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English professor receives Fulbright award to teach, conduct research in Romania

As part of her Fulbright, Cristina Stanciu will work on a book project, “Archives of Memory and Survival: Indigenous Representation in Residential School Literature and Film.”

Stanciu. Photo by Kevin Morley, University Relations.
Stanciu. Photo by Kevin Morley, University Relations.

Cristina Stanciu, Ph.D., an English professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has received a prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar award to teach in Romania for one year and to conduct research for a new book manuscript, “Archives of Memory and Survival: Indigenous Representation in Residential School Literature and Film.”

Stanciu, an associate professor in the Department of English in the College of Humanities and Sciences, is one of 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research and provide their expertise abroad during the 2019-20 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government that aims to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

As part of the award, Stanciu will teach courses in Indigenous and multiethnic U.S. literature and culture at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in the city of Iasi. Additionally, she will guest edit two peer-reviewed journal special issues on race and ethnicity, published by the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University Press. During her time as a Fulbright scholar in Romania, Stanciu also will give lectures at several Romanian and European universities.

“I was born in Romania and studied at this university for my B.A. and M.A. degrees 20 years ago, so going back for the Fulbright award is both intellectually and emotionally rewarding,” she said.

Stanciu’s new book project, “Archives of Memory and Survival,” draws primarily on the work of Native American and Indigenous authors writing in the aftermath of their boarding or residential school education in four settler colonial states: Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

The book examines representations of the residential school experience as sites of both solidifying and contesting the nationalist project of forced assimilation through education, thus re-centering our understanding of the colonial project of structural violence and inequality by reclaiming survivor stories, she said.

“One of the goals of this project is [to] show how the survivors’ stories of defiance and resistance unsettle the silences imposed by colonial narratives and policies in the U.S. and three other settler nations,” she said. The book builds on recent work in global Indigenous studies to reclaim not only Indigenous rhetorical and visual sovereignty, but also to reshape the story of survival, which has been told from a settler colonial perspective for too long, she said.

“Having lived the first 14 years of my life during the Communist regime’s most pernicious years under the [Nicolae] Ceausescu dictatorship — food shortage, poverty and a repressive political regime — I am also interested in how Romanian scholars, writers and cultural critics are recovering the memory of those years as they continue to examine the legacy of an oppressive system through recovered archives and testimonies,” she said.

“Sharing my work in progress with Romanian colleagues engaged in similar work in memory studies and archival recovery documenting repressive institutions (like totalitarianism) will be instrumental in shaping this new research and in strengthening its comparative global focus. In turn, I am excited to bring home this knowledge and share it with my home institution and colleagues across the U.S. and the world,” she said.