Undergrad Research: Molly Mandell named UEPS scholar for 2015-2016 school year!

Today we are thrilled to share a conversation with AMS undergraduate Molly Mandell, who is the recipient of an Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship (UEPS) for the 2015-16 school year. The UEPS award is one of the most notable scholarships offered to UT students from a wide range of departments. We are super excited that Molly will be representing AMS and doing great work in the year ahead. To find out more about her next project, which involves a trip to Cuba to visit and photograph organic farms, read on!SelfPortrait

Tell me about what you are working on right now.

This summer, I’m working with the school of Undergraduate Studies and American Studies professor Randolph Lewis on an independent research project where I will be going to Cuba to photograph organic farms. I’m trying to understand sustainability there. Here at UT, I worked at the Micro Farm, which was an extension of my summer WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in France and Italy. I’ve always been interested in organic, sustainable farming and agriculture, but that really inspired me to come back and to look into my own community and see what is going on locally.

How have your American Studies classes influenced the way you think about sustainability and organic agriculture?

My American Studies classes have taught me to think really critically in a lot of ways. I didn’t start as an American Studies major. I found it by chance. I’m also interested in the arts. I like how in American Studies you can look at a lot of different topics and see common themes across them and understand how things reflect society. It makes you question society both locally and more broadly.

American Studies classes had a big influence on why I chose to go to Cuba, actually. At first, I didn’t make the connection between agriculture and Cuba. I was just following all the news once the United States started relations again with Cuba. I feel like Cuba is either romanticized or demonized in the United States. Simultaneously, there are all these discussions happening about when the embargo is lifted and America is once again involved with Cuba, how all these things will get better. I think there is a lot of truth to that; many things will improve, but I also think that there are parts of their culture that we don’t talk about that are really unique and special. As I was researching I started to read about agriculture, and it’s fascinating: basically, they were forced to be entirely organic because they haven’t had access to pesticides and machinery. They are now on their way to being one of the most sustainable countries in the world, but that is really subject to change as the United States gets more involved.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences in an American Studies classroom.

The class that got me involved in American Studies was the Politics of Creativity course with Randolph Lewis in the Fall of 2013. That class was initially a writing flag for me, and I picked it at random. In that class, I did my research paper on Marfa, Texas, and the controversy between Prada Marfa and Playboy Marfa, which are two roadside art installations. I was talking about which one should stay there in relation to Donald Judd’s ideas around art and what it should be. That was really influential for me because I hadn’t really explored my more creative thinking side, and that class pushed me to do so. It caused me to rethink academics in general. There are all these notions about what it means to get a degree and do research–write a research paper. But I get to incorporate photography, as I will in my Cuba project, which is important. The end result for my Cuba project will be a book published as both a paper and eBook. I’m old school, I still like holding things. My photographs will have long captions as an alternate to a long research paper. My American Studies classes have taught me that you can use your creative side in academics, which is really exciting.

Announcement: Awards abound in the Department of American Studies

It’s the end of the school year, which also means it’s awards season for our students and faculty. A hearty congratulations to every one of our community members for these honors, all listed below!

(We had so many winners that we had to lump them all into a single post – a testament to the quality of work in our department!)

Dr. Randy Lewis was selected to receive a Raymond Dickson Centennial Endowed Teaching Fellowship in recognition of his exemplary performance and commitment to teaching in American Studies.

Dr. Bob Abzug was selected as a 2015 NACADA Outstanding Advising Certificate of Merit recipient.

Dr. Janet Davis won the Silver Spurs Centennial Teaching Fellowship (Spring 2015), the Dads’ Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship (2015-2016), and was selected to serve as a Provost Teaching Fellow (2014-2016), where she is developing a service learning initiative.

Ph.D. candidate Natalie Zelt was honored with an Outstanding Graduate Student award from The John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies for her work with the INGZ Collective.

Undergraduate Molly Mandell was selected for an Unrestricted Endowed Presidential Scholarship for the 2015-2016 school year.

Grad Research: Julie Kantor publishes chapbook, LAND

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Exciting news: Ph.D. student Julie Kantor has published a new chapbook of poetry, LAND, with Dikembe Press, and will be reading and signing copies of the book at Farewell Books on Friday, May 15 at 7:00pm.

We asked Julie about her process and the themes of the chapbook:

I wrote the first two poems of LAND in a BART from San Francisco’s airport to the Mission. Reviewing the photographs of the bird’s eye view captured on my phone from the flight from New York, the lines that carved mountains served purpose other than to demarcate peaks & their inclines; these were the mappings of my veins, of my (then) partners’, those living at the heels to follow in—the way earth comes toward & falls away in the cragged valleys is the way we become, or unbecome, together in what is lost, in what is yet to come into existence. There is more than we can see or feel.

The “we” of LAND, the story of their travels, seek a way to continue through means that are in excess of the actual, of and beyond it. LAND infolds within it many worlds–no one is dominate over another; the distinguishing qualities that tell us when we don’t belong somewhere we inhabit, atmospheres that tell stories, leaving us uncomfortable aren’t present; there are no caution signs. “We” roam to find a place that can hold, sustain them, but every thing is tenuous. Attempting to understand the world one way doesn’t work out, because living in the world only one way is untenable.

Julie’s poetry has also been published in Boston Review, A Public Space, Maggy, and Foothill. Her work is being translated into Ukrainian for a new modern American poetry anthology, and she is a poetry reader and writes microreviews for Boston Review. LAND, published by Dikembe Press, is her first chapbook.

Grad Research: PhD Candidate Carrie Andersen wins P.E.O. Scholar Award!

We love it when our grad students do awesome stuff, so we’re thrilled to be able to share that PhD Candidate Carrie Andersen has been awarded the prestigious P.E.O. Scholar Award!

11150307_10102030799772771_5875756648760492413_nCarrie’s advisor, Dr. Randolph Lewis, had the following to say about Carrie’s work in a recent Chicago Tribune article announcing the award:

Few scholars have reckoned with the profound implications of UAVs or “drones” in ways that go beyond the legality of CIA drone strikes on foreign soil or private drones invading our backyard pool parties with remote-controlled video cameras. These are important matters, but Carrie is exploring something that extends far beyond a single academic discipline, something that requires an interdisciplinary fusion of research and method, indeed, something that probes to the heart of American culture.

Congratulations, Carrie!

Announcement: Workshop with media artist Samuel Cepeda this Friday

This week we’d like to direct your attention to a workshop happening in the Department of Anthropology. The Intermedia Workshop will host Samuel Cepeda, a media artist from Mexico, who will offer a workshop on “Research and remediation techniques in the critical study of media.” Cepeda is currently a full time artist and researcher working on his dissertation at Tecnológico de Monterrey in the PhD program of humanities studies in science and technology.

Je2vCRXZCjuAe7h_hdPW5t2YZicHzK05bTEff7Lv5YFr-s5IOazFkHADhqQUgc30XGJSK_imHtnu5KhV9aBtBISoeEXjRyZ45fOtwB3JJsPIfG_t7RB9wjozJ4Go7OqaJl1A-TNBKRcxbsL_ZPBTiEbu_hxqT44RQWimEJYFCLs6f2cJMGfjuCK-8r9hDif5y_aQ5fl3IpxD_p0M_MbeaJxRkZl3SXh OLwNDF-UxNzXc6YTQK0FuIv0K7XA4Rn1OhC8y7I73pyU6D6Oe0NCtsqLC_LQpJFiwEUsopd-0jPzWcvVRJCBCHit3N3CEd1MUd9vPobBlSkDOIkhgoZC2sH32awlUkNtpmfQj2ZiVzg_pX8WRTrsYQRu2il1-KC3fGdBfxfht5Wh8aXWVKz4Zf06Z3tA-CXr_gJFQ_titxnFVHPlhYA71TRpDBzsE1SHere is some additional information on the workshop, which takes place this Friday, May 8 from noon to 2:00 in the Intermedia Workshop (SAC 4.120):

The research of contemporary culture frequently implies paying attention to the symbolic production in different media, as well as the material and semantic consequences of its remediation. The researcher, in order to understand the symbolic production within a group or culture, needs to deeply comprehend it as a creator too. In this workshop, through the practice of various remediation techniques we’ll approach a way of theorizing while producing.

The workshop is free and open to the public.

Announcement: Lecture on American Studies from a Korean perspective this Thursday

This Thursday, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Sangjun Jeong, Professor of English at Seoul National University, who will deliver a lecture on “Doing American Studies on the Periphery: A Korean Perspective.”

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Dr. Sangjun Jeong is serving as Visiting Professor of History at Duke University for the current academic year. His publications encompass American literature and culture from Puritanism to postmodernism, and he recently translated Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady into Korean. His ongoing project involves comparing a wide range of international and transnational approaches to American Studies. He is a past president of the American Studies Association of Korea.

The lecture will take place on Thursday, April 30, at 4:30pm in CLA 1.302D (Liberal Arts Building). Refreshments served. The event is co-sponsored by the Departments of American Studies, English, and History, and the Centers for Asian American Studies and East Asian Studies.

Announcement: Undergraduate Honors Thesis Symposium Today!

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Here at AMS::ATX, we love to draw your attention to the awesome work our American Studies undergraduates do, and so we’d like to invite you to the Undergraduate Honors Thesis Symposium this evening, Wednesday, April 22. Please join us in Burdine 214 at 5:00pm to celebrate the work of some of our stellar undergraduates, who will present portions of their thesis research.

Here is a lineup of tonight’s presentations:

Courtney Michelle Luther – “Pregnant in Prison: Orange is the New Black and the Reproductive Justice Crisis in Prisons”
Kevin Machate – “Promise Me”
Misael Mendoza – “Popped Open: Containment and Domesticity in Pop Art”
Lindy Nesmith – “An Evolution of the Delta Blues from the Disreputable Margin to the Respectable Sinner”
Shannon Schaffer – “Mental Illness in America: A Personal Odyssey”