Announcement: All Things Bakelite!

AllThingsBakelite-AustinRevision_40x27-Poster.jpgPlease joins us tomorrow, Tuesday, April 25th, for one-hour documentary film entitled All Things Bakelite at 4 pm, in ART 1.120, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers (executive producer Hugh Karraker and director John Maher) and UT faculty members (historian of science Bruce Hunt, designer Kate Catterall, design historian Carma Gorman, and historian of technology Jeff Meikle). All Things Bakelite employs historical footage, still photographs, dramatic reenactment, and expert interviews (as well as a cameo by Austin’s cabaret troupe Esther’s Follies) to explore the invention, marketing, and subsequent history of the world’s first synthetic plastic.

Bakelite was the first totally artificial material with molecules previously unknown in nature. Invented in 1907 by Leo Baekeland, a Belgian émigré chemist, the new material immediately became indispensable for hidden electrical components of such new technologies as the automobile and radio. More to the point, as the first of many new synthetic plastics and polymers, Bakelite contributed to the expanding consumer culture of the 20th century by placing an infinite range of inexpensive, easily molded goods within economic range of ordinary citizens. By 1967, the cultural significance of synthetics such as Bakelite had become so powerful that movie audiences exploded when Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate was told, “Plastics… just one word… there’s a great future in plastics.”

This event is sponsored by the Department of American Studies, the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, the Design Division of the Department of Art and Art History, and the History and Philosophy of Science Colloquium.

Please address any questions to Jeff Meikle <meikle@mail.utexas.edu>.

Announcement: “Archives Against Annihilation: Imagining Otherwise,” A Talk by Michelle Caswell

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Please join us today at 11:00 AM in the Prothro Theatre in the Harry Ransom Center for a talk by Michelle Caswell entitled Archives Against Annihilation: Imagining Otherwise.

The talk, sponsored by the UT Chapter of the Society of American Archivists, is described below:

In the 1970s, feminist communication scholars first proposed the term “symbolic annihilation” to describe the ways in which women are absent, underrepresented, or misrepresented in mainstream media. Taking this concept as a starting point, the first part of this talk will examine the ways in which mainstream archival practice has symbolically annihilated communities of color and LGBTQ communities through absence, underrepresentation, and misrepresentation. In the face of such symbolic annihilation, marginalized communities have formed their own independent community-based archives that empower them to establish, enact, and reflect on their presence in ways that are complex, meaningful, and substantive. Based on interviews with dozens of community archives founders, staff, and users, this first act will propose a tripartite structure for assessing the impact of such archives on the individuals and communities they serve: ontological impact (in which members of marginalized communities get confirmation “I am here”); epistemological impact (in which members of marginalized communities get confirmation “we were here”); and social impact (in which members of marginalized communities get confirmation “we belong here”). In the second part, this talk will examine the relationship between symbolic and actual annihilation using the state-sponsored mass murder of Black people by the police in the U.S. as a prime example. Symbolic annihilation both precedes and succeeds symbolic annihilation in that communities are rendered nonexistent, invisible, or expendable before they are subject to violence, and then, after violence, such acts are often rendered invisible or expunged from the record, magnifying and mimicking the violence itself. Finally, this talk will end with a proposition for archivists to “imagine otherwise,” that is, to conceive of and build a world in which communities that have historically been and are currently being marginalized due to white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, gender binaries, colonialism, and ableism are fully empowered to represent their past, construct their present, and envision their futures as forms of liberation.

After the talk, we hope you join us for the American Studies Undergraduate Thesis Symposium, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM in Burdine 436A. We hope to see you at both events!

ANNOUNCEMENT: UNDERGRADUATE THESIS SYMPOSIUM

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We would like to extend an invitation to all to attend our annual Undergraduate Thesis Symposium, tomorrow, April 21st, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM in BUR 436A.

This year, we have a collaborative symposium, drawing together the work of two American Studies Honors students and one Religious Studies Honors student.  Rebecca Amelia Harris and Denise Hunt from American Studies and Taylor Dieringer from Religious Studies will be presenting their fantastic thesis research, which they have spent the last year developing. The presentations include:

— Rebecca Amelia Harris, “Mulan: Cherry Blossom or Woman Warrior?”

— Denise Hunt, “Examining Children’s Fictional Media Post-9/11”

— Taylor Dieringer, “Leading Ladies: Authorship and the Influence of the Pastoral Epistles on Women in Church Leadership”

The thesis symposium functions as an informal end of year celebration for our department, one which enables us to honor the work of our students and faculty and contemplate the year gone by. We hope to see you there.

Dr. Janet Davis in the Washington Post and at the Smithsonian

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Congratulations to Dr. Janet Davis, who recently had a short history of the Ringiing Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus published by Zócalo Public Square, which was then picked up by the Smithsonian. We’ve included an excerpt, below.

When Barnum and Bailey’s ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ rolled into American towns in the 1880s, daily life abruptly stopped. Months before the show arrived, an advance team saturated the surrounding region with brilliantly colored lithographs of the extraordinary: elephants, bearded ladies, clowns, tigers, acrobats and trick riders.

On ‘Circus Day,’ huge crowds gathered to observe the predawn arrival of “herds and droves” of camels, zebras, and other exotic animals—the spoils of European colonialism. Families witnessed the raising of a tented city across nine acres, and a morning parade that made its way down Main Street, advertising the circus as a wondrous array of captivating performers and beasts from around the world.

For isolated American audiences, the sprawling circus collapsed the entire globe into a pungent, thrilling, educational sensorium of sound, smell and color, right outside their doorsteps. What townspeople couldn’t have recognized, however, was that their beloved Big Top was also fast becoming a projection of American culture and power. The American three-ring circus came of age at precisely the same historical moment as the U.S. itself.

Three-ring circuses like Barnum and Bailey’s were a product of the same Gilded Age historical forces that transformed a fledgling new republic into a modern industrial society and rising world power. The extraordinary success of the giant three-ring circus gave rise to other forms of exportable American giantism, such as amusement parks, department stores, and shopping malls.”

Dr. Davis followed that up last week with a second op-ed, published at the Washington Post. We have another excerpt, below:

Since Ringling Bros. announced its closure in January and the Big Apple Circus filed for bankruptcy last year, cultural observers have issued grim prognostications about the death of the American circus. “Without sugarcoating it, let’s accept the fact that the circus will not survive our generation unless the state comes to its rescue,” journalist Preetam Kaushik wrote for the Huffington Post. Author Naomi Schaefer Riley opined on “what the death of the circus means for today’s kids.”

The advance postmortem is nothing new. On July 16, 1956, Ringling Bros. performed its last show under a canvas tent, deciding to move to indoor arenas to reduce its labor force and transportation costs. The New York Times observed, “The big top, furled forever, started its funeral ride today.”

But the impending death of the circus has been greatly exaggerated. Although the biggest productions have had trouble attracting the large audiences they need to support themselves, smaller circuses are flourishing. Cirque du Soleil, the highly profitable Montreal-based one-ring show, is expanding in the United States. Other one-ring shows, such as Circus Flora and the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus, are still going strong. As a bellwether of the future, youth circuses are booming. According to the American Youth Circus Organization, there are 250 circus education programs nationwide, with growth projected at 10 new programs per year.

 

It’s been a busy few months for Dr. Davis, who earlier this year published an op-ed on CNN.com. You can read it here.

The World in American Studies Today Keynote: Dr. Anita Mannur

 

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We are pleased to announce that the keynote lecture for our biennial graduate conference, The World in American Studies Today, will be given by Dr. Anita Mannur at 6 PM on Thursday, March 20th in CLA 1.302B. Dr. Mannur is Associate Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies and Director, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Miami University. She is the author of Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture and the co-editor of Eating Asian America: A Reader and Theorizing Diaspora: A Reader.

In this talk, Dr. Mannur explores how the figure of the “enemy” is constructed in public culinary sites by examining social media, cook books and food trucks that are devoted to the dissemination of culinary knowledge. The spaces she examines are Michael Rakowitz’s performance art installation “Enemy Kitchen” and Conflict Kitchen, a take-out restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA. In juxtaposing these sites and exploring the performative politics deployed within each context, Dr. Mannur explores what it means to turn to the tactile, olfactory and consumptive to reflect on questions of US diplomacy and foreign policy that have taken on particular forms of cultural xenophobia, directed at the Islamic
subject, in the wake of the war on terror and 9/11. By focusing in particular on the use of “radical hospitality,” Dr. Mannur asks how meals are staged as spaces to provide a counternarrative to xenophobia and the discourse of the
enemy combatant.

Announcement: MARCH ON! Gallery Reception and Conversation with Rep. John Lewis

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MARCH ON!, curated by Rebecca Giordano, is a show of original art from the March trilogy of graphic novels written by Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell. There are two events this week that are the part of the ongoing programming for the exhibition. First, starting at 5:30 PM on Thursday the 23rd, there is a opening reception in Jester A232A. The following day, Friday the 24th, at 11:00 AM in Hogg Auditorium, there will be a conversation with Rep. Lewis, Aydin, and Powell regarding their work. Tickets are required for the latter event and ticketing information is here.

Announcement: The World In American Studies Today Graduate Conference Hosted By UT AMS

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We are very excited to announce this year’s iteration of the biannual graduate conference in American Studies, entitled: The World in American Studies Today: Nationalism in American Studies, to be held Thursday and Friday March 30th and 31st at The University of Texas at Austin. There will be a keynote, given by Dr. Anita Mannur, on Thursday the 30th at 6 PM. We hope to see you there.

More information on the keynote, and the conference schedule, to follow.