We recently featured some of the fascinating theses from our graduating honors undergraduates, and we’d like to take a moment to congratulate some of our graduate students who will be graduating this spring and summer. Way to go, everybody!
Greg Seaver, MA
WAKE-UP ARTISTS: MAXIMALIST VOICE IN THE NONFICTION OF JAMES AGEE, LESTER BANGS, AND DAVID FOSTER WALLACE
Sherri Sheu, MA
Becky D’Orsogna, Ph.D.
YOGA IN AMERICA: HISTORY, COMMUNITY FORMATION, AND CONSUMERISM
Tony Fassi, Ph.D.
Katie Feo Kelly, Ph.D.
ORGANIZING THE AMERICAN DOMESTIC INTERIOR: 1978-2010
Rebecca Onion, Ph.D.
SCIENCE AND THE CULTURE OF AMERICAN CHILDHOOD, 1900-1980
We’re very happy that, following a few final exams and papers, summer vacation is nearly upon us. Like last summer, we’ll be blogging at a more leisurely pace. But you will see the return of a popular feature that we began back in summer 2012: Stories from Summer Vacation. Stay tuned for reports from the UT American Studies community about how folks are spending their well-deserved months of respite (or, in reality, a few months to catch up on work, prepare for fall classes, polish up drafts of books and articles, read for qualifying exams, write dissertations – and occasionally relax!).
Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
Today we are thrilled to feature an interview with AMS undergraduate student Lauren White. Her thesis project looks at media representations of soul food. We sat down with Lauren and chatted about her research and future plans–enjoy!
Tell me a little about your research.
I’m looking at various media surrounding the neo-soul food movement, thinking about things like the representation of soul food in movies, music, and television. I decided to look at examples from the media, like the film Soul Food and episodes of Boondocks. Soul food is an important part of American culture–it is something that you couldn’t study anywhere else. My thesis project and the paper I am presenting at the conference were originally a part of the Food Studies Project. They needed a blog writer. I was originally going to write about something else, but I had presented at Undergraduate Research Week about soul food, and they noticed that and encouraged me to expanded it from there.
What has been your favorite class in American Studies and why?
Southern Cultures with Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt. It was a great opportunity to find out about southern traditions, where they come from, where they are practiced, how they have changed. In that class I got to do an ethnomusicology project on the banjo which has led me to want to pursue graduate school in ethnomusicology, or perhaps archival work related either to ethnomusicology or gastronomy. I would love to work at an institution like the Smithsonian and do work on jazz and popular culture.
Although the school year is winding down, we still have news to share with our loyal readers! The College of Liberal Arts at UT has recently released a slew of video conversations with faculty members across campus, and two of our own - Elizabeth Engelhardt and Randy Lewis – are among those professors who have shared some ideas about their work for the college.
Elizabeth describes her work with food studies (including a brief discussion of iconic Texas restaurants!), and Randy talks about The End of Austin and the challenges confronting the city. All videos are available at the LiberalArtsUT YouTube account here.
For our 150th blog post at AMS :: ATX (!!), we thought it might be nice to show you another side of our department. American Studies graduate students certainly work hard, but we also play hard. Several members of the graduate community band together each spring to play softball in the UT intramural league. Today, we bring you some photos of the Machine in the Garden team, the name (of course) an homage to Leo Marx’s canonical American Studies text. While the team’s record was not one for the books, we had a wonderful time getting out in the sun and working out some of our academic aggression on the field. Enjoy!
Today we are thrilled to feature an interview with affiliate faculty member Dr. Eric Tang, Assistant Professor in African and African Diaspora Studies and the Center for Asian American Studies and Associate Director of the UT Community Engagement Center.
Dr. Eric Tang, credit by David Woodberry
1. What has been your favorite project to work on and why?
I’m not sure that I have a favorite project. I have different projects that each offer moments of profound reward. I guess, then, I have favorite moments. And those moments are when the exceptions prove the rule: when seemingly unlikely racial alliances explain a community’s resilience; when what seems like social disorganization and disjuncture is in fact the generative force of political movements; when what is misunderstood as hopelessness, despair and ambivalence among oppressed peoples is rather an expression of a profound political critique.
2. How do you see your work fitting into larger conversations in the academy or contemporary society?
My work looks at the poetics of displacement–from third world refugees to the African American communities throughout Austin. Why poetics? Because the violence of displacement necessarily produces among the displaced a specific way of knowing the world–a theory and a form. Some scholars refer to this as a methodology of the oppressed. My goal as a scholar is to ensure that contemporary society does not squander their vision/theory/method.
3. What projects, people, and/or things have inspired your work?
Far too many to name. Historian Robin Kelley was my dissertation chair and my mentor since undergrad days, so his influence is evident in my work. But it depends on what I’m working on. If it’s the question of justice and its limits, then I’ll be reading Sadiya Hartman. If it’s New Orleans we’re talking about, then it’s the dearly departed Clyde Woods. If it’s 1980s New York City, then I am turning straight to the lyrics of Public Enemy. If I’m focusing on Austin’s genteel apartheid, then it’s the generation of black residents I’ve recently interviewed who recall the city’s unmistakable history of Jim Crow (alive and well today, they insist).
Research week at UT begins next week, and the American Studies honors thesis writers will be presenting a year’s worth of hard work at our annual symposium on Wednesday, April 17, 5:30-7:30pm in Burdine 214. Below are some brief remarks about each thesis and each presenter. Come by to see the great work these students have done!
And, in that vein, we have more exciting news to share. The End of Austin is featured in the Spring 2013 issue of UT College of Liberal Arts’s Life and Letters magazine, and you can read the article here as well as in the print edition (and we highly recommend you click through for some wonderful illustrations of cyclops-like monsters attacking the city, as they often do).
A brief excerpt:
So what does the future hold for Austin? Will the city build a better freeway system or buckle under the heavy pressure of rush-hour commuters? Will the skyline be recognizable a century from now, or will it morph into another sprawling megalopolis? The city’s fate depends on the decisions that are being made right now, Lewis says.
“We have the raw ingredients of a great city based on location, climate and the university,” Lewis says. “But the decisions that we make in the next 10 to 20 years will determine whether Austin will be a world-class, great city, or if it will just be another Sunbelt urban zone.”
The hope for the writers and contributors of the website is to provide a shared brainstorming forum for both the community and the university—and ultimately find possible solutions for Austin’s biggest challenges.
The Department of Theatre and Dance’s Performance as Public Practice program and John L. Warfield Center’s Performing Blackness Series will host a discussion today of Charles O. Anderson/dance theatre X’s TAR, with conversation about Black dance, producing Black art, and the role of art in generating social change. The symposium will take place in the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre in the Winship Building on the UT campus from 1:30-5:00p.m.
Keynote Speaker: Dr. Thomas Frantz, Professor of African and African American Studies/Dance/Theatre Studies, Duke University
Ms. China Smith, Founder and Executive Artistic Director, Ballet Afrique, Austin
Dr. Omise’eke Tinsley, Associate Professor, African and African Diaspora Studies, UT Austin
Dr. Michael Winship, Professor, Department of English, The University of Austin
The symposium is in conjunction with two public performances of dance theatre X’s TAR on April 12 and 13 at 8:00 p.m. in the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre. Both performances are free and open to the public.
Today we’d like to offer you a special invitation to our keynote address by Dr. Claire Jean Kim (Political Science and Asian American Studies, UC Irvine). Dr. Kim’s address is entitled, “The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Michael Vick” and will take place on Thursday, April 4 from 6:00p.m. – 7:30p.m. in NOA 1.124.
Here’s a little more on our keynote speaker:
Claire Jean Kim received her B.A. in Government from Harvard College and her Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University. She is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Asian American Studies at University of California, Irvine, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate classes on racial politics, multiculturalism, social movements, and human-animal studies. Dr. Kim’s first book,Bitter Fruit: The Politics of Black-Korean Conflict in New York City (Yale University Press, 2000) won two awards from the American Political Science Association: the Ralph Bunche Award for the Best Book on Ethnic and Cultural Pluralism and the Best Book Award from the Organized Section on Race and Ethnicity. She is completing a second book, Multiculturalism On Edge: Contesting Race, Species, and Nature (Cambridge University Press, 2014), which examines the intersection of race and species in impassioned disputes over how immigrants of color, racialized minorities, and Native people in the U.S. use animals in their cultural traditions. Dr. Kim has also written numerous journal articles and book chapters. She has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the University of California Center for New Racial Studies, and she has been a fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey and the University of California Humanities Research Institute. Dr. Kim is an Associate Editor of American Quarterly and the co-guest editor with Carla Freccero of a special issue of American Quarterly entitled, Species/Race/Gender, forthcoming in September 2013.