptionally large audience, not only speaks to her stature in the field of comics studies. It is also thoroughly in keeping with Whitted’s long-standing commitment to public-facing scholarship, as evidenced in the variety and number of talks, podcasts, interviews, and writings she has done for non-academic audiences (including an invited lecture at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture).

Congratulations Dr. Whitted!

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