Kelley Cordova, who recently completed her Ph.D. in the Department of French at the University of Virginia, will research French literature featuring migrant populations in Paris with a Fulbright Postdoctoral Award in the Social Sciences.
The recipient of a 2023 All-University Graduate Teaching Award, Cordova works at the intersection of literature and the social sciences, and specifically with works of historical, sociological and geographical inquiry.
The Warrenton native will begin her project in September with Gisèle Sapiro’s research unit with the Centre Européen de Sociologie et de Science Politique at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (European Center of Sociology and Political Science at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences).
“The migrant figure has become omnipresent in literature written in French in recent years, and this has led to talks of a ‘migrant genre’ and a ‘migrant canon’ in French literature,” Cordova said. “However, the question on who the ‘migrant’ figure is gets to the very heart of my project. Most often these texts feature immigrant populations coming to France, but within this population are many different types of immigration: those from former French colonies, those from other parts of the world, chosen immigration, forced immigration due to political unrest or exile, immigration of intellectuals and professionals, and so on.”
Cordova’s project examines the varied stakes of these narratives, such as authors writing from positions that are arguably ‘central,’ even positions of privilege, while other authors have experienced immigration and/or exile themselves, and/or are authors from former colonies.
“My project argues that lumping together this influx of texts is problematic and that narratives termed ‘migrant’ literature actually merit a closer study in order to decipher what I hypothesize are potentially two or more different genres,” she said.
Cordova’s project was inspired by her time working with Sapiro and her colleagues and students during a fellowship year in 2021 and 2022 while completing dissertation research. This experience prompted her to ask new questions of the literary sphere and literary production in French.
“I applied for this Fulbright award to further explore this interdisciplinary inquiry, while continuing to foster the longstanding affiliation among scholars from UVA and the [School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences],” Cordova said.
Cordova will present her research in Sapiro’s seminar and doctoral workshop, and in conferences affiliated with the center and the School of Advanced Studies.
“I will simultaneously be working on several article publications, related to what I term are ‘problematic publications’ and my dissertation research, as well as a forthcoming book project,” Cordova said.
“I am exceedingly grateful to the Franco-American Fulbright Commission for this singular opportunity to further develop my research skills, scholarly profile and professional network within a global context,” Cordova said. “I anticipate that it will lead to enriching, interdisciplinary discussions on an international scale, and inform my future career in higher education.”
Cordova is currently in Lyon, France, where she is teaching with the UVA French department’s UVA in Lyon program and UVA’s Global Internships program. Cordova said her goal is to secure a position with an American university or college to develop interdisciplinary, inquiry-based courses that encourage French study in a variety of fields.
“On a personal level, I very much look forward to the many opportunities for cultural exchange my year in Paris will afford,” Cordova said.