Karen F. Dimanche Davis
At Marygrove College I serve as Associate Professor and Director of Humanities and member of the Curriculum Review Committee, which approves new programs. I’ve also served on Study Abroad, General Education and other committees. I have taught fifteen courses here, including Caribbean and African Humanities, Cultural Geography, Women’s Global Social Justice, Black Film, and Caribbean Literature. I have also taught graduate and undergraduate anthropology, sociology, social studies, Caribbean literature, and developmental writing classes at Wayne State University, University of Windsor (Ontario), U of D Mercy, and Wayne County CCD.
My father, a chemical engineer, was working in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when I was born. Our family also lived in Virginia, Tennessee, and finally in southern Ohio near Cincinnati. My parents sent us all (four brothers and me) to Catholic schools—and they began a school bus program to take Catholic students from our small town to Cincinnati high schools.
I was valedictorian of my high school class, and I wanted to leave Cincinnati, so I convinced my parents to let me live in Detroit with my grandmother and aunt, then with roommates. My mother had grown up in Detroit, and was working at J.L. Hudson’s downtown when she met my father. As an undergraduate, I was invited to join the Honors Program, and graduated in 3 ½ years with a sociology major and English minor, after changing my major three times.
After graduating, I married a librarian whom I met at university. For two years I worked at a Danish furniture store and raised our daughter (who now lives in Brooklyn). Then I completed a doctorate in anthropology at Wayne State University and began teaching. At that time, I was also active in progressive political and cultural work. We researched school busing conflicts, taught at a halfway house, created a co-op to buy fresh food at Detroit’s Eastern Market, learned to cook global foods our parents never heard of, created a co-op day-care center, protested injustices, went camping, held huge picnics on Belle Isle, and tie-dyed everything.
Our family lived in Barbados while I completed a year of research for my Ph.D. Since then I have completed other research in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti, Benin, and Senegal. After my first husband died, I lived in northern Michigan: farming, raising goats and chickens, cross-country skiing, learning from an acclaimed Odawa quill artist, Susan Shagonaby, and selling my photography and watercolors at art fairs.
Later, I returned to Detroit to work as promotions and membership director for public radio, then as freshman year program director and publications manager at Wayne State University, and later began teaching at Marygrove College. While assisting a Haitian theatre group, I met my husband, a master drummer, gardener and chef. We both work with Haitian Network Group of Detroit (HNGD) and Espoir Haitian American Organization. I am also a member of KONSABA (Congress of Santa Barbara) and MCHR (Michigan Coalition for Human Rights).
My primary research since 1993 is on West African textile arts. I’ve worked with dyers, weavers, and batik artists of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, and Bénin. In 2006, a friend and I traveled to Morocco to learn about carpet dying and weaving, and then to Senegal to work in three weaving studios with men from Guinea-Conakry who weave on narrow-strip looms. In 2009 I took Marygrove students on a travel seminar to Senegal, and in 2011 a group came with me to Morocco. I have created two exhibitions based on my research, have edited books for three friends, and am now writing short stories and helping produce a Haitian art book. This summer, I helped create our neighborhood block club, and manage facebook and e-mail messages for our group.