Maria Hamilton  Abegunde

Maria Hamilton Abegunde

Assistant Professor, African American and African Diaspora Studies

Affiliate, Gender Studies

Founding Director, The Graduate Mentoring Center (2014-2021)


  • Ph.D., Indiana University
  • M.A., Women’s and Gender Studies, DePaul University, 2009
  • B.A., English, Fiction Writing Concentration, Northwestern University, 1986


Maria E. Hamilton Abegunde, Ph.D. is a Memory Keeper, poet, ancestral priest in the Yoruba Orisa tradition, healing facilitator, doula, and a Reiki Master. Her research and creative work are grounded in contemplative and ritual practices and respectfully approach the Earth and human bodies as sites of memory, and always with the understanding that memory never dies, is subversive, and can be recovered to transform transgenerational trauma and pain into peace and power. She is the inaugural recipient of the Ph.D. in African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University.

Dr. Abegunde is the author of three poetry chapbooks, including Wishful Thinking about the 2001 disappearance of Tionda and Diamond Bradley in Chicago. Anthologized poems are included in Gathering Ground, Beyond the Frontier: African American Poetry for the 21st Century, and Catch the Fire. Her poetry has also been published in Tupelo Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Cogzine, and Rhino.

Excerpts of her memory work, The Ariran’s Last Life, have been published in Trouble the Waters: Tales from the Deep Blue, Let Spirit Speak!, Warpland, Best African American Fiction, and The Kenyon Review. Co-edited works include Jane’s Stories III with Glenda Bailey-Mershon with whom she and others co-founded Jane’s Stories Press.

Dr. Abegunde is a Cave Canem poetry fellow. She has also received writing fellowships from Sacatar, Ragdale, and Norcroft. Her awards for poetry include the New Discovery Award from the Poetry Center of Chicago and a COG poetry finalist award (Judge: Juan Felipe Herrera). In 2021 she was one of the inaugural poets selected for the Poets & Scholars Retreat at the Rutgers University Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice.

Her creative work and research was recognized through the NEH summer institute fellowship Black Aesthetics and African Centered Cultural Expressions: Sacred Systems in the Nexus between Cultural Studies, Religion and Philosophy, under the directorship of Dr. Pellom McDaniels III and Paul Carter Harrison. Her book chapter “Seeing as a Ritual for a Good Death: The Spiritual Construction of Alain Gomis’ Film Tey” appears in Ashe: Ritual Poetics in African Diasporic Expressivity (edited by Michael Harris, Paul Carter Harrison, and Pellom McDaniels III).

Because of her work on intergenerational/ancestral trauma, community healing, arts-based practices, she was invited to join faculty in the School of Education at the University of Juba, South Sudan to help create a two-year Master’s program in Teaching Emergencies. Dr. Abegunde is also a trained Civic Reflection Dialogue and Powerful Conversations on Race facilitator for Spirit & Place, which she used to launch the initial symposium and dialogues for the anti-Black racism critical conversations on race for the IU College of Arts and Sciences.

She is an inaugural winner of the Dr. James E. Mumford Excellence in Extraordinary Teaching Awards from the IU Faculty Academy on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) and an Inclusive Excellence Award for teaching during extraordinary times.

Dr. Abegunde was the founding director of The Graduate Mentoring Center in the University Graduate School, where she directed the center between 2014-2021. As director she developed the Five-Fold Path for mentoring as a contemplative practice as well as nationally recognized student-centered mentoring practices, including trauma-informed practices, for students, faculty, and staff.

Before coming to IU Dr. Abegunde worked in elementary school education for over 20 years and as an independent teaching artist. She was the lead team teacher for the Middle Passage Project and sailed from Puerto Rico to Brazil with Captain Bill Pinkney to retrace and teach about Middle Passage routes. She also served as poet and ritualist-in-residence for the UNESCO-Transatlantic Slave Trade Route-USA Project.

When Dr. Abegunde is not teaching and working, she enjoys watching/reading science fiction.

Selected Interviews

Selected Podcasts / Readings


Selected publications

  • Memory: Juba Four Years After Leaving (North Meridian Review, Winter 2020, pgs. 147-166). Link also here.
  • The Blackest, Most Fertile Midnight (Introduction)" in  Too Much Midnight. Franklin, Krista. (Haymarket Press, 2020). 
  • Keeper of My Mothers' Dreams: The Life Force of Healing. FIRE!!! Vol. 6, No. 2, September 2020 (Association for the Study of African American Life and History).
  • " If My Body Could Talk: Untitled". Black Woman's Body – Digital Puzzle Project (Fall 2020).
  • "Learning to Eat the Dead: Juba." ( The Massachusetts Review. Winter 2019. p706).
  • " Learning to Eat the Dead: USA." (Tupelo Quarterly. Editors' Selections. November 14, 2018.) Link also here.
  • "Untitled": Out of Easy Reach – Ekphrastic Poems (Indiana Review, August 2018).
  • A Lectio Divina for Gwendolyn Brooks: Honoring the Ancestor, Contemplating Healing. Obsidian: Literature & Arts in the African Diaspora. University of Illinois. (Winter 2018, Vol. 43, No 2.). Link also here.
  • "'We are Human' ": Using Contemplative Practice in a Black Studies Class after Philando Castile. Journal for Liberal Arts and Sciences. Oakland City University. (Fall 2017, Vol. 22, Issue 1). With Chare'A Smith, Ryan Lucas, and Moniel Sanders.
  • Learning to Eat the Dead: Juba, USA. (Excerpt). COG. Cogswell College. 2017.
  • "When the Past Becomes [the] Present: Remembering and Writing My Own Ancestral Past" (Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora, SUNY Press, 2012).
  • Bridges and Borders: Voices of Immigrant Women, Co-Editor (2011, Jane's Stories Press Foundation).
  • Black Diaspora Review, Guest Co-Editor (Spring 2011).
  • "Sankofa in Action: Creating a Plan That Works - Healing the Causes of Violence to Stop the Violence" (Black Diaspora Review, Spring 2011).
  • The Ariran's Last Life (excerpt, Best African American Fiction 2010).
  • The Ariran's Last Life (excerpt, 2008, The Kenyon Review).
  • Singleton, Giovanni, ed. Tell Them Arroyo Sent You. nocturnes 2: (re)view of the literary arts. Fall 2002. Oakland, CA: nocturnes. pgs. 58-64.
  • Wishful Thinking: Poetry Chapbook. (2003). Chicago, IL: Wild Dove Studio and Press.
  • Still Breathing: Poetry Chapbook. (1998). Louisville, KY: Chicago Spectrum Press. What is Now Unanswerable: Poetry Chapbook. (1994). Evanston, IL: Warrior Poets Press.

Selected commissioned poems and accompanying exhibitions

  • Ancestral Masquerades: Be/Coming. Artist: LaShawnda Crowe Storm. Indianapolis, IN: Airport. Ancestral Masquerades Exhibit with LaShawnda Crowe Storm (ongoing).
  • Keeper of My Mothers’ Dreams. Artist: LaShawnda Crowe Storm. (November 2017-January 2018). Artist: Indianapolis, IN: Tube Factory/Big Car.
  • Ancestral Masquerades: Be/Coming. (Summer and Fall 2016). The Fabric of Emancipation. Artist: LaShawnda Crowe Storm. Harlem Needle Arts. New York, NY: The Morris Jumel Mansion.
  • Collaborative Vision: The Poetic Dialogue Project: Be/Coming. (2009-2013). Artist: LaShawnda Crowe Storm. Curator: Beth Shadur. Chicago, IL: Chicago Cultural Center; Terra Haute, IN: Indiana State Museum; Muncie, IN: Ball State University; Chicago Heights, IL: Prairie State College.
  • “Creating Community, Movement, Foundations, Scholarship, Soul: 40 Years of Black Studies at Indiana University” (2010, Curator, Indiana University, Bloomington).

Selected awards and honors

  • 2021 Dr. James E. Mumford Excellence in Extraordinary Teaching Awards from the IU Faculty Academy on Excellence in Teaching (FACET) Bloomington
  • 2021 Inclusive Excellence Award
  • 2017 COG Poetry Finalist Award - Invitational • Final Judge: Juan Felipe Herrera
  • 2017 Indiana Humanities/National Endowment for the Humanities – Humanities and the Legacy of Race and Ethnicity (2017)
  • 2016 Telluride Association Sophomore Seminar
  • 2014 National Endowment for the Humanities: Black Aesthetics and African Sacred Knowledge Systems Summer Institute

Professional Affiliations