Funding for Professorships in New Department

A $1.5 million Mellon Foundation grant will support faculty and advance the study of race, colonialism, and diaspora

members of the RCD department at Tufts

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded $1.5 million to the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts to hire faculty members in the newly established Department of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora (RCD), an interdisciplinary department organized around the historic and contemporary study of colonialism and race in shaping societies and cultures in the United States and the world.

The grant will be used over four years to hire three new faculty positions who are pursuing interdisciplinary studies in the humanities and social sciences. Tufts will also hire an additional senior professor to complement the professorships supported by the Mellon Foundation. These new scholars will join several tenured faculty members who have worked to establish the RCD Department from the current RCD Consortium, in existence since 2014.

The funding reflects an effort to modernize and diversify the curriculum of the School of Arts and Sciences with an inclusive and interdisciplinary model that better meets the cultural and social challenges of the twenty-first century.

“This generous support from the Mellon Foundation will help Tufts address some of the most significant intellectual and cultural issues of our time while accelerating our ongoing efforts to foster an inclusive university culture,” said Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco. “Tufts is fully committed to these goals and to promoting collaborations, research, and pedagogies that will ultimately influence students and citizens around this important work.”

The RCD Department was formally established by vote of the Board of Trustees in November 2018, with an official launch date of July 1, 2019. This followed months of deliberation and planning that involved faculty leaders and a large group of students from the RCD Consortium, as well as input from deans, the Office of the Provost, and the Office of the President.

Since its creation, the RCD Consortium has had a significant impact both in and beyond the classroom through its curriculum and large-scale co-curricular programs. RCD scholars have developed two Andrew W. Mellon Sawyer Seminars: Comparative Global Humanities in 2016-2017 and Defamiliarizing the Family in 2019-2020, which have resulted in collaborations with faculty and researchers at institutions around the world.

More recently, the RCD organized a high-profile seminar series that attracted more than 200 students, faculty, and staff. It also collaborated on a series of lunches that engaged Tufts’ six race, ethnicity, and gender student centers and co-sponsored an event to discuss the theme “Facing Down Hate, Exclusion, and Extremism: Civic Engagement and Resiliency.”

Kris Manjapra, an associate professor of history and director of the RCD Consortium, serves as the inaugural chair of the RCD Department. The collaborating group of interdisciplinary founding faculty includes Amahl Bishara (Anthropology), Heather Curtis (Religion), Kendra Field (History), Adlai Murdoch (Romance Studies), Kamran Rastegar (International Literary and Visual Studies), and Adriana Zavala (Art History).

Manjapra said the new department will offer rigorous scholarly curricula on the comparative study of race and empire, transnational migrations, histories of colonialism and decolonization, struggles for social justice, and movements for cultural sovereignty, with attention to class, gender, and other kinds of social inequality. 

“The new RCD Department is forged from extensive and long-term collaboration,” said Manjapra. “It emerges as a peerless interdisciplinary unit for teaching and research on themes of race, colonialism, and diaspora, and it will serve Tufts for generations.”

The Mellon Foundation’s grant will supplement a significant investment of internal resources by the School of Arts and Sciences. The School of Arts and Sciences will absorb the cost of these faculty members into its budget after the Mellon Foundation grant expires in four years. In addition, Tufts will make funds available to cover additional salary needs, yearly research allowances, and moving and start-up costs for the new faculty members.

Kalimah Knight can be reached at

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