Areas of ExpertiseCultural Studies, Media Studies, Critical Race Theory, African Diaspora Studies, Black Feminism, Caribbean Studies, and Postcolonial Studies.
PhD - University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Mass Communication)
Graduate Certificate - University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Gender Studies)
BA - City University of New York (Media Communication)
Dr. Kamille Gentles-Peart is an Associate Professor of Communication and Media Studies, and Chair of the Department Communication, Graphic Design, and Web Development at Roger Williams University. She holds a PhD. in Mass Communication and a Graduate Certificate in Gender Studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Dr. Gentles-Peart is an effective and engaged educator with almost 15 years of experience in undergraduate education in both small, highly selective liberal arts universities and large, research-centered institutions. She has developed and taught critical communication courses at both the introductory and advanced levels of the communication curriculum. Her courses taught include Introduction to Communication Studies, Media, Culture and Society, Mass Communication Theory and Criticism, International Communication, Global Audience Studies, and Introduction to Gender Studies.
Dr. Gentles-Peart is an interdisciplinary cultural scholar whose scholarship engages and contributes to critical discourses of race, gender, and the African diaspora. Her work interrogates the manifold ways in which power manifests itself in the lived realities of Black women and how Black women make meaning in the context of race and gender hegemonies. Her research specifically focuses on Black Caribbean immigrant women in the U.S. and their negotiations of U.S. systems of power. In this way, her work spans the disciplines of Black Feminism, Postcolonial Studies, Caribbean Studies, and Cultural Studies. She has published extensively in this area, including an edited volume (Re-Constructing Place and Space: Media, Power, and Identity in the Constitution of Caribbean Diasporas, 2012), journal articles (such as “West Indian Women, Difference and Cultural Citizenship in the U.S.” [Wadabagei: A Journal of the Caribbean and Its Global Diasporas] and “‘Fiwi TV:’ Ethnic Media and the West Indian Diaspora” [International Journal of Cultural Studies], and book chapters (such as “Barriers to Being Heard in a Majority Institution” [in Still Searching for Our Mothers’ Gardens]).
Dr. Gentles-Peart’s current research agenda addresses questions of racialized body politics. She explores cultural beauty ideals and body aesthetics, their implications for how Black women are positioned in the U.S., and the complexities of the meaning-making processes of Black women around body politics. These themes are taken up in her monograph, Romance With Voluptuousness: Caribbean Women and Thick Bodies in the U.S. (University of Nebraska Press, 2016) that looks at the lived realities and strategic negotiations of Black Caribbean women that uphold voluptuous body ideals in the U.S. Her recent scholarship also contributes to critical nation branding as she addresses questions of coloniality, neocolonialism, and racism in the construction of Jamaica’s national identity and image. She is the co-editor (with Dr. Hume Johnson, Roger Williams University) of the forthcoming volume Brand Jamaica: Reimagining Jamaica’s National Image and Identity (University of Nebraska Press). She is also author of a chapter in the volume, “Women of Paradise: Tourism Marketing and the Lived Realities of Jamaican Women Abroad”, in which she illustrates the complex implications of Jamaica’s “brand” on Jamaican Black women living in the U.S.
Dr. Gentles-Peart has presented her work at various major academic conferences nationally and globally, including the National Women’s Studies Association, National Communication Association, Caribbean Studies Association, and the Association for Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora. Her scholarship has earned her several awards recognitions. For example, her co-edited book (Re-Constructing Place and Space: Media, Power, and Identity in the Constitution of Caribbean Diasporas) was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Book Award from the African American Communication and Culture Division of the National Communication Association of the U.S. Her paper, “West Indian Women, Difference and Cultural Citizenship in the U.S.”, was selected for publication in a Special Issue of the Wadabagei journal honoring Dr. Roy Simon Bryce La Porte, a pioneer in Caribbean immigrant studies. In 2015, Dr. Gentles-Peart was added to the Fulbright Specialist Roster where her scholarship and work has earned her the distinction of being an expert in the area of Media and Cultural Studies.
In addition to contributing to academic discourses about Black women, Dr. Gentles-Peart is also committed to creating spaces in the wider community that center and reframe dominant narratives about Black women. For example, she organized (with Dr. Hume Johnson) the first ever Brand Jamaica symposium that brought together scholars and policy-makers to reimagine Jamaica’s identity and global image outside of the current, dominant, Eurocentric model. She also co-founded (with Dr. Julia Jordan-Zachery, Providence College) the Collaborative for the Research on Black Women and Girls. As a research-working group, the Collaborative seeks to engage in critical works that complicate the existing narratives of Black women and girls and that speak to the heterogeneity of these populations on a global scale (bwgsymposium.org). Dr. Gentles-Peart chairs the annual symposium hosted by the Collaborative that brings together a wide spectrum of participants to examine Black women and girls’ agency as producers of knowledge and agents of change. Dr. Gentles-Peart’s work with the Collaborative also includes organizing activism workshop for Black women and girls, designed to encourage planning and implementing community-based action around key issues affecting Black women and girls, including incarceration, HIV/AIDS, and housing.
While disseminating information is a necessary part of teaching, effective education must equip students with the skills to efficaciously engage their world, to critically assess dominant ideologies, and to intelligently develop their own opinions. Therefore, I believe that the college experience should nurture non-discipline specific skills that will be valuable well beyond the gates of a university. Critical thinking, or the ability to effectively evaluate and produce well-substantiated arguments, is among the most important of these competences. Given its significance, I am committed to cultivating critical thinking skills – indeed, a critical way of life – in my students. I conceptualize and operationalize my objectives in phases. Since astute critique can only emerge from the knowledge and understanding of what existed - the social, political and economic factors that shaped them, their innovations and their shortcomings - students are first introduced to the work of seminal thinkers in the area of study; they are exposed to the history of the field, and to the evolution and genealogy of the major tenets in the discipline, namely the canon. These texts are not presented in isolation, but are positioned in conversation with each other, and contextualized within the historical and political frameworks within which they were produced. These seminal texts are also discussed in tandem with other ideas and views that are marginalized in the field, and that challenge the assumptions upon which the canon was built.
Next, students learn to critique and think beyond the information they acquire through discussions of extant critiques of the works, and in-class, group analyses that model effective criticism and civic discourse. Students have many opportunities to engage in such creative interactions with course material. These may come in the form of individual papers that ask them to critique, compare and reflect on the information they gather throughout the semester, and research-based group projects that require them to assess real-world occurrences in relation to the class topics. Such written assignments also facilitate assessment of students’ progress.
Intellectual diversity is also important to the development of critical thinking. In our increasingly globalized world, it is imperative that students realize and be exposed to the vast body of works produced outside of their national, social and political boundaries. Moreover, students must learn to accept and appreciate – even if they do not agree with – the myriad perspectives and ideologies that are expressed in the texts of people who are differently positioned across the globe. Engagement with ideas disparate from their own facilitates students’ self-reflection and critical evaluation of their own opinions, and creates a mindset that is conducive to learning as well as critical analysis. Therefore, my classes are thoughtfully designed with these diversity dimensions in mind, and seek to foster engagement with ideologies originating from marginalized populations and from spaces and places outside of the Global North. Specifically, I introduce my students to the works of scholars and thinkers from non-dominant groups, and encourage them to reflect on these works in relation to their own beliefs and those presented by scholars from majority groups.
In addition to comprehending and analytically engaging scholarly work, cultivating critical thinkers also requires fostering an environment that encourages open and judicious engagement with the material. I create this atmosphere in two primary ways. First, knowing that many scholarly texts and thoughts can be intimidating on several levels for students, I make the works less foreboding and more accessible by highlighting and explaining complex ideas and concepts from the assigned readings. Such explications help students to understand the material, and develop the confidence to critically engage them. These elucidations take various forms, including reserving time at the beginning of the day’s class activities for the clarification of complex ideas; in-class group activities requiring students to assign concepts to appropriate scenarios (which also facilitates learning from each other); take-home exercises in which they have to compare and contrast the arguments of two or three scholars; and scheduling ample extra-class meeting times (demonstrating accessibility) for individual questions and clarifications.
Second, I foster self-confidence by promoting an environment of acceptance, cultivating a forum in which my students feel safe to share, debate and concede opinions, and be candid about their grasp and understanding of the material. Allowing, and respectfully responding to, questions during lecture sessions, and engaging with students who voice unpopular opinions rather than dismissing them in disapproval are a few of the ways I nurture such self-assurance.
In regards to assessment, I believe that students should be presented with a range of opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of the material. In other words, students should not be assessed on the basis of one form of evaluative instrument, but should be afforded multiple possibilities to display what they know. In addition, the assessment tools should seek to evaluate - as well as develop - the skills promoted in the course. As opposed to simply testing knowledge then, assessment apparatuses should also gauge verbal, analytical and critical skills. Using multiple assessment measures allows for a more accurate, well-rounded evaluation of the students’ abilities, and guards against privileging certain skills over others.
I am confident that this emphasis on scholarly as well as personal development is beneficial to students; it intellectually and psychologically prepares students to be socially-aware, critical communicators and audiences who will revolutionize their industries and the world.