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Department of Ethnic Studies


Sakina Hughes headshot

Sakina Hughes headshot

Associate Professor Sakina Hughes Named 2023-2024 U.S. Fulbright Scholar

By Mikaela Street ’24 and Lisa Robinson

Santa Clara University associate professor of Ethnic Studies Sakina Hughes, Ph.D., was named a 2023-2024 U.S. Fulbright Scholar by the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. The prestigious award will fund 10 months of research in South Africa for her project, “‘Dream With Your Eyes Wide Open’: Uplift Narratives, Black Excellence and the Cost of Being ‘Born Free’.”

“I am thrilled to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Hughes on her well-deserved recognition as a Fulbright Scholar,” said Daniel Press, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Her dedication to academic achievement and cross-cultural understanding is a testament to the transformative power of education. We are proud to have her represent the College of Arts and Sciences on the global stage and confident that she will continue to inspire others through her intellectual curiosity and commitment to making a positive impact on the world.”

Fulbright Scholar Awards are prestigious and competitive fellowships that provide unique opportunities for scholars to teach and conduct research abroad. Fulbright scholars also play a critical role in U.S. public diplomacy, establishing long-term relationships between people and nations. Independent research and participant surveys confirm that Fulbright exchange experiences lead to greater international co-publication, continued international exchange, and stronger cross-cultural communication skills.

“Receiving this Fulbright Scholar award will allow me to continue researching the lived experiences of middle and upper class Black South African girls and women as they’ve entered into traditionally white schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces on their way to higher socioeconomic status, especially in a post-apartheid era,” Hughes said. “Through archival research, hearing women’s histories firsthand, and home stays, I want to uncover what it means for a Black woman to be ‘free’ in a modern South African multiracial democracy in order to identify and suggest meaningful solutions that nurture and uplift the whole person–not just education or economic status.”

Hughes’ research on this topic began in summer 2023 after she received a Writing Fellowship from the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study. The fellowship was an opportunity to begin her research, to write creatively, including two poems selected for publication in New Contrast, a South African literary journal, and to explore what true equality and progress meant in multiracial democracies and who was in charge of defining success.

Upon her return, Hughes hopes to share her project at conferences such as the African Studies Association (ASA), the American Historical Association (AHA), and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). A compilation of her studies will be developed into a book comparing the born-free generations in South Africa with the post-civil rights generations in the United States. In addition to the book, she's in the process of hosting and collecting video recordings of sharing circles for people to tell their stories and experiences with being a Black woman in predominantly white spaces in South Africa. She plans to make a documentary from her video footage showcasing the oral history and lives of the participants.


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