South African poet and professor Gabeba Baderoon recently received a prestigious Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellowship for the 2024-25 academic year.

Founded five years ago, the Harvard Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program offers scholars in the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and arts—as well as writers, journalists, and other professionals—a chance to pursue ambitious projects for a full year in an interdisciplinary setting at Harvard. This year, Radcliffe accepted just 3.3 percent of applicants.

Baderoon is an associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies, of African studies and of comparative literature at Penn State University. She is the 2005 recipient of the Daimler Chrysler Award for South African Poetry. Her poetry collections include The Dream in the Next Body (2005), The Museum of Ordinary Life (2005), Cinnamon (2009), The History of Intimacy (2018), and more.

Baderoon said she was speechless when she heard about the news of her acceptance into the fellowship program. Although she had been rejected for the six other fellowships she applied for, she reflected that “the process of trying and failing to receive them was also an illuminating experience.”

As both a poet and a scholar, Baderoon will use the fellowship to work on “Autobiography of Sand: Relief Map of a Drifting Mind,” a memoir in verse detailing her experience with a concussion:

Concussion is a puzzling and intractable illness, which therefore poses an interesting representational challenge. To write about it, I am drawing on a diverse archive that includes research on traumatic brain injury, memoirs of illness, colonial diaries of the Cape, images of an abandoned landscape, personal medical records and the creative journals I could not write for three years after my concussion.

Congrats to Baderoon on acquiring this prestigious fellowship!