Two Critical Theory faculty members selected as 2023 Hellman Fellows

November 2, 2023

Congratulations to assistant professors Fumi Okiji (Rhetoric) and Nathaniel Wolfson (Spanish and Portuguese) on being named 2023 Hellman Fellows(link is external)!

Established by the late F. Warren and Chris Hellman in 1995, the Hellman Fellows Fund supports the research of promising assistant professors who show capacity for great distinction in their research. Each fellow may receive up to $60,000 in funding to support any research-related needs including research assistants, equipment, or travel.

Fumi Okiji (Rhetoric)

Professor Okiji(link is external) works across black study, critical theory, and sound and music studies. Her research and teaching looks to black expression for ways to understand modern and contemporary life. Deepening the engagement established in her first book, Okiji's current project, Billie's Bent Elbow: Unthinkable Nonsense and/or Toward (a) Gathering-Work explores the features of a genre of socio-political gathering that does not rely on (non)identity nor on an insistence on a universalist project. In augmentation of conversations taking place in black theory, and drawing from Adorno and Walter Benjamin on aesthetics, music, dialectics, mimesis, the work also explores the modal anomaly of black life, its subjunctive comportment, and relative ease with contradiction. Music from Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Nina Simone, among others, not so much provide example as a further area of theoretical resource.

Nathaniel Wolfson (Spanish and Portuguese)

Professor Wolfson(link is external)'s research interests include topics of Brazilian and Latin American literature and art, media studies and critical theory. His current project is a manuscript that focuses on the crossings of experimental writing, design, and critical technological thought in Brazil in the 1940s through the 1970s. Life of the Sign: Literature, Design and the Cybernetic Imaginary in Brazil dives deeply into national and regional discourses about cybernetics and popular culture under dictatorship (1964-1985). As Brazilian poets, artists, and designers witnessed the military regime's efforts to control a rising field of informatics, they attempted to retool early computer coding to invent alternative symbolic languages.

First launched at Berkeley and UCSD, the Hellman Fellows Fund now supports budding faculty across all 10 UC campuses — including nearly 500 at Berkeley since its inception. The goal: to help them shine in the UC universe and become permanent fixtures in the faculty firmament. Nearly 77 percent of Berkeley’s fellows are still on campus, highlighting how Berkeley also benefits from their success.

Thanks to a generous and thoughtful gift from the Hellman family in 2018, a matching endowment(link is external) was established for new donors to contribute toward increasing the number of awards available for eligible faculty. Completing the challenge will have a profound impact on scholarship, faculty retention, and student experience. To learn more about how this match can support rising faculty stars in the Arts & Humanities, contact Leslie Schibsted ( sends e-mail)).