A third-generation Cuban American, Maya J. Berry is a dancer, performance scholar, and social anthropologist. She brings a Black feminist approach to her research on race, gender, and the Black political imagination in Havana, Cuba. Her first book, tentatively titled “Forming Rumba: Havana’s Black Corporeal Undercommons,” is an ethnography which analyzes Black popular dance as a window into the everyday struggles experienced by rumberos as they navigate the changing socioeconomic landscape of post-Fidel Cuba. Prior to joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as assistant professor of African diaspora studies, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University.
Here at UNC-Chapel Hill, she centers the history, culture, and politics of Black Latin Americans in all of her classes. Specifically, AAAD 260: Blacks in Latin America, provides an important foundation for understanding the history of slavery and race relations in Latin America and the Caribbean, AAAD 261: Afro-Cuban Dance: History, Theory & Practice offers an opportunity to learn through movement, and AAAD 461: Race, Gender & Activism in Cuba delves into strategies for social change developed in the Cuban context. Two courses that specifically focus on Afro-Latinx populations in the US are AAAD 89: Afro-Latina/os in the US (a First-Year Seminar), and AAAD 278: Black Caribbeans in the US.
For her teaching at UNC she was awarded the Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award in Engaged Teaching in 2020, and the 2021 Johnston Teaching Excellence Award for undergraduate teaching. She also serves as faculty mentor for the Afro-Latinx (ALX) Student Club.