University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

IHGC Faculty Fellows 2023-2025


For the 2022-23 academic year, the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures is pleased to welcome three new fellows for the academic years of 2023-2025: Mamadou Dia (French and Media Studies), Kevin Driscoll (Media Studies), and Natasha Heller (Religious Studies). 

Mamadou Dia is an award-winning Senegalese film director, screenwriter, and co-founder of the production company, Joyedidi. Often based on his life growing up in West Africa, Mr. Dia’s films explore the tension between fact and fiction, realism and abstraction. His short film, Samedi Cinema, opened at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals in 2016 and received numerous accolades. Baamum Nafi (Nafi's Father), his first feature film, premiered in 2019, winning two Golden Leopards for “First Feature”, and “Filmmakers of the Present'' at the Locarno International Film Festival. It was selected for MOMA/Lincoln Center’s 2020 New Directors/New Films, the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival Talent Lab, and the 2018 Hubert Bals writing grant. Senegal chose Baamum Nafi as its Oscar entry for Best International Feature in 2021. Mamadou Dia received an MFA in Filmmaking from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2017. Mamadou Dia’s film “Bamuum Nafi” represented Senegal in the 2021 Oscar race. Produced entirely with Senegalese funding, Dia’s feature film follows in the footsteps of “Félicité” by Alain Gomis and “Atlantique” by Mati Diop.

Kevin Driscoll is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Studies. He specializes in technology, culture, and communication. His recent research concerns alternative histories of the internet, the politics of amateur telecommunications, and the moral economy of consumer software. In collaboration with Julien Mailland from Indiana University, he published "Minitel: Welcome to the Internet," a cultural and technological history of the French videotex network (MIT Press, 2017). His next book, "The Modem World: A Prehistory of Social Media," traces the origins of social media through the dial-up bulletin board systems of the 1980s and 1990s (Yale University Press, 2022). Kevin joined the Department in the fall of 2016 after working as a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research. He holds a PhD from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and an M.S. from Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Previously, he taught mathematics and computer science at Prospect Hill Academy Charter School in Cambridge, MA.

Natasha Heller is a cultural historian of Chinese Buddhism with research interests spanning the premodern period (primarily 10th through 14th c.) and the contemporary era. Her work seeks to find unexplored perspectives through which to understand religious history. Illusory Abiding: The Cultural Construction of the Chan Monk Zhongfeng Mingben, her first book, is a study of an eminent monk of the Yuan dynasty using poetry, calligraphy, and gong’an commentary to explore the social and cultural dimensions of Chan Buddhism. Dr. Heller continue to write frequently on Song and Yuan dynasty Buddhism and have authored or co-authored many book chapters and journal articles, including for Brill’s Encyclopedia of Buddhism. The relationship between religion and literature is an ongoing concern in her research. Dr. Heller's second monograph, titled Literature for Little Bodhisattvas: Making Buddhist Families in Modern Taiwan is under contract in the Contemporary Buddhism series at the University of Hawai‘i Press. Literature for Little Bodhisattvas explores the rich and inventive corpus of Buddhist children’s literature, showing how authors and illustrators engage with scriptures, commentaries, and visual traditions against a backdrop of the concerns of global modernity. She has just begun research for her third book, on trees in Chinese Buddhism. By examining trees in the literature, philosophy, and social life, Dr. Heller's study will argue that trees conjoined the lived realities and cultural imaginaries of Buddhism. She intends this project to help bridge the disciplinary divide between environmental history and the study of religion in Asia, as well as to challenge anthropocentric histories by engaging arboreal temporalities. Dr. Heller will be a Faculty Fellow of UVA’s Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures in AY 2023–24 and 2024–25. For AY 2024–5 and 2025-6, she will be teaching in UVA’s first year Engagements program as well as in the Religious Studies department. She welcome inquiries from prospective graduate students wishing to work in the areas of Buddhist Modernities or Religion, Literature, and Culture.