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Candice Merritt (she/her)

Doctor of Philosophy in Black Studies

Candice Merritt (she/her)

Wherever you go, your self follows, and remember that even in the presence of fear, take risks and pursue what you want and need.”

Dr. Candice Merritt successfully defended her dissertation entitled “In Search of Our Mothers' Freedom,” on May 7, completing her PhD in Black Studies. Her research examines Black motherhood and feminist theories of motherhood and labor. Candice is a 2018 Cluster Mellon Fellowship recipient in Critical Theory. She has accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill starting this Fall.

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
My research and writing sit at the intersection of Black feminist thought, motherhood, Black women's literature, and the ongoing explorations on the meaning of freedom for Black women as individuals and as part of collectives (family, community, etc.).

I constantly ruminate on a classic and unresolved conundrum in Western philosophy: What are the obligations of an individual to the society they are a part of, and what responsibilities does the society have towards the individual? I like to explore this question within specific social and political contexts such as the dynamics between a Black woman and her child and kin; between a local community and its local governance structure. I like these questions because their responses throughout history profoundly influence not only matters of life and death but also how one should live and how society should be organized.

What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
I took almost a decade between completing my undergraduate education and entering my PhD program. During that time, I worked in an AmeriCorps program in Atlanta, tutored, did temp work at a court reporting firm, and then landed a 9-5 at a public university doing varied positions in higher education administration. After completing my master’s degree part-time while working 9-5, I knew I wanted to be faculty.

I think my decision to quit my stable, full-time salary with benefits job to pursue a PhD full-time without the promise of a tenure-track position or without exactly knowing where I would end up after completing the program was risky, and quite a turn for those who expected me to climb administrative ladders of the 9-5 life. My decision taught me it was important to follow what I wanted even without any guarantee of the future.

Why Northwestern?
Northwestern provided a phenomenal foundation in Black Studies coursework that I never had access to over my academic career. I was also drawn in by the amazing opportunity to study with some of the best faculty in gender and sexuality studies and critical theory.

How do you unwind after a long day?
I play a LOT of video games on my Nintendo Switch console. If I cannot commit to a long campaign kind of game, like the Legend of Zelda series, I will settle for the classic Candy Crush on my phone.

What books are on your bedside table?
Currently on my bedside table sits Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica; Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo; Bye Bye, Binary by Eric Heron and Homemade Love by bell hooks. The last two are children's books; a little toddler in my life comes over weekly, and they are her favorites.

How would your closest friends describe you?
Closest friends would describe me as brilliant, warm, and funny. Or as one of my favorite baristas shared with me, "you give serious as in like wears a suit and you also give clown as in goofy."

What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an astronomer. :)

What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
Wherever you go, your self follows, and remember that even in the presence of fear, take risks and pursue what you want and need.

Publish Date: May 21, 2024

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