Rachel Lauren Willis

Rachel Willis
Cohort Year: 2021
Research Interests: Caribbean/Black Atlantic Literatures | African-American Literature | Queer Studies | Black Feminism | Black Francophone Studies | Anti-Racist Pedagogy
Education: BA, University of Michigan, 2019; MA, University of Michigan, 2020


I am interested in thinking about the role of homosocial/homoerotic intimacy in black women’s fiction within the Caribbean and North America. These intimacies include female horoeroticism, queer/sapphic romance, friendship, and sisterhood, as well as representations of mothers and daughters, teachers and pupils, witches/conjurewomen and their apprentices, and intimacies that do not fit neatly into any of these categories. Outside of my research, I am interested in black feminist pedagogy in the classroom, and I have participated in a number of antiracist pedagogy initiatives.

I completed my B.A. with highest honors in French & Francophone Studies and my M.A. in Transcultural Studies at the University of Michigan--Ann Arbor. My undergraduate thesis, entitled “Au carrefour de la liberté: les femmes noires francophones écrivant l’identité," was an analysis of anticolonial themes in short stories written by black women in (post)colonial francophone Africa and the Caribbean. While completing my Master’s program, I curated an exhibit for the University of Michigan Department of Afro-American and African Studies’ 50th anniversary gallery entitled “Il faut se souvenir, we must not forget: memorializing slavery in Detroit and Martinique.” At the University of Chicago, I am part of the Neubauer Family Doctoral Fellows 2021-2022 entering cohort, and am working towards a certificate in Gender and Sexuality Studies.