Bunche Center Welcomes Ford Foundation Postdoc Fellow, Dr. Vanessa Díaz

For 2016-17, Dr. Vanessa Díaz will be in residence at the Bunche Center as a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow.  Please read her biography below.

Dr. Vanessa Díaz is an interdisciplinary ethnographer, filmmaker, and journalist. In 2015, she earned a PhD in Anthropology at the University of Michigan. Díaz is currently adapting her dissertation into a book manuscript tentatively titled Manufacturing Celebrity: Race, Gender, and the Cultural Politics of Red Carpet and Paparazzi Work (under contract with Duke University Press). She is also collaboratively producing a documentary about the community of Latino paparazzi in Los Angeles. Her dissertation research, which focuses on hierarchies of labor as well as ethnoracial and gender politics in the production of celebrity-focused media, was supported by the Ford Foundation and Smithsonian Institute. This project was inspired by Díaz’s many years working for People magazine. In addition to her research on celebrity culture and media in the United States, she has also done extensive research on media and popular culture in Cuba. In 2006, she completed her independent feature-length documentary Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio (From the Beginning), which recounts the history of the Cuban HipHop movement while exploring how Afro-Cuban youth use HipHop to defy misconceptions about censorship in Cuba by delivering social critiques of racism and poverty on the island. Díaz is called upon by publications ranging from The Atlantic to the Los Angeles Times to comment upon major events in popular culture, such as the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. She is able to provide necessary context to understand how and why these events capture the American popular imagination, while simultaneously revealing the hidden labor and racial struggles involved in the production of celebrity media. During her time at UCLA, Díaz will contribute to the Bunche Center’s Race and Hollywood Project.

Select Publications:

2015                “Brad & Angelina: And Now…Brangelina!”: A Sociocultural Analysis of Blended Celebrity Couple Names. Chapter in the anthology First Comes Love: Power Couples, Celebrity Kinship, and Cultural Politics. Neil Ewin and Shelley Cobb, eds. Bloomsbury Academic Press.  

2015                At the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Criminalizing the Latina/o Paparazzi of Los Angeles. Anthropology News, 56 (11-12), 31-32.

2014                Latinos at the Margins of Celebrity Culture: Informal Image Sales and the Politics of Paparazzi. Chapter in the anthology Contemporary Latina/o Media: Production, Circulation, Politics. Arlene Dávila and Yeidy Rivero, eds. NYU Press.

2012                “De Puerto Rico a Nueva York, De Puerto Rico a California”: A Micro-History of Puerto Rican Activism and Pan-Ethnic Alliance in Southern California. Published in the Latino(a) Research Review (Fall 2012 special issue: The Legacies of Puerto Rican Social, Cultural, and Political Activism in the United States).


2006                Cuban HipHop: Desde el Principio (From the Beginning). Feature length documentary film. Independent. Director, writer, producer. Held in over 50 university libraries.

2002                Cuban HipHop: A Contemporary Example of Transculturation. Short documentary film. Independent. Director, writer, producer.


Photo Credit:  Ernesto Chavez