MAIN CURRENTS: FALL NEWSLETTER 2012 DEPARTMENT OF AMERICAN STUDIES
MAIN CURRENTS: FALL NEWSLETTER 2012 DEPARTMENT OF AMERICAN STUDIES THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN Elizabeth Engelhardt, Chair Professor of American Studies and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies “This is the journal, not so much of finalities discovered as of possibilities confronted.” IN 1956, SOON AFTER THE SUPREME court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, a finned car pulled out of an eastern Tennessee driveway and headed down from the mountains onto roads and highways across the US South. In the car were Wilma Dykeman and James Stokely, white progressive southern writers who were invested in social justice, integration, and civil rights and convinced that the South was a complicated place with a wider range of perspectives than was being reported. The trip took them from Kentucky to Florida and Virginia to Texas (including a stop in Austin). They asked questions, listened, and talked to as many people as they could. Taxi drivers, filling station attendants, domestic workers, and factory workers were interviewed equally with professors, judges, preachers, politicians, and business leaders. Members of the NAACP, the KKK, women, men, children, African Americans, multiracial folks, white self-identified “Southerners,” “Northerners,” veterans, people staying, and people who could not wait to leave all become part of the project. Dykeman and Stokely described the resulting book, Neither Black Nor White, as their “journal” of “possibilities confronted.” I’ve been thinking frequently about that road trip as I have been privileged to become department chair for American Studies. Poised as we are to examine, engage, and question our own political, social, and cultural moments, I look forward to the next four years as we grow, take on new research, and embrace our public roles. If Dykeman and Stokely were with us today, they might be interviewing Dream Act activists and anti-immigration militias. Or driving the length of the proposed Keystone pipeline listening to pro-fracking investors and anti-mountaintop removal activists. They could be stopping at mega-churches, Planned Parenthood offices, drag shows, and the Hutto Detention Center to hear what it means to control one’s own body—or try to control someone else’s. Indeed, such projects are at the heart of American Studies practices—done with careful study, a commitment to listening, and a minimum of preconceived conclusions. Today’s car might be a hybrid, but I suspect the road trip would share the same urgency to confront possibilities. Our community encompasses a range of perspectives, a wealth of experiences, and a diversity of approaches. If anything can unify such a resiliently eccentric group, it is the desire to resist unearned finalities and instead find our own possibilities. In the pages that follow, faculty, students, and alumni describe their own journeys with American Studies, some of which are literal road trips like Julie Reitzi’s northeastern journey with Main Currents as her guidebook. Other road trips are analogies for lifetimes of habit and outlook, such as Peter Hales’s that brought him to and beyond Austin by way of a quirky flyer promising a do-it-yourself map of intellectual accomplishments. By many measures, the achievements of the American Studies community are impressive. Faculty and alumni again published award-winning books and received high profile grants. Our grad students have received major fellowships as well as jobs and post-doctoral placements. The hundreds of undergraduates who take our classes and become our majors are bringing American Studies into business, law, and the humanities. It has been a year of transitions as well: we awarded a record number of doctorates but will miss the cohort’s daily presence in Burdine. As Steven Hoelscher steps back into his role as regular faculty after his term as chair, let me offer one more public thank you to him for his leadership. Our increased digital presence—in social media, digital humanities research, and digital pedagogy—has expanded the means by which we can talk and listen to each other. Please see this issue of our newsletter— whether you receive it digitally or in print—as an invitation to continue the conversations and engage in this collaborative journal of possibilities confronted. MAIN CURRENTS : FALL NEWSLETTER 2012 DEPARTMENT OF AMERICAN STUDIES Feature Stories Nicole Guidotti-Hernรกndez 1 Stephen Marshall 3 Joel Dinerstein 5 Danielle Sigler 7 Peter Bacon Hales 9 Nick De La Cruz 11 Kelli Schultz 13 Julie Reitzi 15 Irene Garza 17 Faculty News 19 Graduate Student News 21 Undergraduate Student News 25 The End of Austin Project Supporting American Studies 27 28 Early flyer for the program. See page 9 for a discussion. FA C U LT Y Nicole Guidotti-Hernández ASSO CIATE PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN STUDIES AND CENTER FOR MEXICAN AMERICAN STUDIES MY AWARENESS OF INEQUALITY began in the rural farming community of Salinas, California, where I grew up. Salinas is com monly referred to as the “Salad Bowl of the World” and is home to major produce companies such as Fresh Express, Dole and Earthbound Farms. If you eat bagged let tuce, you are eating the products of my home community. The funny thing is that even the average resident does not know the rich history of the region, its compli cated racial relations between dust bowl Okies, Braceros and their descendants, the few Californio families who settled under the Spanish crown, the large numbers of Italians who immigrated in the late nine teenth century, and the emergence of Fili pino and African American communities as a result of the U.S. Army ’s Fort Ord (now Cal State, Monterey Bay). There was little investment in teaching us history beyond that of John Steinbeck and the California Missions. It was not until I went to graduate school at Cornell University and took an Ameri can Studies course on nineteenth century African American women’s lives and per formed intensive archival research that I began to understand my own community and the elision of histories like its. I also fell in love with archival work. There is something both exhilarating and compel 1 ling about documenting the past and then using the materials as a form of what I like to think of as social justice work. It is a kind of remedy for the historical amnesia carried out by educational systems and the ways we think about national history more broadly. Spending time with nineteenthcentury newspapers, broadsides, census data and photographs made me see that it was not that people did not have a history. Rather, the problem resides in how history was and continues to be recorded. To say that a people or a community has no his tory is to deny the complicated subjectivi ties of individuals and their experiences in a particular time and place. As Jack Halber stam argues in his most recent book, I too am interested in the history of the losers, those displaced by colonialism and history. American Studies, with its interdisciplinary rigor, is the perfect intellectual home for my work. My love of the archive and social jus tice continues to this day in my class called Feminist Interventions in Borderlands His tory, where students are asked to think about gender and sexuality as central to the history of the U.S.-Mexico border and create an archival research project of their own. It continues in my recently published book, Unspeakable Violence: Remapping U.S. and Mexican National Imaginaries (Duke, 2011), in the talks that I give based on my research in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain, and in my current research proj ects. For example, “Mapping Deportation” is an ongoing interactive data collection research project that sheds light on when and where Yaqui Indigenous peoples were exiled in the United States or deported from the Mexican state of Sonora to the states of Yucatán, Oaxaca, Colima, Vera cruz and the Cuban nation between 18991910. It tells the complex story, from vari ous vantage points, of how and why these deportations happened by mapping docu mentary evidence of the forced removal, incarceration, and insurgency activities of Yaqui men, women and children and by demonstrating the broad social and histori cal impact of state sponsored violence and genocide against Indigenous people along the U.S.-Mexico border. This work with both the Yaqui nation and their history of genocide and removal by the Mexican state (with U.S. capitalist influences and border policy) is what makes fields like American Studies exciting places to do the work that we do, especially at the University of Tex as. My hope is that colleagues and students in the field can see the political and social urgency embodied in our shared collective pasts to inform and make for a better pres ent. “...I too am interested in the history of losers, those displaced by colonialism and history.” “As Jack Halberstam argues in his most recent book, I too am interested in the history of the losers, those displaced by colonialism and history. American Studies, with its interdisciplinary rigor, is the perfect intellectual home for my work.” FA C U LT Y â€œTo try and unpack this strange and unsettling consensus, I submerged myself within the deep sea of French political thought.â€? Stephen Marshall SOME OF MY STUDENTS may remember my fondness for describing the activity of engaging a profound writer as a “deep sea diving expedition.” This formulation appeals to me because it captures the experiences of transport and risk felt when looking upon the world and oneself through the eyes of a truly profound thinker. More humbly, I have to admit I also like the formulation because its invocation of the sea conjures for me an image of repose within a cool environment, which while a poor substitute for actual repose in a temperate climate is nonetheless a welcome and needed respite from Austin’s sweltering summer heat. At the risk of sounding desperate, this image got me through the summer as I systematically re-engaged the writings of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and de Tocqueville. My current research on the politics of mastery has taken me to an examination of the Haitian Revolution and its critical reception by political theorists in France, the U.S., and the African Diaspora. Montesquieu and Rousseau’s writings powerfully shaped thinking and ways of thinking about enslavement, mastery, and freedom in ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN STUDIES, DEPARTMENT OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN DIASPORA STUDIES AND CENTER FOR AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES Europe and the U.S. before and after the revolution. Certain of these habits of thought about enslavement and mastery were consolidated in de Tocqueville as crucial presuppositions of liberal democracy. However, some of them also find their way into the radical democratic visions of writers who identify with slave revolt. Among other things, I have become interested in the ways the quest for mastery inhabits the political theory of C.L.R. James, especially when he casts the political virtues of slave revolt as a translation and performance of French republican ideas. I have come to suspect that while de Tocqueville and James may be light-years apart on most other questions, they converge around issues of organization, leadership, and the nature of slave politics, and this convergence reflects their indebtedness to Montesquieu and Rousseau. To try and unpack this strange and unsettling consensus, I submerged myself within the deep sea of French political thought. My wife and son left me to my own devices when Shirley undertook an extended research trip to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Solomon undertook his first trip without his parents to his grandmother’s house in Louisville, Kentucky. During these weeks in late July and early August, I completed an article for Theory and Event that explored the killing of Trayvon Martin as an instance of politically constituted vulnerability. While unredeemable loss is the backdrop, the writing and publishing of this piece provided an experience that I have long sought and seldom found in my academic writing. Like many, I was enraged, grief stricken, and frightened by the atrocity. Thus burdened, I turned to friends and colleagues for insight and support. From these conversations and my current research on the politics of mastery I wrote a scholarly piece that was politically engaged, personally therapeutic, and responsible (I hope) to an ethics of mourning. What struck me after writing the piece was the realization that this kind of intervention is fully at home in American studies. Unlike some fields, engaged scholarship about real life is at the center of much of what we do. I am grateful for this kind of intellectual community and eager for the work we shall do this year and beyond. 4 ALUMNI â€œWhile I was researching white flight, I often wondered: What did urban Blacks think about Whites running to the suburbs as a given urban neighborhood became integrated?â€? Joel Dinerstein I WAS AN ASPIRING NOVELIST in my twenties and my subject was white flight. For six years I worked the swing shift (5:30 to midnight) as a word processor operator at a large Wall Street law firm to subsidize my first novel about race relations, Blacks, Jews and rock-and-roll in ‘70s Brooklyn. The protagonist was an aspiring singer/songwriter looking for his lost chords. It took him a thousand pages to find them. I made two typical mistakes of a first novelist. First, I wrote it in first person, always the wrong choice for an author too close to the character. Second, I tried to cram all of my experiences into it: my Jewish family, the twilight of urban neighborhood life, the economics of urban poverty, the depth of African-American musics. I sent it around and a few agents said nice things about my vibrant writing style, but an epic-yet-meandering bildungsroman about race relations advocating neighborhood self-rule as resistance to racial oppression? Written by a white Jewish guy? Not so much. I started a second novel that was better (and shorter) but I was thirty-two and needed a sphere of work; I simply did not have the ego necessary to sustain my artistic vision. I knew American Studies was a suitable field for two reasons. First, I had scanned the orals list of a friend in SUNY Buffalo’s doctoral program and found I’d read a third of them, especially primary sources of African-American and Native American literature. Second, I was already an amateur scholar of Black musics, and I’d read the work on jazz and blues by American Studies scholars Charlie Keil and Ben Sidran. Only I had no desire to return to college; I didn’t like it the first time. I was en- ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICAN STUDIES PROGRAM AND DIRECTOR OF THE NEW ORLEANS CENTER FOR THE GULF SOUTH AT TULANE UNIVERSITY “Talkin’ American Studies Blues” couraged by a friend with a tenure-track job in journalism who told me I needed to learn to “say the sayable.” Man, I hated that phrase. I wanted to be the voice of my generation! A novelist addresses the culture in an attempt to expand social consciousness, one reader at a time. A novelist does not say the sayable. To say the sayable meant to learn an intellectual conversation—a framework of theories, methods and canonical works—to which I might someday contribute something in the interstices of race relations, American music, and African-American culture. And who would read that? But I had no better ideas. I studied for the GREs, made inquiries, visited a few schools and applied. If it didn’t work out, I’d quit and go back to writing fiction. While I was researching white flight, I often wondered: What did urban Blacks think about Whites running to the suburbs as a given urban neighborhood became integrated? I searched AfricanAmerican novels and memoirs and sociology but found almost nothing. It turns out an American Studies scholar I later befriended—Carlo Rotella—was right then writing a work on that subject, October Cities: The Redevelopment of Urban Literature (University of California, 1994). It was a good omen in retrospect: an American Studies scholar and fellow spirit cared about the same questions I did. In graduate school, I shifted from artistic to academic frameworks and slowly, reluctantly, transmuted my literary voice into an academic style. My intellectual agenda remained the same: race and ethnicity, hybridity and national identity, African-American music and popular culture. Soon it came filtered through anthropology, history, sociology, literature, and media studies. And I picked up technology studies as a brandnew crucible of American identity. My work revolves around a central question: Is it possible to theorize a creolized self-concept, an American hybridity? Or, to put it another way: how might I begin to frame a historical narrative to make us all realize that we’re all creolized? (That is, based on shared historical narrative and acknowledged cultural contributions.) I have often encountered criticisms of even the framing of this question: it is just another white male attempt to universalize the self; it is a fuzzy multicultural construct of individualism; it encroaches upon the historical victims of white racial oppression and steals their souls for rejuvenation. Since my work is largely a critique of whiteness, clearly that is not my intention. But I don’t get to decide the sayable. (I would if I was writing a novel!) It comes down to this question: If I try to build such a conversation on the field’s discourse—as I did in an American Quarterly article six years back called “Technology and Its Discontents”— might it slowly become more sayable and part of social discourse? In Dostoevski’s The Possessed, the narrator suggests that it is better for an angry young person to go away and study for five years than to let his or her private obsessions fester. Such immersion meliorates inchoate frustration and, in effect, cools your jets. You learn there are no easy answers, that you’re not alone, and that others have asked these questions. I’m still a frustrated novelist ... but that’s what the field did for me. 6 ALUMNI “The interdisciplinarity that first attracted me to American Studies remains at the heart of my work and has helped me to speak to the wide range of audiences we see at the Ransom Center.” Danielle Sigler DURING THE PAST SIX YEARS as Assistant Director and Curator for Academic Programs at the Harry Ransom Center, my tasks have ranged far and wide. I have created a listing of the Center’s religious studies holdings, driven Norman Mailer in a golf cart, spoken to secondary school teachers about the Harlem Renaissance, curated an exhibition on literary censorship, written an essay on Norman Bel Geddes’ spirituality, delivered presentations on the history of the English Bible to seminary students, reviewed hundreds of fellowship applications, and written a piece on a surprising connection between Ulysses and Fifty Shades of Grey for The Daily Beast. In 2006, finding myself a bit disenchanted with the academic job market, I had returned to the University of Texas to attend library school. At the same time, I began working as a graduate intern at the Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum. Today, I find the training I received in the doctoral program of the American Studies Department makes me consistently grateful. That American Studies degree provid- ASSISTANT DIRECTOR AND CURATOR, HARRY RANSOM CENTER ed me with the background and training I needed to tackle these rather diverse activities—though I must credit my husband for my superb golf cart driving skills. But even in a golf cart with Norman Mailer, American Studies wasn’t far from my mind. As we drove, I cursed myself for using one of my “pre-emptive strikes” to remove The Naked and The Dead from Bill Stott’s American literature orals list. Thank heaven I had kept The Armies of the Night. Indeed, I frequently find myself saying a silent “thank-you” to my orals committee (Robert Abzug, Kevin Gaines, Mark Smith, and Bill Stott) for the towering stacks of books that filled my graduate student apartment. As I began work on a censorship exhibition, confounded by the enormity of the topic, I suddenly recalled Paul Boyer’s Purity in Print. Re-reading Boyer set me on a path to develop an exhibition on censorship during the inter-war years—a compelling moment in which to tell the story of literary censorship and one particularly supported by the Ransom Center’s collections. The interdisciplinarity that first attracted me to American Studies remains at the heart of my work and has helped me to speak to the wide range of audiences we see at the Ransom Center. As I led tours of our King James Bible exhibition, I could talk about the book as a material object, situate it in a particular historical moment, and unpack its far-reaching cultural influence. In these moments I heard echoes of Jeff Meikle’s design and architecture course, of reading Robert Abzug’s Cosmos Crumbling, and of the discussions from Janet Davis’s course on cultural studies. When people ask me what I like most about working at the Ransom Center, I explain every day is a little bit different. I never know what I will be asked to do, what new collection might arrive, or what new person might walk through the door. Having an interdisciplinary background makes this constant change welcome and exciting. And whether I am called to speak about Shakespeare’s First Folio, Scarlett O’Hara’s green curtain dress, Walker Evans’s photographs, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s socks, my graduate training is there—helping to make sense of this remarkable archive of the human imagination. 7 Photo by Pete Smith, Harry Ransom Center ALUMNI Peter Bacon Hales I ARRIVED IN THE AMERICAN Civilization Program in 1973, by a confluence of happy accidents. After graduating from Haverford College with a degree in English, I thought, naturally enough, that I was a writer—more spwecifically, a poet. I was, of course, qualifiedly correct in the specific, dead wrong in the general. I was a poet, but I was a bad poet, and I was certainly no writer, as I would learn soon enough in Austin. I ended up in Austin thus: long after I had applied to other programs, there arrived in the mail a folded up circular. Opened, it was a poster: text below, picture above. The picture was a photograph: I have to confess I never did read the text below it. In the sunstruck overexposure of a glass dryplate: a Ford touring car of the early ‘20s, I’d guess, in the center of a curved gravel driveway; behind the car, a ludicrously overwrought Victorian mansion, flanked on either side by palm trees. Behind the house, beyond the palms: nothing. You could see the earth curve before it struck the burned-up sky. In the car: eight, ten, or twelve women, severely dressed, all looking out at the camera. A banner on the side of the car was blurred from the exposure, but the words were discernible: Votes For Women. I knew that I would be going to the place where some brilliant eccentric would consider this the appropriate picture to sell a graduate program; where the rest of the faculty and those in power would agree or at least allow this; where I might learn how to study objects such as this and tease out from them their signifi- PROFESSOR OF ART HISTORY AND DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICAN STUDIES INSTITUTE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS cance, and then learn how to write about the picture, its context, its significance, in a manner that was eloquent enough to be persuasive, restrained enough to keep the attention on the thing itself. William Stott was that brilliant eccentric. I met him in the first week; he was carrying the galleys to Documentary Expression and Thirties America, two rubber bands holding the pages bent double. At the welcome party the week before I’d been assailed by a slender, sneering man who, reading my nametag, told me just how unlikely it was that they’d even considered me: Robert Crunden. Two weeks later I’d get back my first paper from him, the original words barely discernible under the arrows, elisions, cross-outs, marginalia that spilled into the text, and a two-word final comment: “See Me!” I’d go in to meet him the following Monday to be hectored and lectured, my grammar ridiculed, my style dismissed, my insights corrected. “You thought you could write because you went to that place and got that fancy English degree,” he said. “You can’t write—yet. But you will before I’m done, if it kills you.” After the first hour of my first seminar with William Goetzmann, he had filled all three walls of blackboard with names and arrows, dates, crudely drawn maps, questions, book titles, themes. At 10pm, when the class ended, he’d done it twice more. As we gathered up books and notebooks, one of the senior grad students turned to me and said: “Now for the real class— off to Shultz’s!” By the end, Crunden taught me to write, Goetzmann to think, Stott to persuade. A couple of years ago, I brought Maureen with me to show her Austin. The American Studies Department isn’t in the right building; 6th Street is a frat hangout; the bar with a coffin for a door—where we played Wednesdays, Stevie Ray played Thursdays, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds played Fridays and Saturdays— was long gone. But the central mission, the vocation, of the program is still vital. There is still that combination of high and low (now, more appropriately, elite and mass or popular), masculine and feminist, radical and conservative, intellect and emotion, art and science, urbane and sagebrush rebellious. It’s in me, for sure—in the words, in the pictures, in the songs that have emerged over thirty years and continue to emerge. “You can be brash, but back it up!” one of them once told me. “Don’t hurry: live in the archive!” (I suspect that was Goetzmann.) “Sometimes you have to write the third chapter first.” (That was probably Stott). But any of the graduate students in the program today will probably hear the same advice, from Jeff Meikle, from Steven Hoelscher, from Julia Mickenberg, from Mark Smith. “Everything is significant!” Goetzmann used to bellow; Crunden would snort derisively at that, declaring “How? In what way? Says who? When?” Stott was more discreet: “How will you tell that story?” Today I am still writing and I’m working on it guys, I’m working on it! 9 â€œBut any of the graduate students in the program today will probably hear the same advice, from Jeff Meikle, from Steven Hoelscher, from Julia Mickenberg, from Mark Smith. Everything is significant!â€? U N D E R G R A D U AT E A L U M N I Nick De La Cruz AS A MEXICAN-AMERICAN BORN and raised in Davenport, Iowa, I grew up finely attuned to small cultural differences between my family and the larger, almost exclusively white, community around me. As an Iowan attending the University of Texas as an undergraduate, I again felt slightly different. Per Midwestern custom, I used “pop” instead of soda, I drew out my vowel in “dad” (day-ad), and I even gave “both” an extra letter L between the O and the T—all to the delight and frustration of my new friends at UT. It has been a deep personal passion to understand cultural differences where race, class, religion, place, and gender collide. Austin and UT were a rich text for contrasting different American cultures. As a member of an almost all white, upper-middle-class male fraternity in West Campus, I lived with the values of a socio-demographic group to which a majority of Americans cannot relate. As an intern in east Austin at Immigration Legal Services, I understood the struggle of family cohesion in the face of borders and customs and the pressures that Mexicans new to the United States face as people of color. I compared it to what my own family had gone through ninety years earlier on their walk to Iowa from Zacatecas to avoid violent turmoil in Mexico. Being an American Studies ma- STUDENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA COLLEGE OF LAW what UT has to offer the world. We traversed some of the most privileged areas of the United States, and we also went through some of the most challenged. But I always sought to listen to people. In Northern California, this meant understanding the economic pressures placed on the region by the historic decline of the timber and fishing industries and the rise of legal marijuana cultivation. I spoke with our host in Eureka, California, about the struggles teenagers in the community faced between heading into dead-end jobs or deciding to cook methamphetamines and make close to six-figures per year. Their choices were written on their bodies: on our route into town on US 101, we saw addicts wandering the streets with broken teeth, open sores, and blanched white skin. I do not want to ride away from these problems. American Studies encourages me to try to help, by considering the many sides of an issue for the myriad parties involved, policy decisions proposed, new statutes drafted, and court decisions reached. American Studies, in the end, is about understanding cultural differences and how we can be responsive to the unique needs of groups of people. When my fellow students at the University of Iowa College of Law ask my major, I am very proud to tell them American Studies. jor helped me to reconcile these different experiences, to move between them, and to harmonize them with who I am. I will never forget the first fall semester that I had both Dr. Steven Hoelscher and Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt for class. Dr. Hoelscher taught us about space and place and how people imbue places with meaning. Dr. Engelhardt’s discussion of the underlying pressures of femininity and masculinity on Americans’ behavior historically and today was eye-opening. I understood that people would behave in ways detrimental to their wellbeing to satisfy cultural pressure to fulfill expectations of their race, class, or gender. The world around me made much more sense. American Studies has given me a lens through which I have viewed the world retrospectively and actively ever since my first class in the fall of 2009—one I anticipate seeing through for the rest of my life. It has taught me to be active and to empathize with many different groups of people, and to genuinely seek to understand their unique community problems and assets. This summer, as a teammate on the LIVESTRONG Texas 4000, I was one of 42 UT students that rode bicycles from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, for cancer research. We raised $315,000 in a display of 11 “American Studies has given me a lens through which I have viewed the world retrospectively and actively ever since my first class in the fall of 2009—one I anticipate seeing through for the rest of my life.” U N D E R G R A D U AT E A L U M N I Kelli Schultz “AMERICAN STUDIES ISN’T PRACTICAL.” These weren’t the words of my family or even my friends in the Red McCombs School of Business. Nor did they come from an article in the Huffington Post or my accountant mother. The words came from me. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to add a third major alongside Plan II and Theatre and Dance. At the top of my list was American Studies, a degree I had seen while wandering the halls of the Gebauer building on the University of Texas campus but only understood vaguely. I heard I might study Rock and Roll, Coney Island and Jack Kerouac. “Sounds groovy,” I pictured myself saying in my AMS 320: Slang of the ‘70s course (It should be mentioned that this is not an actual course. Though, if Valeri Nichols-Keller decides to consider it, I want full credit). Yet, I was already a double major working two jobs to support my way through college. I had rehearsal seven nights a week and had to maintain a high GPA to be eligible for my scholarships at the University. Why add a third major? And why not choose something more practical (whatever that means)? Hesitant, I registered for my first American Studies course: Dr. Amy Ware’s AMS 310: Intro to American Studies. The syllabus had all the necessary ingredients (read: Rock n’ Roll, Coney Island, and Jack Kerouac). Yet, I quickly discovered that AMS is more than quirky course titles and hippy professors. It’s about getting your head out of the books, getting angry and getting to know 13 Dean’s Distinguished Graduate in the College of Liberal Arts for 2012 ENGLISH TEACHER, TEACH FOR AMERICA CORPS Goldman and Noam Chomsky. Ida B. Wells and Oscar Romero. Progress is made by those who go against the tyranny of the majority and who, for their bravery, often fall by the wayside. American Studies cracks open the primary documents to find what really happened, even if that history is unflattering or infuriating. FINALLY, AMERICAN STUDIES INSISTS THAT I BECOME FAMILIAR WITH MY PAST. I always saw history as “story-time.” Possibly fictional people from the distant past who made unbelievable accomplishments against insurmountable odds. Yet, when you read their handwriting, stand in their libraries and touch their personal pocket watches, you begin to look at history as a part of your identity. What shapes my beliefs? Who came before me? What shaped their beliefs? American Studies is more than a fun class studying animal culture or the history of matrimony (though you can do that). It is a rigorous academic major that pushes for critical thinking in a state that focuses more and more on standardized tests. We question. We consider. We empathize. We study currents of culture and are able to see how history affects our present economy, government, and home life. After four years in AMS, I graduated with three majors, a 3.97 GPA, a performative honors thesis and a Dean’s Distinguished Graduate designation. Most importantly, however, I was able to walk into the next stage of my life as a more compassionate and aware human being. where you come from. AMS FORCES ME TO GET MY HEAD OUT OF THE BOOKS. I came into college thinking I wanted to be a History major. In high school, I won the Social Studies Academic Award (which is as nerdy as it sounds) and had even come up with an acronym to remember all of the Presidents—in order. I knew every battle. Every date. Every one of Teddy Roosevelt’s children. Yet, Dr. Ware’s class asked me to do something I hadn’t before in class: have some fun. Study the advertisements of the day, the songs of the decade and the films of the year. Be familiar with not only what these people read but how they lived. One of my fellow classmates, Laci Thompson, said it best at our thesis symposium this past spring: what drives any of us academics is a feeling, a sense of interest or fun which doesn’t have to be thrown out the window when we add the theory. She compared us favorably to a Neil Nehring quote that says, “the nihilistic, gloomy picture that emerges of a lamely disengaged, over intellectualized, armchair approach to music does indeed convince a fan that perhaps many academics…need to get out more.” In the name of American Studies, I went to music festivals, art shows, theatre openings and even a haunted ghost tour of Austin! AMERICAN STUDIES PUSHES ME TO GET ANGRY. If there’s one thing my AMS professors taught me, it’s that history does not belong to the victors. It belongs to the dissenters. John Brown, Emma “If there’s one thing my AMS professors taught me, it’s that history does not belong to the victors. It belongs to the dissenters.” U N D E R G R A D U AT E A L U M N I Julie Reitzi WHEN I GRADUATED FROM Cinco Ranch High School, a mega-school in the land of megachurches, I was looking for more refinement. I planned on majoring in literature here at UT, maybe even finishing in three years with all the AP credit I took with me. As it often goes, I ended up being gripped by almost the complete opposite—I fell in love with studying the unrefined, the popular, the base, and the kitschy. It took me a while to find the department, but when I did, it was really the idea of overturning the canon, researching the overlooked, that drew me in. During my time in the department, I learned about tortilla art, the politics of comic books, pulp crime fiction, NASCAR romance novels, Vietnamese beauty pageants, and the history of hip-hop. Some may quip that I spent five figures to learn a lot of trivia. However, I found that as I learned about all of these (often weird) pieces of Americana, I was filling in the blanks that conventional history lessons left behind. My understanding of American culture and history became more textured and nuanced. I also found something methodologically sound about deconstructing popu- Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Honorable Mention in the College of Liberal Arts for 2012 Plan Analyst Trainee at N. Darlene Walker & Associates, LP, a Houston-based Human Resources Consulting firm lar culture and everyday life. When anthropologists seek to understand cultures other than their own, they don’t just memorize significant dates. Once I had a handle on the concepts of cultural studies, I often felt like an anthropologist looking at my own culture from the outside. I sat and observed people on campus and thought about the currents of neoliberal trade that brought them their jogging shoes. I debated with myself how appropriative Vampire Weekend’s music was. There was something really exciting about this change in perspective—my coming to political consciousness, if you will. Yet, it might have been frustrating or overwhelming if not for the close-knit nature of the department. If I needed to rant about a really offensive commercial, or a comment overheard on the bus, I knew someone in the department would share my disbelief and/or wrath. It also helps that most American Studies folks I’ve met have a wicked sense of humor. I cannot pinpoint a single lecture or a pivotal moment that convinced me to declare American Studies. My decision came slowly as my interest rose over time. By the time I took a trip with my family, two summers ago, it was pretty evident. We went to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston—all cities of historical and cultural significance—but we only budgeted two days in each. I had just taken Professor Miekle’s AMS 355: Main Currents to 1865 class, so I had done my homework on old Northeastern cities. My family appointed me unofficial trip planner, giving me the opportunity to nerd out at the Smithsonian and find Brattle Street in Boston. The benefits of my studies and individual work in this department have only continued to roll in since that trip. Writing an undergraduate thesis was challenging and rewarding; I chose an unconventional format and a personal subject, but still managed to stretch myself as a writer and researcher. I’ve also had plenty of experiences at my job—a human resources consulting firm—where my background in American Studies has helped me understand the equal employment opportunity legislation I have to address. And, let’s be honest, even the trivia comes in handy at dinner parties. 15 â€œI fell in love with studying the unrefined, the popular, the base, and the kitschy. It took me a while to find the department, but when I did, it was really the idea of overturning the canon, researching the overlooked, that drew me in.â€? STUDENT Irene Garza YEARS AGO, IN AN INTRODUCTORY AMS seminar, Professor Mark Smith gave my first year cohort some sage advice: “you gotta burn for this.” I was confused. “Burn? That just sounds painful,” I thought. After five hard-scrabble years working on political campaigns in Los Angeles, the last thing I wanted was pain. Sure, graduate school might involve long days at the library or an occasional allnighter, but pain? Clearly Mark was just being dramatic…he was not. After years of coursework and many lonely hours in the archives, I came to appreciate Mark’s metaphor—the pain of loving something so much you push yourself every hour of every day just to do it, in spite of or maybe because of its difficulty. And that’s what he meant—you have to love it. It reminded me of an analogy describing love as “having a conversation with someone and never wanting that conversation to end.” For me, that love is American Studies. In fact, anyone who has spent five minutes with me knows I earnestly and un-ironically refer to AMS as the “love of my life.” More than just what I “do,” American Studies helps me make sense of the world and my place in it. It is who and what I struggle to speak with every day and it is a conversation I never want to end. I was formally introduced to the field as a sopho- American Studies Ph.D. Candidate about why I did American Studies. In their stories, I could grapple with some of the most serious considerations of our field: Who is “legible” as a subject? What are the boundaries of a nation-state? How do histories of imperialism inform U.S. statecraft and foreign policy? What narratives are produced during times of war? To this end, my dissertation, “Ground Forces: Latina/os in the Military Industrial Complex, 1973-2006” analyzes the role of militarization in the cultural life of Latina/os throughout the Southwest—a region sometimes referred to as the “Gunbelt” for its large share of military bases and installations. This past spring, I received both a University of Texas Powers Fellowship and a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, which I believe attests to a broad and shared interest in how gender, class, and/ or race shape practices of war and war-making in American daily life. And although much of my time is spent on somber activities like reading soldiers’ obituaries or, on lighter days, dissecting race in the G.I. Joe franchise, I am never disappointed with my chosen subject matter or with the field that allows me to critically engage with it. At this point in my life, I feel like this conversation is just getting started and I couldn’t be happier. more in college when I took “Formations of Modern American Culture,” listening to a lecture on the film Rambo and 1980’s Cold War culture. Later, I declared it “revelatory.” Dramatic? Yes, but true. Growing up in a Mexican-American household, I learned English and much of what I could about mainstream American culture by watching countless hours of television—switching between El Chavo del Ocho and Knight Rider, Pedro Infante and Mr. T. My obsession with popular culture was matched only by my interest in U.S. history. So when I discovered that the methodological tools of AMS could bring together my great affection for popular culture and U.S. history, I was smitten. I graduated college in 2002 with a double major in American Studies and Ethnicity, Race, & Migration (ER&M), satisfied I would be putting my AMS training to good use in politics. But a year later, the U.S. invaded Afghanistan and Iraq following the attacks of September 11th. A poignant development during this time was the large number of immigrant and/or Latina/o soldiers dying in these conflicts. Though I did not enter graduate school with an explicit intention of studying war and militarization, it was these “green-card soldiers” who haunted my thoughts and to whom I returned when thinking 17 “More than just what I ‘do,’ American Studies helps me make sense of the world and my place in it. It is who and what I struggle to speak with every day and it is a conversation I never want to end.” faculty news JANET DAVIS gave invited lectures at the Ringling Museum of Art and the University of Virginia, in addition to community lectures and conference presentations. She was interviewed for several newspapers, radio shows, and a documentary film related to the circus and/or animals. She also finished several essays that are now in production. On May 7, 2012, she published an op-ed piece in the New York Times, “The Dog Ate My Birth Certificate,” which was also simultaneously published in the International Herald Tribune. In June 2012, she finished a draft of her book manuscript, “The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America,” which she is now revising and refining. Lastly, Davis has enjoyed her service as departmental undergraduate honors advisor. Photography at the Harry Ransom Center. There, he completed an edited volume on the Magnum Photo archive, and he presented the results of that research to the Magnum Photos Cooperative at their Annual General Meeting in Arles, France. Lectures on different aspects of photography took him to conferences in New York, Bern, Switzerland, and Frankfurt, Germany. Among his publications this year, Hoelscher is especially pleased with his cover article in History of Photography on Dresden’s 1945 firebombing. RANDOLPH LEWIS published his third book, Navajo Talking Picture: ELIZABETH ENGELHARDT started her first year as chair of the department of American Studies. She is also enjoying her promotion to professor. The year saw her traveling in association with the publication of A Mess of Greens, as she gave keynote speeches in North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Georgia, among other places. The oral history project her graduate students began in the American Foodways class was co-sponsored by grants from Foodways Texas and the Texas Restaurant Association and featured Iconic Texas Restaurants. Audio and photography from the interviews were part of the Texas Preserved symposium hosted by Foodways Texas, and she continued to serve as board member to grow the organization. For the upcoming year, she has been elected to the Southern Foodways Alliance Board and will be an informal liaison between the two organizations for which she cares strongly. She finished work on The Larder, the southern food methodologies anthology she has co-edited with John T. Edge and Ted Ownby—University of Georgia Press will be releasing the book soon. And she has begun a project with a co-author and the family of Wilma Dykeman and James Stokely to write a biography of Dykeman. In addition to serving his fourth, and final, year as department chair, STEVEN HOELSCHER continued his work as Academic Curator of 19 Cinema on Native Ground, in the summer of 2012. Earlier in the spring he published several essays on culture and technology in the journal Flow, including the first part of his book-in-progress on the rise of surveillance culture. Lewis also gave a paper entitled “Selling Surveillance in the Bible Belt: Technology and Theology in the New Christian Marketplace” at the “Surveillance and Society” conference in Sheffield, England. In recent months Lewis has been putting together an editorial board of American Studies grad students to expand The End of Austin project (see page 24). Along with editorial board members Carrie Andersen, Greg Seaver, Emily Roehl, and Sean Cashbaugh, Lewis is working to assemble a provocative new issue for release in January 2013. He continues to enjoy his roles as Graduate Advisor for nearly 50 American Studies grad students, as an Advisory Committee member for the Ransom Center’s forthcoming Gone With the Wind exhibition, and as a member of the interdisciplinary Public Feelings working group. JEFF MEIKLE has nearly completed a draft of “Paper Atlantis: Postcards, Mass Art, and the American Scene,” a book to be published by University of Texas Press. His essay “‘A Few Years Ahead’: Defining a Modernism with Popular Appeal,” appeared in the book Norman Bel Geddes Designs America (Abrams, 2012), which accompanied a major exhibition at UT’s Ransom Center. He also served as a scholarly advisor to the exhibition’s curators. Recent articles include a keynote address that he delivered to the annual meeting of the Design History Society, “Writing About Stuff: The Peril and Promise of Design History and Criticism,” which appeared in a collection of essays from the conference entitled Writing Design: Words and Objects (Berg, 2012). He also explored Bob Dylan’s clever thieving of scholarly appraisals of his music and personality in a major review-essay entitled “‘You’ve Been with the FA C U LT Y N E W S Professors’: Influence, Appropriation, and the Cultural Interpretation of Bob Dylan,” which appeared in the Korean journal American Studies. He continues to serve as a member of Syracuse University Library’s Plastics Collection Advisory Committee and is on the editorial boards of two book series and four journals. A multi-year Humanities Research Award from the College of Liberal Arts will fund archival research for his next book project on “neo-Beats”—writers, artists, musicians, photographers, and filmmakers who appropriated ideas and images from Beat Generation writers. Harvard, New York University, and here at UT Austin (through the CWGS Faculty Development Program), as well as at the annual meetings of the American Studies Association and the Latin American Studies Association. She also received a postdoctoral fellowship through the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry at Emory University, which she declined in order to accept the Early Career Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. She is currently relishing her time in the Steel City, where she is surrounded by black-and-goldclad Steelers fans, eats French fries on sandwiches, works it off by running past Mike Tomlin’s house, and, most importantly, writes towards the completion of “Rightlessness,” her manuscript-in-progress. JULIA MICKENBERG spent January-June 2012 living in Paris with her family and working on her current book manuscript, “The New Woman Tries on Red: Russia in the American Feminist Imagination, 1905-1945” (a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities enabled her contribution to family living in a 5thfloor walk-up 45-square-meter apartment). While in Europe she conducted research at the International Institute for Social History in Amsterdam, and also sat in many Paris cafés thinking and writing about Americans in Russia and the Soviet Union—and the perspective on the United States and “American-ness” one gets from living abroad. The latter theme was the topic of a roundtable discussion, “Insights from Outside: Approaches to the Study of Americans Abroad,” at the 2012 American Studies Association annual meeting in which she is participating. Her article, co-authored with Philip Nel, “Radical Children’s Literature Now!” (a version of the Francelia Butler lecture they presented at the 2011 Children’s Literature Association meeting), was published in the December 2011 issue of the Children’s Literature Association Quarterly. An article entitled “Suffragists and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia” is currently under review. MARK SMITH splits most of his published material between two in- terests of American social science and alcohol and drugs. He had two overviews on the history of American social science, one on its major themes throughout its history and one which concentrates on the years prior to World War II. He has also written a number of short articles on crystal meth, meth labs, and the various meth epidemics. Right now, he is trying to finish an article for Contemporary Drug Problems on the curious chemical resemblance between the drugs used in the Progressive Age for drug withdrawal and childbirth. He hopes his new graduate seminar on the Progressive Era will provide ongoing research for his book on advocates and opponents of the Harrison Act, the 1914 legislation which first criminalized drugs (except smoking opium) in the United States. SHIRLEY THOMPSON has been researching her book project “No A. NAOMI PAIK spent 2011-2012 developing and sharing her research in a range of forums. She wrote an article entitled “Carceral Quarantine at Guantánamo: Legacies of U.S. Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991-1994,” which will soon appear in the Winter 2013 special issue of Radical History Review on the theme of Haiti in the World. She presented her research at invited presentations at More Auction Block for Me” which examines African American experiences of property and ownership in the wake of emancipation. She has spent the last year exploring one of her crucial sites of analysis, the archives of African American insurance companies and writing an article, “The Lives of Black Folk: African American Insurance Companies and the Business of Black Posterity” (currently under review). Drawing on the work of her first book, Exiles at Home, Thompson continues to write on topics related to New Orleans and Creole identities. She was especially thrilled to rework an early version of her book preface to speak to post-Katrina realities in “The Long View From the Levee,” published in Transition 108. 20 graduate student news CARRIE ANDERSEN is beginning her third year in the program and will begin preparing for oral exams in the spring. She presented work on stand-up comedy and race at the Popular Culture Association National Conference in Boston this past spring and participated in a roundtable discussion on game studies and media studies at the Flow Conference at UT this fall. Next spring, she will present work on Christian videogames at the Religion in American Life conference at King’s College, London. She also published two pieces this past summer: a shortened version of her MA report on gaming in the magazine Kill Screen, and an article on Louis C.K. in Flow. Beyond her research, she continues to be hard at work on the department’s social media presence and the graduate student conference, which will be held in April. terror of the job market. In this past year, he has had two chapters published in academic book collections, has presented a paper at the 2012 Annual American Folklore Society Conference, and has continued to spend way too much time organizing and participating in the National Karaoke League. ANDI GUSTAVSON is currently researching and writing her dis- ELLEN CUNNINGHAM-KRUPPA completed her oral examina- tions in November, and prepared her dissertation prospectus on the history of graduate education in the field of library and archives conservation education. She presented her paper, “Library and Archives Conservation in the U.S.: New Disciplinary Directions,” at “Texting China: Composition, Transmission, Preservation of Pre-modern Chinese Textual Materials,” held at the University of Chicago, May 11-13, 2012. She taught a course in Preservation Management in June for the Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College, Boston. As adjunct assistant professor with the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, she continued to travel to Delaware to teach preservation management topics. She is the editor of a special festschrift issue of Information and Culture (Spring 2014), in tribute to the life and work of archives educator and activist Dr. David B. Gracy II. sertation, “What Comes Home: Vernacular Photography and the Cold War, 1945-1991.” Thanks to financial support in the form of the American Studies Continuing University Fellowship and research travel grants from the AAUW Austin Branch, the Louann Atkins Temple Endowed Presidential Scholarship in American Studies, and the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Research Travel Grant she will be conducting research in archives from Lubbock to Baltimore this year. When not researching or writing her dissertation, she works as a Curatorial Assistant in the Photography Department at the Harry Ransom Center. REBECCA ONION began a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science in September, and defended her dissertation in November. A chapter of her dissertation was awarded the 2012 Nathan Reingold Prize for outstanding graduate work from the History of Science Society. She has an article forthcoming in an upcoming issue of American Periodicals, and has begun an archive blog for Slate.com, called The Vault. After holding a Continuing University Fellowship in 2011-2012, LISA J. POWELL spent the first half of Summer 2012 in various archives in Kentucky, continuing research for her dissertation, “Coal and Corn: Landscapes of Mining and Agriculture in Western Kentucky.” As a Research Fellow at the Kentucky Historical Society, she spent time in Frankfort working in the KHS Special Collections and presenting her work to other scholars of Kentucky and the Upper South. In the second ANDREW J. FRIEDENTHAL is currently in the midst of the final year of his Ph.D., completing his dissertation and facing the existential 21 G R A D U AT E S T U D E N T N E W S half of the summer, she taught the Introduction to American Studies course. With the theme of “The American Environment,” the course looked at human-environment interaction, environmental inequalities, and environmental activism across different regions of the U.S. In Fall 2012, Powell is writing heartily on her dissertation and once again teaching her course on America’s National Parks. She is also preparing for the Foodways Texas Symposium in Spring 2013, which she also helped coordinate in 2011 and 2012. Her series of oral histories on Kentucky barbecue was published this fall as part of the Southern Foodways Alliance online Southern Barbecue Trail. an essay for an upcoming anthology about Black girls, violence, and visual media. ELISSA UNDERWOOD completed her oral exam in the spring while SUSAN QUESAL completed her oral exams this November, and is looking forward to embarking on a dissertation project about home and citizenship. Last fall, she presented a paper at the Loyola History Graduate Student Conference entitled, “‘A Loophole of Retreat’: The Ida B. Wells Homes and the Fight for Public Ownership on Chicago’s South Side, 1935-1941.” She is currently a teaching assistant in the Department of American Studies. teaching a writing class in the Mechanical Engineering department. In June, she presented a paper, “Reading Between the Lines: An Exploration of Food Writing in Carceral Spaces” at the Joint 2012 Annual Meetings & Conference of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society, Association for the Study of Food and Society, and Society for Anthropology of Food and Nutrition. During the fall semester, Underwood has been teaching AMS 311S, Prisons and Punishment in American Culture and participating in the Teaching Scholars Seminar through the Center for Teaching and Learning. She is also presenting at the Annual Meeting of the American Studies Association as part of a roundtable, “State of the Field: Critical Prison and Carceral State Studies, Current Scholarship and New Directions.” Alongside her academic pursuits, she is active in a mentoring program for children whose parent/s are incarcerated. EMILY ROEHL is preparing for exams and working as a Public Ser- JEANNETTE VAUGHT is continuing work on her dissertation, vices Intern at the Harry Ransom Center. She recently released her latest artists’ book, Mystery Spot Volume 2: Nature’s Nation, a collaboration with seven artists, photographers, and writers from Minneapolis, Omaha, and Austin. JACQUELINE SMITH was the recipient of a research and travel provisionally entitled “Science, Animals, and Politics in the American Rodeo Arena.” This fall she traveled to the American Heritage Center in Laramie, Wyoming, and the Archives of the Big Bend in Alpine, Texas, to conduct archival research, and will continue research trips in the spring. She is also presenting papers at the ASA conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the OAH conference in San Francisco this year. Before starting the AMS program at UT this past fall, NATALIE ZELT worked as the curatorial assistant for photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. While there she co-curated an exhibition titled WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflcit and Its Aftermath. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue which is distributed by Yale University Press. She is a co-author for the book, which includes her essay “Seeing Eye to Eye” about the history of image dissemination. The exhibition opened at the MFAH on Nov. 11, 2012 and will travel to the Annenberg Center in LA, The Corcoran Gallery of Art in DC, and finally the Brooklyn Museum. 22 fellowship from the John L. Warfield Center for African and American Studies this past year. During the spring she delivered a paper on disreputable media at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Boston, MA. The generous financial support from the Department of American Studies enabled Smith to present her work at the National Women’s Studies Association Conference (NWSA). In addition to presenting her paper, “Busting at the Seams: Ex(er)cising the Black Female Body from the U.S. Nation-State,” Smith was among several scholars selected to participate in the NWSA’s scholastic mentoring program. She is currently writing her dissertation and revising G R A D U AT E S T U D E N T N E W S Gavin Benke Doctoral Dissertations 2011-12 “Electronic Bits and Ten Gallon Hats: Enron, American Culture and the Postindustrial Political Economy” Andrew Busch John Cline “Entrepreneurial City: Race, the Environment, and Growth in Austin, Texas, 1945-2011” “Permanent Underground: Radical Sounds and Social Formations in 20th Century American Musicking” “Blackness and Rural Modernity in the 1920’s” Chiyuma Elliott “Social Violence, Social Healing: The Merging of the Political and the Spirtiual in Chicano/a Literary Production” “American Wasteland: A Social and Cultural History of Excrement, 1860-1920” “Masculinity at the Video Game Arcade: 1972-1983” “Spaces of Indulgence: Desire, Disgust and the Aesthetics of Mass Appeal” Christina Garcia Lopez Daniel Gerling Carly Kocurek Stephanie Kolberg Sasha Vliet “Swerve: A Memoir of Identity in three American High Schools” “Gender, Power and Performance: Representations of Cheerleaders in American Culture” 23 Allison Wright Chiyuma Elliot, middle, was the recipient of the 2012 University Coop/Graduate School Outstanding Dissertation Award. On left, dissertation supervisor, Shirley Thompson and on right, former Chair Steve Hoelscher. G R A D U AT E S T U D E N T N E W S Masters Reports 2011-12 Amanda Gray “Modern Displacements: Urban Injustice Affecting Working Class Communities of Color in East Austin” Carrie Andersen “Virtual Residues: Historical Uncertainty and John F. Kennedy’s Assassination in Videogames” Kathryn Sutton “Rearticulating Historic Fort Snelling: Dakota Memory and Colonial Haunting in the American Midwest” Andrew Gansky “Alluring Decay, Disquieting Beauty: Andrew Moore’s Detroit Photographs” Jennifer Rafferty “Building Identity: The Miami Freedom Tower and the Construction of a Cuban American Identity in the Post-Mariel Era” Michael Scott Pryor “The Matter of Memory: Visual and Performative Witnessing of the Greensboro Massacre” Joseph Thompson “I’ve Got a Strange Feeling: A Grimorie of Affective Materiality and Situated Weirdness” Starting from left: Greg Seaver, Carrie Andersen, Joe Thompson, and Kat Sutton 24 U N D E R G R A D U AT E S T U D E N T N E W S 2011-12 Undergraduate Honors Theses Miriam Anderson “Just the Fracks: Hydraulic Fracturing in a Culture of Contradicting Proof ” Supervisor: Mark Smith Alexandria Chambers “Rob(b)ed Boys: Employing Fiction to Introduce the Choirboy School Upbringing into the American Coming-of-Age Discourse” Supervisor: Janet Davis David Juarez “Making the Team: The Real, Fictional, and Fantastical Sporting Life of Jack Kerouac” Supervisor: Jeff Meikle Julie Reitzi “Making Due and Making Change: Women and Youth of Ciudad Juarez Respond to the Drug War” Supervisor: Nhi Lieu Kelli Schultz “Don’t Mess with TEKSas: A Theatrical Exploration of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills through Thornton Wilder’s Our Town” Supervisor: Mark Smith From far left, Miriam Anderson, Julie Reitzi, Alexandria Chambers, Associate Professor Janet Davis, Laci Thompson, Kelli Schultz, and David Juarez. Laci Thompson “Always On a Tightrope: The Power of Contradiction and the Beauty of Rock Music as Seen Through the Nightime Work of Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg and Patti Smith” Supervisor: Randy Lewis 25 D I G I TA L H U M A N I T I E S P R O J E C T The End of Austin by Randy Lewis Seething city, you break down and build up within spitting distance—hip to your own demise, you bear witness to the futile beauty in our attempts to reclaim, rebuild, remain. Will we hear the end? An end of spirit? Of music? Of the green? Of the weird? — http://end-of-austin.tumblr.com/ SO BEGINS THE END of Austin, a web-based documentary project that emerged out of a graduate seminar I taught on nonfiction last fall. Our goal was to think about creative ways to document the changes in Austin’s cultural landscape and to pay attention to small endings—of lives, places, ideas—that might otherwise go unnoticed. Using Tumblr as a free, public, permanent location that could accommodate writing, photos, sound files, and video equally well, we assembled our first installment last November. What did we create? We’d like to think that it’s a new way of doing American Studies as well as an exciting new portal onto the cultural geography of our city. The first volume included more than a dozen meditations on Austin ending, changing, or transforming in some fashion: a voice describing the literal edge of Austin sprawl, an ominous sign posted during the summer drought, an erudite riff on the city’s geological underbelly, a collage of Austin before and after I-35 was cut through its heart, a photographic glimpse of African American churches being pushed out by gentrification, the sounds of music fading out and silence creeping in, and a report from a cemetery being used for something other than endless repose. Some entries look like journalism infused with scholarship; others seem like art bumping up against something more mysterious. The end product is a mélange of ideas, images, and sounds about what is shifting and crumbling in the city under our feet. This poetic attention to “endings” may sound melancholy, but it is just as often exciting and illuminating. Why try to create this sort of collaborative work on the boundary between art, journalism, and scholarship? For me, American Studies is a constant invitation to try new things, and perhaps the best place to experiment is in your own backyard. Like my colleagues, I hope to make American Studies into something ever more evocative, powerful, and relevant to people inside and outside the academy. Traditional forms of academic output are important, but we in AMS have other contributions to make as well, other voices in which to address a multitude of publics, including ones right here in Austin. A city of perpetual nostalgia, Austin is a colorful place where rapid change pulls against profound attachments to the way things are (or how they are imagined to be). Perhaps this dynamic is what gives such poignancy to the idea of endings in Austin. Austinites are always afraid of losing what we love about the city: the vibe of a particular neighborhood, the murmur of the creative class, the beauty and health of Barton Springs. The end of Austin, or at least some beloved facet of it, always seems around the corner, haunting our sense of place. Austin will never end (I hope!), but our project is dedicated to marking and mourning the small endings that are happening on its streets each day. With some American Studies grad students, I’m forming an editorial collective to manage the site this summer and will be adding new volumes to The End of Austin in future semesters. We hope to have a “living project” for years to come. 26 Over the past year, Ph.D. students Carrie Andersen and Emily Roehl have continued to work on social media initiatives for the department. After redesigning the blog last spring, they have focused on expanding the content and reach of both the blog and Twitter account. The Twitter feed now boasts over 700 followers and continues to be a source for interesting links, articles, and announcements, and the blog remains a well-trafficked site for in-depth information about our departmental community, now boasting visitors from over 100 nations worldwide. Over the summer, the blog featured a series of stories from American studies faculty and graduate students reporting their summer activities, from road trips to book projects. All of these stories have been collected onto a page of the blog for easy viewing: “Stories from Summer Vacation 2012.” New this fall, “Alumni Voices” is a blog series that features interviews with American studies alumni. This has already become a great resource for information on the department and advice for students. The blog has also featured interviews with affiliate faculty members and undergraduate students, and along with the Twitter account, continues to promote events around UT and Austin. Make sure to check out the regularly updated Calendar on the blog as well, which highlights events happening in AMS as well as across the UT and Austin community. Both the blog and Twitter feed are accesible through the American Studies homepage: Visitors to AMS ATX by country https://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/ams 27 PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A tax-deductible donation to the Department of American Studies. Your gift will support graduate studies fellowships, graduate research and conference travel, undergraduate research, student research pa per awards, and faculty development. Your check should be payable to the University of Texas at Austin, with Department of American Studies in the memo line. Please send your donation to: Stephanie Kaufman Executive Assistant American Studies Department The University of Texas at Austin 2505 University Avenue Stop B7100 Austin, Texas 78712 You can also make your gift online. Please go to https://utdirect.utexas.edu/nlogon/vip/ogp.WBX Select the Collge of Liberal Arts from the drop-down menu. Then select the American Studies Department. 28 SUPPORTING AMERICAN STUDIES Your gift will support graduate studies fellowships, graduate research and conference travel, undergraduate research, student research paper awards, and faculty. The University of Texas at Austin Department of American Studies 2505 University Avenue Stop B7100 Austin, Texas 78712-7100 MAIN CURRENTS : FALL NEWSLETTER 2012 DEPARTMENT OF AMERICAN STUDIES Photograph on cover: Courtesy of Foodways Texas, taken by Kathryn Sutton for the Iconic Texas Restaurants Project.