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Carla Martin

Ph.D. in African Studies, with a primary field in Anthropology

Class of 2012

Carla D. Martin is a Harvard College Fellow in the Department of African and African American Studies. A social anthropologist with interdisciplinary interests that include history, ethnomusicology, and linguistics, she received her Ph.D. in African and African American Studies from Harvard University in 2012. Her current research projects focus on language, music, and digital media in the former Portuguese colonies and the politics of cacao and chocolate in Africa and North America.

Martin's doctoral dissertation, entitled "Sounding Creole: The Politics of Cape Verdean Language, Music, and Diaspora," examines the longstanding problem of language inequality in Cape Verde and its large diaspora and how scholars and creative artists have both perpetuated and challenged this inequality. Historical and ethnographic research charts the elements of language, race, gender, and social class expressed through music and the arts into the sociopolitical world of which they are a part and analysis probes the ongoing, fruitful interventions and subversions made by Cape Verdean performers in debates surrounding the meaning of womanhood, "Africanness," and "Creoleness."

During the fall semester of 2012, Martin will teach a course titled "From Cesaria Evora to Dama do Bling: Language, Music, and Digital Media in the Former Portuguese Colonies." Students will, among other things, co-curate an online exhibition of multimedia materials using the storytelling platform:  In the spring semester of 2013, she will teach a sophomore tutorial focusing on the history and ethnography of African and African diaspora voluntary immigrant groups to North America (dubbed "the other African Americans"), in which students will design and carry out ethnographic and social engagement projects, and a course titled "Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food" that will challenge students to develop innovative, interdisciplinary solutions to the ethical problems surrounding the chocolate we eat today.

Other projects this year include writing on the politics of citation in Creole language studies and the importance of digital curation to the future of social science inquiry into Lusophone African music, conducting ethnographic and archival research on the ethics of chocolate, blogging on her chocolate research website at Bittersweet Notes, and developing web content for her academic-social engagement initiative on Cape Verdean studies (

Martin's research and writing brings together theory and methodology from diverse fields to investigate language inequality, music creation and performance, Creole studies, food studies, race, gender, and sexuality, popular culture and media, the politics of representation, anthropological ethics, education, digital humanities, and applied scholarship. Her regional interests include Africa, especially Cape Verde and formerly Portuguese Africa, the Lusophone world, the African diaspora, North America, and South Asia.

For several years, she has worked with Cape Verdean communities in Africa, Europe, and the United States on a variety of ethnographic and archival research and social engagement projects. Her writing, editing, and translation work has been published in The Root, Transition Magazine, Sodade Magazine, and The Savannah Review (forthcoming). She has taught extensively in the fields of African and African American Studies, social anthropology, and ethnomusicology, and has received numerous awards in recognition of excellence in teaching. She received an A.M. in Anthropology in 2007 and an A.B. in Anthropology in 2003, both from Harvard University.