The Institute for Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies is excited to introduce our newest jointly appointed faculty member, Dr. Rosita Scerbo. Dr. Scerbo is a new Assistant Professor of Afro-Latinx Studies at the Institute for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and an Affiliate Faculty Member in the Department of Africana Studies. Keep reading to learn more about Dr. Scerbo and her work.
Introduce yourself- What is your background? What is your area of specialization?
Hi everybody! My name is Rosita Scerbo (she/her/ella). I am a proud Latina, first-gen graduate, and daughter of immigrants. I am a new Assistant Professor of Afro-Latinx Studies at the Institute for Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and an Affiliate Faculty Member in the Department of Africana Studies. I received my Ph.D. in Latin American/Latinx Visual Studies from Arizona State University. I also recently completed a Professional Certificate in Afro-Latin American Studies at the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at the Hutchins Center of Harvard University. My research interests include Afro-Latinx/Diasporic Literature & Culture, the Black Woman’s Experience in the Hispanic World, Intersectional and Transnational Feminism, Queer and Decolonial Theories, Visual Culture, and Digital Humanities. I worked as an educator in different countries, including Buenos Aires (Argentina), Yucatán (Mexico), Sevilla (Spain), and Calabria (Italy). Through my teaching, mentoring, service, and research I advocate for ethnic minoritized groups and other underrepresented communities in the U.S. and Latin America. My latest publications and teaching endeavors focus on Intersectional and Transnational ARTivism and the Cultural Aesthetics of Black Latina Women.
What drew you to WGSS?
As a first-gen, multi-ethnic Latina, my journey to Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies has been deeply influenced by my personal background and the transformative power of education. WGSS, with its rich tapestry of interdisciplinarity, global perspectives, and commitment to social change, resonates with my own experiences and aspirations in profound ways. The interdisciplinary nature of WGSS was a magnetic force that drew me in. It offers a unique space where various academic disciplines converge to examine critical questions surrounding gender, sexuality, identity, and power dynamics. This holistic approach resonated with me on both a personal and academic level. As someone whose identity intersects with multiple facets, I believe that an interdisciplinary lens is essential to truly grasp the complexities of social issues and inequalities. WGSS, by bridging fields and fostering nuanced discussions, offers a platform where my own experiences can be understood within a broader context and contribute to transformative dialogues. However, what truly resonates with me about WGSS is its dedication to driving social change. This field isn't just about theoretical discourse—it's about harnessing knowledge to create tangible impact. The commitment to advocacy, activism, and community engagement aligns with my own aspirations to make a meaningful difference in the lives of marginalized communities. WGSS empowers us to address systemic inequalities, challenge oppressive structures, and foster environments that embrace diversity and inclusivity.
What research projects are you currently working on?
One of the most recent highlights of my academic journey was a research trip to Cali, Colombia, where I had the honor of serving as a visiting professor/scholar at the "Centro de Estudios Afrodiaspóricos, Universidad ICESI" (Center for Afrodiasporic Studies at ICESI University). This esteemed research center, specializing in Afro-Latin American Studies and the experiences of Black populations in Latin America, provided me with an invaluable opportunity to access an array of bibliographical materials, archives, and cultural events that were integral to the successful completion of my upcoming book project. The preliminary title of my forthcoming book is Gendered Aesthetics of Blackness: The Afrodescendant Woman in Latin American Diasporic Visual Art. In this ambitious endeavor, I closely examine a diverse array of artistic productions that center around women of African descent with identity connections to Latin America. This book unravels the intricate web of historical, social, and cultural influences that have shaped the creative expressions of Black Latina women across different regions of the Americas. By delving into the multi-faceted dimensions of their art, I seek to explore the profound relationship between socio-historical processes such as sovereignty and colonialism, and the resultant cultural productions that speak to and about Black Latina women. Currently, I am in the final stages of completing the last chapter of my book, and I am excited by the thought of bringing this transformative project to fruition. This research journey has been incredibly enlightening, allowing me to engage with an array of perspectives, voices, and experiences that are instrumental in reshaping our understanding of art, identity, and agency within the Afro-Latin American context. I look forward to sharing the insights gleaned from my research with the academic community and beyond, and I am excited to continue contributing to the important discourse surrounding the lived experiences and creative expressions of Black Latina women.
What do you hope to bring to the WGSS Institute?
Drawing from my diverse background, scholarship, and experiences, I hope to contribute to the WGSS Institute with a range of perspectives and initiatives that align with its mission of fostering inclusive education, transformative research, and social engagement. My unique personal and professional journey positions me to bring a multifaceted lens to the WGSS Institute. Through my personal experiences, I understand the importance of providing platforms for diverse voices and narratives to be heard. I am dedicated to creating spaces that empower students and scholars from all walks of life to engage in dialogues that challenge normative assumptions, amplify marginalized perspectives, and explore the intricate interplay of gender, race, and sexuality within a global context. Additionally, my interdisciplinary background in Afro-Latinx Culture, Black Studies, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies equips me to bridge gaps between various academic disciplines. I envision collaborative efforts that integrate diverse methodologies, perspectives, and expertise to tackle complex issues at the intersection of identity, power, and social change. Furthermore, I am excited to leverage my research experiences and engagement with Afro-Latin American Studies to enhance the international dimension of the WGSS Institute. I am eager to forge connections that enable the WGSS Institute to engage with diverse communities and institutions worldwide, enriching the academic discourse and enhancing the global impact of our work.
What are your favorite classes and lessons to teach to students? What do you see students get most excited about?
I find immense joy in guiding students through transformative learning experiences, and two of my favorite classes reflect my commitment to fostering inclusive education and empowering marginalized voices. In my class on Feminist and Queer Theories, I am inspired by the engagement and enthusiasm that students bring to the exploration of complex concepts. Witnessing students grapple with theoretical frameworks that challenge normative assumptions about gender and sexuality is truly rewarding. This class becomes a space for students to expand their intellectual horizons, question established paradigms, and embrace new perspectives. I love facilitating discussions that encourage students to critically examine how feminist and queer theories intersect with their own experiences and the broader socio-cultural landscape. Witnessing the lightbulb moments when students make connections between theory and their own lives is incredibly fulfilling. The excitement that emerges as students recognize the potential for these theories to reshape their understanding of the world is both inspiring and invigorating. Another class close to my heart is the Afro-Latinx Narratives course which centers on the voices of Afro-Latinas scholars, artists, and activists. This class offers a platform for students to engage with narratives that are often marginalized within mainstream discourse. It is deeply rewarding to witness the enthusiasm with which students immerse themselves in the stories, experiences, and perspectives of Afro-Latina women. The empowerment that comes from centering these voices resonates profoundly with students, and I am continually impressed by their commitment to understanding and advocating for underrepresented communities.
Can you tell me more about the types of projects you have your students work on? What skillsets are they developing?
Certainly. I believe in creating learning experiences that not only engage students intellectually but also equip them with practical skills that are applicable beyond the classroom. In my classes, I design a variety of projects that cater to different learning styles, foster critical thinking, and encourage students to engage deeply with course materials. Here are some examples of the types of projects I incorporate and the skillsets they help develop:
-Critical Reflection Journals: These journals require students to engage with course readings, class discussions, and their own experiences. They reflect on how the content relates to their own lives, challenge their preconceptions, and articulate personal growth.
-Visual and Creative Assignments: Incorporating creative assignments, such as creating visual representations, art projects, digital humanities projects, or multimedia presentations, allows students to engage with the material in innovative ways.
-Community Engagement and Advocacy Projects: In courses centered on social change and activism, I often assign projects encouraging students to engage with their communities and advocate for important issues. This might involve organizing events, workshops, or awareness campaigns. These projects help students develop leadership skills, community engagement, and a sense of agency to make positive change.
-Interviews or Oral Histories: These are assignments that involve conducting interviews or collecting oral histories to empower students to engage with real people and stories. They develop interpersonal skills, active listening, empathy, and the ability to analyze and synthesize oral narratives into academic contexts.
Are you working on any new courses or lectures that you’re particularly excited about?
Absolutely. I am thrilled to share that I am currently developing a new course that holds immense significance in the current socio-political climate. The course is titled #Black Lives Matter Across Latin America and the Caribbean, and it will be offered through the Honor College in the upcoming fall semester. This course is particularly close to my heart as it delves into a critical and timely conversation surrounding racial dynamics, activism, and social justice within Latin America and the Caribbean. With the global impact of movements like #BlackLivesMatter, there is an urgent need to explore how similar issues manifest within these regions, which often grapple with their own histories of colonialism, slavery, and systemic inequalities. Throughout the course, students will comprehensively explore the Black experience in Latin America and the Caribbean, analyzing historical legacies, contemporary struggles, and the transformative power of grassroots movements. We will examine how social hierarchies intersect with broader socio-political dynamics, affecting marginalized communities and their quest for justice and equality. In addition to traditional lectures and readings, the course will incorporate various engaging elements such as guest speakers, multimedia resources, and interactive projects that encourage students to critically engage with the subject matter.
Why would you encourage someone to major in WGSS?
What I always tell my students and prospective students is that Majors in WGSS embark on a transformative educational journey that not only enriches their understanding of the world but equips them with invaluable skills and perspectives that are highly relevant in today's complex society. If you're considering a major in WGSS, here are some compelling reasons why I would wholeheartedly encourage you to take this path: As you know, WGSS is inherently interdisciplinary, offering a unique opportunity to engage with a diverse range of fields such as sociology, anthropology, history, literature, art, media, psychology, and more. This holistic approach enables you to examine complex issues from multiple angles, fostering a well-rounded understanding of how gender, sexuality, race, and identity intersect in our world. You'll learn to question assumptions, challenge conventional wisdom, and critically analyze power dynamics, which are skills that are essential in any field or profession. If you are passionate about making a positive impact on society, WGSS provides the tools and knowledge to engage in meaningful advocacy work. By understanding the historical, cultural, and systemic factors that contribute to inequality, you'll be better equipped to advocate for social justice and contribute to positive change. WGSS majors develop strong written and verbal communication skills by articulating complex ideas, engaging in discussions, and presenting their findings. Moreover, the exploration of gender, sexuality, and identity often leads to profound self-discovery and personal growth. WGSS empowers individuals to reflect on their own experiences, values, and beliefs, leading to a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them. The truth is that a WGSS major prepares you for a wide range of career paths. The critical thinking, research, communication, and advocacy skills you develop are highly transferable and sought after in fields such as law, education, social work, public policy, nonprofit organizations, and more. These are just some examples. I can go on for hours so please don't hesitate to reach out if you are interested in discussing this further!
What are some other interests and hobbies do you have outside of work?
Outside of my academic pursuits, I am fortunate to have a diverse range of interests and hobbies that fuel my creativity, personal growth, and sense of community. One of my passions lies in Caribbean dances, such as salsa, bachata, and merengue, which allow me to connect with the rich cultural heritage of the region while staying physically active. Another outlet for my creativity is making art, particularly painting. Whether it's on canvas, paper, or other surfaces, painting allows me to express myself visually and explore different forms of self-expression. In addition to dancing and painting, I have a deep appreciation for nature and the outdoors. Hiking is one of my favorite ways to connect with the environment and the state of Georgia is perfect for it! As a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, I am also committed to service work that aligns with the organization's principles and values. Engaging in community service projects, volunteering, and collaborating with fellow members to create positive change is not only rewarding but also connects me to a larger network of individuals who are dedicated to making a difference in the world.
Anything else you want to share?
I want to emphasize the importance of embracing curiosity and continuous learning throughout life. The journey of exploration and education doesn't have to be confined to formal academic settings—it can extend to every facet of our lives. Furthermore, I encourage students to recognize the power of connections and relationships. Our interactions with others, whether they are colleagues, friends, professors, mentors, or community members, play a vital role in shaping our experiences and supporting our growth. Lastly, I want to remind students that everyone’s journey is unique, and it's important to honor and celebrate your own path. Embrace your passions, challenges, and accomplishments with authenticity and self-compassion. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns or if you have a creative idea you would like to discuss and come see me at 25 Park Place suite 2208!