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!
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.
Hope to see you there!
Next up in our series of sneak peeks at the American Studies Graduate Student Conference is a panel entitled “The American Dream and the Politics of Promise.” This panel will feature papers on political theory and rhetoric as they relate to the American Dream.
- Curt Yowell, “The Rhetoric of Poverty and Payday Loans”
- Joe Roberto Tafoya, “Watching and Learning From the Shadows: Political Sophistication of Latina/o Young Adults”
- Jeff Birdsell, “Advancing the Student as Investor Metaphor by Reconceptualizing the ‘Career Student’ to Advance the American Dream”
- Duncan Moench, “How Social Democrats can Change the American Dream: A Political Communication Perspective”
This panel will take place on Friday, April 5 from 10:45a.m. – 12:15p.m. in the Texas Union, 4.206 Chicano Culture Room.
Today and tomorrow, the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies presents “The Feeling Body—Feeling the Body, ” the 20th Annual Emerging Scholarship in Women’s and Gender Studies Conference. This graduate student run conference offers undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to share their research on issues in women’s, gender, and/or sexuality studies. The theme of this year’s conference addresses the relationship between feminist theory, affect, and the body.
The following comes to us from the conference program:
Affect is an emerging new direction in feminist theory, generating fascinating conversations around the role of the body and feeling in producing knowledge. How are other disciplines writing about and engaging with affect? How might this new direction shift how we think about the role of the body in academic research? The panelists will examine these topics, exploring the ways in which the body shapes knowledge.
The conference will feature a keynote address on Friday at 3:30p.m. by Dr. Ann Cvetkovich (Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at UT) in the SAC Ballroom.
Also, be sure to check out our AMS grad students presenting at this year’s conference! Masters student Tynisha Scott will present her paper, “Imagining Freedom: On the Vestiges of Enslaved Black Women, Pleasure, and Sexuality” at 3:00p.m. today in SAC 3.116, and Ph.D. candidate Jennifer Kelly will present her paper, “Negotiating (Im)Mobility: Solidarity Tourism in Occupied Palestine” at 1:30 Friday in SAC 1.118.
Hope to see you there!
Back in October 2012, we posted a call for contributors to The End of Austin, a digital humanities project spearheaded by American Studies faculty member Dr. Randy Lewis and a small group of graduate students. We’re pleased to share the news today that the site has officially launched with sixteen fascinating submissions from movers and shakers in the Austin community.
At once a testament to the city’s seductive appeal and its anxious growth, The End of Austin addresses our perpetual concern with Austin’s past and present. Says Lewis, “Austinites are always afraid of losing what we love about the city: the vibe of a particular neighborhood, the murmur of the so-called 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.” The stories about these endings told at The End of Austin take the form of a variety of media: music, photography, fiction, nonfiction, sound, animation, and everything in between.
Carrie Andersen, a doctoral student in the department and member of the editorial board, notes, “Compared to other places I’ve lived in within the past ten years, Austin is remarkably and self-consciously lovely, weird, and anxious about its morphing identity, so I’ve been thrilled to learn more about the city through the work of residents past and present. And it’s so exciting that so many rich and evocative stories have found their home at The End of Austin, particularly since a central goal was to provide an open and accessible space for different forms of creative expression.”
This multi-faceted collage of Austin life has also provided a space for experimenting in creative work beyond the scope of traditional academic scholarship. Sean Cashbaugh, a doctoral student in the American Studies department and member of the editorial board, notes, “For me, The End of Austin was an opportunity to do some important creative and intellectual work in a space outside traditional academic venues, ones that are becoming increasingly important. In this project, we’ve been able to bring ideas and people together that otherwise might never have come into contact with one another. I think that will let us talk about things like urban identity, politics and creativity, and of course Austin’s end, in a new way, one that avoids the cliche nostalgia conversations like these often evoke and depend upon. Publishing online is a key part of this: as a digital humanities project, we can reach a large audience, meaning the discussion we’re having here can spread throughout Austin and beyond the city itself, incorporating other voices and hopefully jump-starting new conversations and projects.”
Take a look at these stories and voices at endofaustin.com, and feel free to share your own stories in the comments there, too.
Hearty congratulations are due to UT American Studies professor Dr. Stephen H. Marshall, who has been awarded the Foundations of Political Theory First Book Award from the American Political Science Association for his new book, The City on the Hill from Below: The Crisis of Prophetic Black Politics. Well done, Dr. Marshall!
Graduate student Carrie Andersen has just published a piece for the Radio-Television-Film department’s online journal, Flow. She explores the surprisingly conservative threads within stand-up comedian Louis C.K.’s oeuvre, whose television show on FX (aptly entitled Louie) deals with moral questions more often than we might expect from typical comedy programs.
An excerpt is reprinted below and the full article is available here:
…Louie explores lofty questions that half-hour comedy programs rarely confront. How do we live a good life? How do we cultivate a code of conduct for our world? How can we avoid being awful to each other?
C.K. is no stranger to questions of living an ethical life—and, aware of his moral choices, often puts his own behavior on trial. In his December 2011 stand-up special, Live at Beacon Theater, the comedian describes one of his own falls from grace.
Too late for a flight to return his rental car, C.K. simply drives the car to the terminal—not to the rental car return—and boards his flight. He then calls Hertz to explain where the car is, and the employee exasperatedly explains the proper rental return procedure. C.K. replies matter-of-factly, “Well, I didn’t do that already, and now I’m leaving California.” Hertz sends an employee to retrieve the car, and C.K. avoids any consequences from his failure to abide by the rules.
Although C.K. realizes he could do this every time he flies to avoid Hertz’s bureaucratic song and dance, he knows it is wrong. Considering the broader consequences of this behavior, Louis advises, “You should act in a way, that if everyone acted that way, things would work out. Because it would be mayhem if everyone was like that.” This is Louis C.K.’s crude twist on Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative: for Kant, a principle (or, in his words, a maxim) is ethical if it would “become through your will a universal law of nature.”
C.K.’s maxim is, of course, not a strict reinterpretation of Kant’s. Louis is concerned with the outcome of his actions—he wants “things to work out”—while Kant questions whether we act in alignment with what duty requires of us. But both evaluate ethical choices based on the negative criterion of universalizability: you can’t make exceptions for yourself even if you want to.
(image from The AV Club)
You could say my summer activities began several months ago when H.B. 2281, an Arizona law prohibiting Mexican American and ethnic studies programs in the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) went into effect in January. In February, I helped to organize and participate in a national Read-In Day held at the University of Tejas campus, in solidarity with the No History is Illegal Campaign protesting 2281. Nationwide, students, teachers, community members, bookstore owners, freedom of speech advocates and so on, read aloud from the books banned from TUSD in accordance with 2281. A significant number of UT-American Studies faculty and students participated, including Prof. Nhi Lieu who read aloud from Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror, Prof. Cary Cordova who recited from Jose Antonio Burciaga’s Drink Cultura, Prof. Naomi Paik who shared passages from political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal’s memoir, Live From Death Row and doctoral candidate Jaqueline Smith who gave a fierce performance of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Across the UT campus, students and faculty donated books to the Librotraficante Movement—a Houston based initiative to symbolically smuggle banned books back into Arizona to create “underground community libraries.”
Hearing my mentors and colleagues read from these texts, many of which have shaped their scholarship and pedagogical practices, inspired me to continue an informal project which I began last summer—the creation of an American Studies graduate student library. The idea of a student library grew from my desire to broaden the currents of intellectual exchange between graduate students about their diverse fields of interest. Currently, there are graduate students doing work on co-ops, mercenary violence, transnational adoption, the American prison system, Israeli “pinkwashing”, the national park system, urban gentrification, comic books, and the history of yoga (to name a few). As I felt on the day of the Read-In, the texts we share with each other, including our favorite “AMS Go-To” books, widen our perspectives, challenge us to think more critically about how our personal research interests intersect with others, and offer interesting points of conversation that can sharpen our insights about the field itself.
Of course, the library also has its practical uses, since most of the books will no doubt be accessed for coursework, Orals preparation, and as teaching resources for AI’s. Currently, the library is up to 250 books and is arranged both chronologically and thematically. Alongside canonical texts like Henry Nash Smith’s Virgin Land and Leo Marx’s Machine in the Garden, are more contemporary AMS classics such as Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera, Jose Esteban Munoz’s Disidentifications, Ned Blackhawk’s Violence Over the Land, and Lisa Lowe’s Immigrant Acts. Since its inception, the AMS library project has been a collaborative one with Brendan Gaughen who took the lead on collecting and organizing the books and with the various graduate students who have donated from their personal collections. Books, be they “contraband” or not, play a powerful role in my life, whether for activism or leisure. My hope is that the AMS library, much like the Librotraficante libraries, will motivate, challenge, and maybe even light some fires. The summer’s ending soon, so go get your reading on.
Back in 2004, inspired by my friend Emily Wismer, I traded my car for a bicycle, and eight years, six cities, and thousands of miles later, I think it’s safe to say that I think riding a bike is pretty sweet. I’m rarely stuck in a traffic jam, I get front-row parking pretty much wherever I go, and hey, I get me some exercise and a little daily sunshine, too, especially here in Austin. In these enlightened times, it’s generally pretty awesome to be a lady cyclist, too, especially with more and more shops hiring female mechanics (thank you, Ozone and The Peddler!), more companies making women-specific gear, and folks like Mia Birk, Georgena Terry, and Shelley Jackson leading the charge in making cycling more accessible to everyone, including women.
But gender and bicycles can easily become complicated, too, and not just in a turn-of-the-century dress reform kind of way. Back in the 1980s and 90s, technophiles like Donna Haraway argued that technology was going to be the great equalizer, as though somehow the right combination of wheels and gears and metal tubing could erase centuries of gender inequality. As far as bikes go, that hasn’t happened – not yet, anyway. But, with more and more lady cyclists moving into what has so far been a male-dominated technological domain, the bicycle is beginning to raise some questions about gender, female sexuality, and what it means to be a lady on two wheels. Below, five very interesting answers to these questions.
Once the holiday festivities, post-Christmas sale shopping, family fun and new year’s shenanigans quieted down, I snuck off to the MLK library down in Gallery Place in Washington, DC, to spend a few days digging around in their voluminous community archives collection. It was awesome. I’m working on a piece on DC’s anti-freeway movement, and hoo boy does the DC Public Library have a lot of great stuff! Not only do they have an incredible collection of photographs, DC City Council records, and DC-area newspapers large and small – they also have 42.5 linear feet worth of clippings, flyers, hearing transcripts, correspondence, maps, picket signs and all manner of other goodies donated by the Emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis (ECTC), an interracial anti-freeway group that leveraged the social upheavals of the 1960s to fight freeways in DC and to rewrite eminent domain legislation in the process. Needless to say, I was psyched.