Theophilus Okunlola and Nneoma Onyinye Onwuegbuchi awarded Ebrahim Hussein Fellowship

Ph.D. students Theophilus Okunlola and Nneoma Onyinye Onwuegbuchi have both been selected as recipients of the Ebrahim Hussein Fellowship.


Theophilus Okunlola, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will use the award to fund his dissertation fieldwork in Nigeria and England between May 2023 and November 2023. Theo’s dissertation, entitled “Disability in Africa: Expressive Cultures, Local and Global Politics, and Economies,” explores the political, economic, and cultural representations of the production and discourses of disability in Africa. To fulfill the objectives of his research, Theo intends to visit archives and museums in Nigeria and England to collect sources and different cultural materials regarding disability and colonial pathologization of disabling dieases in Nigeria. Completing the fieldwork research in November 2023 will allow him to write two chapters of his dissertation, and subsequently complete his dissertation by Fall 2024.


Nneoma Onyinye Onwuegbuchi, a Ph.D. student in the Department of African Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, will use the Ebrahim Hussein Fellowship Award to research transgender social media influencers in Nigeria in the Summer of 2023. Her proposed project, which has also been awarded the 2022 Duberman-Zal Award, is entitled “‘Male Barbies’: Trans-Identity, Fashion Politics, and Social Media in Africa,” and it will be the first study to focus on how African expressive cultures, specifically fashion rituals—such as clothing practices and beauty rituals—shape transgender identities in social media spaces in West Africa (i.e., Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana). The project will highlight how the bodily practices of transwomen influencers are essential to ongoing conversations about global capital and bodily or aesthetic labor. Nneoma’s work will show how transgender body politics in Africa shapes globalization, neoliberalism, and consumerism through their social media capitalism.


The Ebrahim Hussein fellowship was made possible by the Ebrahim Hussein Endowment for Research in African Literature. It was established in the College of Letters & Science in 2003, thanks to the generosity of Robert M. Philipson (Ph.D. 1989). The award enables a full-time graduate student in L&S to carry out research on African literature in Africa and/or archives outside of the United States. The research must lead to a Ph.D. dissertation, an MA Thesis, or a publishable-quality paper.