Renée Alexander CraftSteering Committee Chair, Faculty of Color and Indigenous Faculty Group
Renée Alexander Craft is a professor and director of outreach and community engagement in the communication department.
For over twenty years, Alexander Craft’s research and creative projects have centered on an Afro-Latin community located in the small coastal town of Portobelo, Panama who call themselves and their carnival performance tradition “Congo.” She has completed a manuscript, digital humanities project, and novel that reflect this focus. The first is an ethnographic monograph titled When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in 20th Century Panama, which was awarded the 2017 American Society of Theatre Research Errol Hill Award in recognition of outstanding scholarship in African American theatre, drama, and/or performance studies.
The second project, titled Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation (digitalportobelo.org), is an interactive online collection of ethnographic interviews, photos, videos, artwork, and archival material that illuminate the rich culture and history of Portobelo, Panama. Digital Portobelo was initiated through an inaugural 2013-2014 UNC Digital Innovations Lab/Institute for the Arts and Humanities Fellowship and supported by an inaugural 2016 Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship. The third is a novel titled The Part of Me That’s Mine, which was inspired by her Portobelo-based research as well as her experiences growing up in a Black funeral home family in North Carolina. The Part of Me That’s Mine is represented by Beth Marshea, owner and lead agent of The Ladderbird Literary Agency.
In addition to these Portobelo-centered projects, Alexander Craft co-edited The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performancewith Kathy A. Perkins, Sandra L. Richards, and Thomas F. DeFrantz. She is currently working on an edited manuscript and digital humanities project titled “Patacones, Paint Brushes, and Power: Historicizing an African Diaspora Arts Collective at the Crossroads of the Americas.”