Announcement: ‘Mapping the Afro-Imaginative’ symposium this week

This Thursday and Friday, the Black Queer Diaspora Collective at UT will present a symposium that convenes activists, artists and scholars from throughout the African Diaspora to discuss “creative strategies for black queer world-making.” The symposium kicks off with a keynote lecture from Nalo Hopkinton tonight, Thursday, March 5 at 6:30 in BLS 2.206. On Friday, March 6, there will be a series of panels in the same room. The symposium features panels with E. Patrick Johnson, Alexis Deveaux, Ana Maurine Lara, and more – find the full schedule at the Fabebook event here.

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Alumni Voices: Phil Tiemeyer, Assistant Professor, Philadelphia University

In 2013, Phil Tiemeyer, UT AMS alum and current Assistant Professor of History at Philadelphia University, released Plane Queer, a history of men working as flight attendants. We recently caught up with Tiemeyer to talk to him about his book, his teaching, and his time at UT. 

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Can you tell us a little bit about your book, Plane Queer, and how you came to the project?

My favorite coursework at UT was strewn over various departments: from Janet Davis’ course on social movements, to Ann Cvetkovich’s (English Dept) seminar on queer studies, to Mark Lawrence’s (History Dept) teaching on US Diplomatic History. So, naturally, I wanted to combine all these topics–especially gender, sexuality, and globalization–into one dissertation topic. This led me to think about viable topics that involved LGBTQ roles in the global economy. Between my own childhood passion for flying and Janet Davis’ love for her prior work as a flight attendant, I ultimately ended up focusing on airplanes—the mode of transport that most quickly binds the globe’s disparate nodes of economic activity. And it wasn’t long before I was reading about and conducting interviews with gay men who served as flight attendants, literally working in the aisles and galleys of these planes that are linking the world together. It seemed to me that these men could serve as an important lens for examining the ways that gender and sexuality are intertwined with work in today’s global economy.

Plane Queer ended up being a well-received addition to LGBTQ history, as it is the first book-length chronicle of a gay-oriented career. Work so often gets overlooked as a locus of queer life, in favor of better-documented realms like LGBTQ activism or queer urban nightlife. Plane Queer didn’t end up being as global in focus as I originally envisioned–it focuses only on US-based flight attendants–but I was happy that it was able to chronicle queerness in this workplace all the way back to the 1930s, and all the way forward to the 2000s.

How is the work that you’re doing right now, as a scholar or a teacher or both, informed by the work that you did as a student in American Studies at UT?

Almost every thing I do nowadays is a continuation of my time in American Studies at UT. I got hired in my current job because of my writing in LGBTQ history, and that’s the field I’ve been writing in since my early seminar papers at UT. I also teach a survey class now, so I’m really grateful that I read those hundreds of books for orals and sat in on Janet Davis’ and Shirley Thompson’s surveys and later TA’ed for Bob Abzug’s survey. The more I work on my next book project, which is more focused on globalization and less focused on LGBTQ issues, I find myself grateful for the other work I did with Mark Lawrence and Richard Pells in the History Department–and equally grateful that our grueling preparation for orals forced me to master more than just one field. The only thing American Studies didn’t prepare me for were the other tasks that eat up so much of my time as a professor: committee meetings, advising, and other administrative tasks. Shielding us from these things, though, was surely a merciful act!

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for students in our department about how to get the most out of their time here?

There are so many components to landing a good teaching job that aren’t simply tied to writing good seminar papers and getting As in courses. All of these things matter just as much, if not more, even though they don’t appear on our transcripts: presenting at conferences, getting a couple of articles out while in grad school, and networking with scholars outside of UT who are doing similar work. It is also extremely advantageous to have introduced yourself and your book topic to acquisitions editors at university presses before graduating, since you’ll likely need to have your manuscript finished and under contract within 4-5 years after finishing at UT…and everything about the publication process moves really slowly. I know I could have done a better job with these tasks, and each would have helped raise my prospects on the job market and made my progression towards tenure much less hectic. But it was easier at times to stay complacent in the undergraduate student mindset: as long as I’m writing good papers and getting good grades, I’m fine.

Announcement: Professional development workshop on ‘academic performance’ with Dr. Brian Herrera this Friday

This Friday, February 27, visiting Harrington Fellow Dr. Brian Herrera, Assistant Professor of Theater at Princeton, will offer a workshop on academic performance at 12:00pm in GAR 1.134. This workshop is intended for graduate students and early career academics who would like to build their presentations skills or who experience a bit of academic “stage fright.”herrera

 

Dr. Herrera sent us the following description of this workshop:

This performance workshop is designed specifically for early career academics encountering some measure of “stage fright” or “performance anxiety” around essential academic performances like job talks, conference presentations, and thesis/dissertation/exam defenses. After introducing several simple techniques borrowed from actor and voice training, this workshop rehearses how such performance techniques might also be applicable to high-pressure moments of academic performance.

RSVP for this workshop by e-mailing Chad Crawford at chad.crawford@austin.utexas.edu.

Announcement: ‘LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted’ exhibition reception tomorrow!

We are pleased to announce that the second exhibition associated with LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted has officially opened at the John L. Warfield Center ISESE Gallery in JES A230. The gallery will be open to the public from 12 – 5, Wednesday – Saturday, through May 9, 2015. This exhibition features video and photographic work previously unseen at UT that emphasizes the intimate stakes of Frazier’s political and artistic practice.

This exhibition was organized by INGZ Collective, a curatorial collective that includes our very own American Studies PhD student Natalie Zelt. Join Natalie and the rest of the INGZ Collective for a curators talk and exhibition reception tomorrow, Tuesday February 24, from 4 – 6pm in JES A230. And mark your calendars for LaToya Ruby Frazier’s upcoming residency at the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies, which will include an artist talk and exhibition reception on April 22.

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Announcement: Lauren Gutterman gives talk on lesbian sexuality in postwar America this Monday

This coming Monday, February 23Lauren Gutterman will give a lecture here in the Department of American Studies at UT. Gutterman is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Society of Fellows and an Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. Her talk is titled, “Her Neighbor’s Wife: Lesbian Sexuality, Marriage, and the Household in Postwar America,” and it will take place at 4:30pm in Burdine 436A.

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Here’s what Gutterman has to say about her upcoming talk:

Most scholarship on lesbian history in the postwar United States has focused on unmarried women and portrayed the urban gay bar as the center of lesbian life. While there is ample evidence that married men were able to engage in homosexual sex in this period, historians have tended to assume that married women had little opportunity to act on their same-sex desires. This presentation will demonstrate that wives could and did engage in lesbian affairs at midcentury by making use of the seemingly straight spaces within which their lives were circumscribed, and by negotiating unconventional arrangements with their husbands. Ultimately, this talk argues that the spaces, routines, and structures of heterosexual normalcy enabled married women’s same-sex affairs. In the broadest terms, it demonstrates the potential for queerness within the very heart of the normal.

Alumni Voices: Jessie Swigger, Associate Professor, Western Carolina University

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Last summer, UT AMS alum Jessie Swigger put out a book called History is Bunk about the historical development of the Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. We recently spoke to Jessie, who is currently teaching at in the history department at Western Carolina University, about the book and her time at UT.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book, History is Bunk, and how you came to the project?

My interest in public history started when I took Steve Hoelscher’s Place and Memory course. My research paper in that course formed the basis of my Master’s Report. After comps, I knew that I wanted to continue to work with Steve Hoelscher and to grapple with issues of place, memory, and history.

It was around this time that I took a trip to Detroit, where I visited Henry Ford’s outdoor history museum Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. I had read about Ford’s project and knew that it was one of America’s first outdoor history museums, but was struck by what seemed to be its unique landscape. The village mixes replicas and preserved buildings from across the country. Among the many buildings, Henry Ford’s birthplace, the Wright brothers’ cycle shop, and a replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory populate the space along with two brick slave cabins from Georgia, a tenement farmer’s house, and a Cotswold cottage from England; an eclectic group of structures, to be sure. I was also surprised that so many people were eager to visit a museum that celebrated Ford given Detroit’s economic struggles. I wanted to understand the village and it became the focus of my dissertation.

Contrary to my initial reaction to the village, I found that in many ways Henry Ford’s conception of preservation was not atypical. Instead, Ford’s approach was similar to nineteenth century preservationists who defined the activity broadly. Preservation might mean, for example, creating a replica. The village’s interpretation of the past was, however, clearly linked to Ford’s own complex, and at times contradictory worldview. The village’s history after Ford’s death also proved fascinating. New administrators tried to maintain Ford’s vision while continuing to attract new audiences. Throughout the village’s history, administrators tracked visitor reactions to the site. Using journals written by guides, marketing surveys, and internal reports, I was able to consider how visitors encountered the village and how their responses informed the site¹s interpretive programming. Finally, the archives showed how the site’s marketing approach and interpretation were entangled with the history of the Detroit metro area. My book is a substantial revision of my dissertation and uses the village as a case study to examine the many contexts that shape history museums.

How is the work that you’re doing right now, as a scholar or a teacher or both, informed by the work that you did as a student in American Studies at UT?

My approach to teaching is influenced by the work I did at UT as an undergraduate and graduate student. As an undergraduate I took Main Currents with Mark Smith and as a graduate student I was a teaching assistant for Julia Mickenberg, Janet Davis, and Elizabeth Engelhardt. I still have my notes from all of these courses and have consulted them many, many times when writing my own lectures. We are also extraordinarily lucky that our program allows graduate students to design and teach their own courses. I still use much of the material that I developed during my time as an assistant instructor.

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for students in our department about how to get the most out of their time here?

The AMS Department does a great job of offering graduate students professional development opportunities. Take advantage of these. Take time to talk to faculty about how they approach research, teaching, and service. These conversations may not help you the next day, but will prove invaluable as you start your career. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there professionally–attend talks, work on publications, present at conferences, and definitely attend all happy hours.

Announcement: Ramzi Fawaz gives lecture on queer artistic responses to the AIDS crisis

This coming Monday, Ramzi Fawaz will give a talk called, “The Visceral States of America: Queer Cultural Production and the Digestive Life of AIDS.” Fawaz visited UT last year and we sat down and interviewed him right here on AMS::ATX. Fawaz is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at The University of Wisconsin in Madison. The talk will take place at 4:30pm on Monday, February 16, in Burdine 436A.

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Fawaz sent us the following description of his talk:

This talk explores how queer cultural producers in the late 1980s deployed viscerally charged language around the digestive dysfunctions of AIDS to galvanize a political response to the disease and its social effects. I coin the phrase “the digestive politics and poetics of AIDS” to describe writers’ and artists’ use of metaphors that linked the digestive dysfunctions associated with HIV/AIDS to a political aversion, or disgust, for the state of American politics at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Specifically, I develop a close reading of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America that examines how the play’s linguistic and performative engagement with alimentary processes (ingestion, defecation, and excretion) worked to rearticulate public culture’s disgust with the dying bodies of AIDS victims to a disgust with government neglect. I argue that the play’s affective investment in the gut as a site for intuiting one’s response to American political life helped imagine a new form of liberal politics attuned to bodily vulnerability, disease, and disability as the wellspring for new kinds of ethical responses to both the biomedical and social consequences of AIDS. Ultimately, I show how this project resonated with an array of contemporaneous queer literary, artistic, and visual responses to the AIDS crisis that collectively forged a powerful visceral rhetoric intended to have political results.

“I cherish my bile duct almost as much as any other organ. I take good care of it. I make sure it gets its daily vitamins and antioxidants and invigorating exposure to news of … everyone working for the Bush family.”

– Tony Kushner, speech to the graduating class of Bard College (2005)