Faculty and Graduate Research: An Evening of Pecha Kucha Presentations

by Cole Wilson

The American Studies Department tried out a new style of presentation this Friday the 6th, a PechaKucha Night. Designed by “Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture” The first PechaKucha Night was held in Tokyo February, 2003 and consisted of seven minute presentations consisting of 20 slides lasting for 20 seconds each.[1] The Austin adaptation took place on the fourth floor of Burdine Hall in the American Studies conference room and featured seven varying, thought-provoking, and engaging presentations by AMS faculty, Ph.D. candidates and masters students. Like the original invented in Japan, UT Austin’s PechaKucha Night presentations were limited to 20 slides, lasting for 20 seconds each. The topics varied from American students in Vienna, Austria to modern day interpretations of Tiki drinks and its allusions to cannibalism. Every presentation was jam packed with information that both captivated the attending audience and propagated a lively discussion following the event. Here’s a recap:

Masters student Kerry Knerr connected the contemporary constructs of tiki with cannibalism through her argument that “consumption [of the contents of the iconic tiki cup] inhabits the being of the cannibal” while also carrying out the act of “consume[ing] the cannibal” itself. Knerr offered a glimpse into the history of Tiki as a physical artifact and as a romantic notion constructed by western entrepreneurs “Trader Vic” and “Don the Beach Comber.”

Following Knerr was Department Chair, Dr. Steve Holescher who presented on his bi-annual maymester course in Vienna. Dr. Hoelscher outlined his course objectives: understanding memory, the city’s adaptive reuse, and the cultural norms that have grown out of Vienna complicated past. He went on to discuss how he goes about reaching these objectives. Dr. Holscher pointed to Nazi era anti-aircraft towers standing stories above the tallest buildings in the city’s center, which are impossible to remove due to the dense urban landscape, and poses the question: how does the city of Vienna deal with this permanent reminder of the past? During his class students visit sites like the Jewish Monument against fascism, the Nameless Library,[2] and Mauthausen Gestapo camp. As a former participant of Dr. Holescher’s Viennese course I can safely say each and every day is filled with impactful and insightful lessons all revolving around the city and its concept-of-self. Dr. Holesher states that students in his course are constantly prompted to answer the question: how is Viennese memory displayed and interpreted at these location.

Ph.D. candidate Andrew Gansky presented a portion of his dissertation titled “Apple helps those that help themselves” next. He opens with a provocative question: “why do teachers love Apple?” Gansky goes on to argue that the answer lies somewhere in Apple-funded educational grants, a teacher-centric acknowledgement campaign, and a business model that made “people feel good consuming.” Gansky states that Apple continued their marketing techniques from the early 1970s through the 1990s, each year gaining more clout in the world of educators through their marketing grant-based, publicity-driven, education-focused business model.

Next, Dr. Lauren Gutterman presented on the case of Jeannance Freeman, a lesbian woman who charged with the murder of her two children in 1960, with the aid of her lover, and mother of the children, Gertrude Nunez Jackson. Freeman was the first woman sentenced to death in the history of Oregon’s penal system; however, the sentence was reduced to life in prison four years later. Dr. Gutterman argues that Freeman was considered a villain but later became a victim in the public’s eye. Dr. Gutterman touched on Freeman’s transition from villain to victim and how that change relates to her sexual orientation. She also explored how capital punishment was distributed unto the LGBTQ community in the 60s and sheds light on Oregon’s LGBTQ population’s progress throughout the decade. For more information check out Gutterman’s synopsis through the University of Michigan here.[3]

Dr. Jeff Meikle was next to present, and he did so on G.I. Pitchford’s iconic 4×6 inch portraits of the American southwest. Dr. Meikle explains that Pitchford sold (in bulk), captured, colored, and altered the post cards that would later create Americas notions of the “open road,” perhaps anticipating Jack Kerouac’s widely read On the Road. From his iconic, almost generic, sunset, to his incorporation of blossoming American technology like the automobile, highway, city center, or, in one famous instance, Hoover Dam, Pichford’s work has captivated the American imagination and instilled a picturesque romanticism of the continental southwest unlike any other artist before him or scene.

Masters student Josh Kopin presented on portions of his thesis concerning Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts gang and their allegorical ode to adulthood. Kopin argues that Charlie Brown counters the American nuclear family by presenting an allusion to the American worker, similar to Charlie Chaplin’s “Industrial Man.” By becoming consumers, fulfilling parental roles, and their acknowledgement of finite American cultural minutia (as evident in the gangs interest in works like “War and Hate”) the Peanuts are both children, and adults, possibly more so than Chaplin’s Industrial Man.

Lastly, Dr. Randy Lewis’ centered his presentation around the artistic interpretation of modern day surveillance. Dr. Lewis remarked on how artist action is at its heart a cultural barometer and went on to discuss how contemporary artists like Zach Blas[4], Karin Krommes[5], and Josh Kline[6] have thus expressed an uneasiness surrounding the practice. From drones to street cameras, artists have taken on the task of digesting and presenting these surveillance practices.

If you missed out, that’s alright! There is a PechaKuch Night planned for the Spring you can catch next semester. Keep in touch with the blog, the UT AMS website, our Facebook page, twitter feed, or wherever you get your UT Austin AMS news for more info on the next PechaKucha Night.


[1] PechaKucha.org. “PechaKucha About” Klein Dytham Architecture. http://www.pechakucha.org/faq

[2] “Holocaust Monument a.k.a. Nameless Library (2000)” University of Florida school of Art and Art History, http://art-tech.arts.ufl.edu/~kecipes/whiteread/holocaust.html.

[3] Gutterman, Lauren “Saving Jeannace June Freeman: Capital Punishment and the Transformation of Homophobia in Oregon, 1961-1964.” University of Michigan. https://lsa.umich.edu/women/news-events/all-events/archived-events/2015/03/saving-jeannace-june-freeman–capital-punishment-and-the-transfo.html

[4] Blas, Zach. “Facial Weponization Suit” http://www.zachblas.info/projects/facial-weaponization-suit.

[5] Facebook. “Karin Krommes” https://www.facebook.com/karinsabinekrommes/

[6] Kline, Josh. http://47canal.us/main.php?1=jk&2=pics

Alumni Research: Irene Garza


As a department, we’re thinking a lot about how we can bring our research to people who live and work outside of the academy, and we’re always very excited when a student or faculty member reaches a wider than usual audience. We’re excited to share that, last week, the NPR program Latino USA ran a story about the recruitment of Latinas/os and other people of color into the US armed forces. For the story, Latino USA spoke to UT AMS PhD candidate Irene Garza, whose dissertation is on this very topic. You can listen to the story here and read more about her research here. Congratulations, Irene!

Announcement: Symposium On The Vietnam War


We’re very excited for the upcoming symposium “The Vietnam War: Lessons and Legacies From Half a Century,” marking fifty years since American combat troops landed in Vietnam and featuring our department’s Janet Davis and others from around the university and outside it. The event is in the AT&T Exec. Education & Conference Center’s Tejas Dining Room from 4:30-6:00 on Thursday, November 12 and is free, but an RSVP is required.

More information below:

“The Vietnam War: Lessons and Legacies across a Half Century”
Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 | 4:30pm to 6:00pm
U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam 50 years ago, turning a distant conflict into a major war that would leave lasting scars on American politics, society, culture, and foreign policy.  Indeed, the Vietnam War continues to reverberate powerfully in the United States today, as ongoing debates over U.S. policy in the Middle East attest.  This roundtable brings together scholars and veterans to consider some of the war‘s legacies and the ways in which Americans have tried to draw lessons from their nation’s defeat.
Panelists include:
Madeline Y. Hsu (Panel Chair)
Associate Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin
Janet Davis
Associate Professor of American Studies, University of Texas at Austin
Lynne Hudson
RN, Women’s Health Practitioner
Mark Atwood Lawrence
Associate Professor of History, University of Texas at Austin
Nancy Bui
President, Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation
Paul Woodruff
Darrell K. Royal Regents Professor of Ethics and American Society, and
Professor of Philosophy and Classics, University of Texas at Austin


Alumni Voices: Ph.D. alumna Dr. Carly Kocurek named Nayar Prize finalist


Hearty congratulations to Dr. Carly Kocurek, who was named a finalist for the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Nayar Prize, an award “established to encourage and challenge Illinois Tech faculty, staff, and students to develop breakthrough, innovative projects that will, within three years, produce meaningful results with a societal impact.”

Dr. Kocurek, along with fellow IIT faculty members Jennifer Miller, Cynthia Hood, and Matt Bauer, proposed to create a videogame designed to foster language development among young children. They were awarded $100,000 to develop their project, a description of which we’ve pasted below:

Inequalities in early childhood language have a lasting impact on individual success, both in academics and careers. These inequalities inflate social welfare costs and slow economic growth. Our goal is to increase language skills necessary for academic success and subsequent economic success. Our innovation would leverage serious game design to produce a research-driven, high-impact interactive game for children aged 24–36 months. Children who use the interactive game will learn more words and be better prepared to succeed in school.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised guidelines on screen use and suggests that media can be used constructively in children after the age of 2. Our game will combine community-based participatory research and cutting-edge understanding of language acquisition and learning. This project draws on perspectives from developmental psychology, linguistics, game design, and computer science, and our team is uniquely poised to combine insights and breakthroughs from a diversity of disciplines. Team members bring with them experience in language learning, serious game development, assessment, and other key areas.

The game will engage both caregivers and children through a playful learning experience that encourages high-quality interaction and engagement. The initial goal is to develop an individual game, but in the long run this will spark widespread development and rigorous testing toward optimizing educational experiences for young children.

Announcement: AMS Pecha Kucha


UPDATE: Due to the weather, we’ve decided to reschedule this event for next week. More soon.

Today, at 4 PM in Burdine 436A, the department of American Studies will hold its first ever Pecha Kucha. Excitingly, both members of the faculty and the graduate student body will be giving presentations of 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each. The lineup is below.

We See You: The Art of Surveillance
Randy Lewis


Saving Jeannace June Freeman: Capital Punishment and the Lesbian-as-Victim in Oregon, 1961-1964
Lauren Gutterman


An American in Vienna
Steve Hoelscher


“They Do Say It’s Real”: G.I. Pitchford’s Postcard Images of the American West
Jeff Meikle


Apple Helps Those Who Help Themselves
Andrew Gansky


Kicking the Football: Charlie Brown in the 1950s
Josh Kopin


Deconstructing Tiki
Kerry Knerr

Announcement: INGZ Gallery Show “In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes”


On Thursday in GWB 2.204 beginning at 5:00 PM and running until 6:30 PM, there will be a gallery talk and reception for In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes, a show curated by Rebecca Giordano on behalf of the INGZ curatorial collective, of which our own Natalie Zelt is a member. Featuring “selections from four comic series by the first African American woman cartoonist, Jackie Ormes,” the show tracks the cartoonist’s career “beginning in 1937 in the Pittsburgh Courier,” and displays a selection of her “irreverent and witty comics tackling major cultural events in newspaper comics that centralized the experience of African American women. From the House of Unamerican Activities to segregated train cars that enabled the Great Migration, Ormes’ vivacious and intellectual characters countered pervasive stereotypes with images of stylish, self-driven, and savvy women of color.” We spoke to Giordano about the thoughtful and exciting show earlier this week, and will run that interview in the next few days.

Announcement: Salman Rushdie at the Harry Ransom Center, 10/28!

Salman Rushdie in New York City 2008

What an event: novelist Salman Rushdie will be at the Harry Ransom Center, delivering the keynote address for the symposium Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy.

Registrants for the symposium have reserved seating, and while all other free tickets have been claimed, there will be a standby line at the Hogg Memorial Auditorium should any seats become available last minute. The event happens on Wednesday, October 28; doors will open at 5:00pm and the talk will begin at 6:00pm.