Seanna Viechweg ’19 Earns Fulbright Award
The English major from the Bronx will return to Barbados, site of her semester abroad, to research the relationship between Caribbean science fiction and the islands’ history at the University of West Indies, Cave Hill.
Seanna Viechweg ’19 is drawn to the Caribbean. The English major developed an interest in the literature of the islands in Haverford classes with Associate Professor Asali Solomon, and moved to Barbados for a semester during her junior year to advance her studies at the University of West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill. Next year, she will return to the place that has captured her heart and imagination thanks to a Fulbright U.S. Student Study Award.
Starting in September, Viechweg will be back at UWI—the first Ford Fulbright awardee to the Caribbean—to study the significance of Caribbean science fiction in a postcolonial context.
“Considering that the Caribbean’s history has been altered by slavery, I believe Caribbean science fiction writers allow readers to reimagine the Caribbean’s past and identity independent of colonialism,” she said. “Because science fiction as a field can provide alternatives to the master narratives in history, my research will engage with the following question: how can Caribbean science fiction revisit the Caribbean’s past, as well as go beyond the limits of our current understandings of Caribbean culture and identity?”
Her work will also include researching the growing number of Caribbean science fiction writers with local author Karen Lord and working with UWI professors to develop a new Black science fiction course.
This work is a natural outgrowth of her academic journey at Haverford, which culminated in a senior thesis on science fiction tropes in Octavia Butler’s Kindred. But it is also deeply personal for Viechweg, a Bronx native who is the daughter of West Indian parents.
“Part of applying to the Fulbright in Barbados was a form of homage to my parents whose Caribbean identity and history helped inspire my passion towards academia, as well as my desire to diversify and decolonize English curriculum,” she said. “Hearing my parents’ enthusiasm at the news of performing research in Barbados complimented my initial feelings of happiness with immense pride.”
On campus Viechweg, who is minoring in education, works as a Writing Center peer tutor, a first step on a career path to becoming an educator. The aspiring English literature professor eventually plans to apply to Ph.D. programs, but eager to begin teaching, she has already reached out to the National Cultural Foundation in Barbados and UWI about partnering to start all-ages community writing clinics during her Fulbright year. These clinics will be but one way that she will immerse herself in the local community.
“I have always identified strongly with being Caribbean, but never understood what being Caribbean truly meant as someone who was born and raised in America,” she said. “Therefore, when applying for the Fulbright, I viewed going back to Barbados as a form of academic and personal growth—where I want to further ground myself in the field of Caribbean literature, as well as my West Indian roots.”