Tracy Denean Sharpley-Whiting, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies and French, is Vanderbilt’s winner of the 2020 Southeastern Conference Faculty Achievement Award.
The awards, now in their ninth year, recognize faculty members from each of the 14 Southeastern Conference universities who have excelled in teaching—particularly at the undergraduate level—and research.
“As a prolific and renowned scholar, Professor Sharpley-Whiting has distinguished herself as a leading international authority on race and gender in Europe, the French Atlantic world and comparative black cultural movements,” said Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente. “She is a dedicated member of the Vanderbilt community, multi-faceted intellectual and sought-after commentator whose interdisciplinary and transnational work influences our university, academia and the public domain.”
Sharpley-Whiting is currently researching Men I’d Like to Have Known, a biographical study of four African diasporic figures across French historical movements.
Her extensive body of published work includes four single-authored monographs in leading presses for her fields: Bricktop’s Paris: African American Women Expatriates in Jazz-Age Paris and The Autobiography of Ada Bricktop Smith, or Miss Baker Regrets (SUNY Press, 2015); Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Young Black Women, Hip Hop and the New Gender Politics (New York University Press, 2007); Negritude Women (University of Minnesota Press, 2002); and Black Venus: Sexualized Savages, Primal Fears, and Primitive Narratives in French (Duke University Press, 1999).
She has also edited volumes on topics as varied as Barack Obama, Frantz Fanon, black feminism and black France. Several of these books are critical examinations of the scholarship in an area and are widely used in graduate and undergraduate classrooms and thus influence generations of students. Most notable among them is the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, a foundational book in courses on literary criticism, for which she serves as a lead editor. She is also editor of the journal Palimpsest.
She is a sought-after commentator for media interviews on her scholarship and served as an expert testimony witness before congressional hearings on stereotypes and degrading images of women.
Sharpley-Whiting, chair of the African American and Diaspora Studies Department, has played a large role in building the department’s curriculum, faculty and majors. She has taught a wide variety of undergraduate courses at Vanderbilt, consistently creating new courses on topics as varied as “Black Paris – Paris Noir: The African Diaspora and the City of Light,” “Slavery and Public Memory,” “Mystery, Murder, and Mayhem in Black Detective Fiction: Race, Mixed Race, and ‘Passing,’” and “Black Diaspora Women Writers.”
“Tracy is a prominent scholar and much-admired teacher who is advancing critical conversations on race, gender and culture,” said John Geer, Ginny and Conner Searcy Dean of the College of Arts and Science. “I am delighted for her recognition and grateful for Tracy’s significant contributions to the College of Arts and Science, the university and her field.”
On campus, she is chair of the editorial committee of Vanderbilt University Press and has served on many other committees and boards, including the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and executive committee of the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities. She has also served on the executive council of the Modern Language Association.
Her achievements are recognized both nationally and internationally, and she is the recipient of several awards, grants and fellowships, including The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellowship in Italy and the Camargo Foundation Fellowship in France.
The SEC Faculty Achievement Award winner for each of the 14 institutions receives a $5,000 honorarium. These awards are part of SECU, the academic initiative of the Southeastern Conference.