Announcing the Jo Giese Excellence Endowment in American Studies

The Department of American Studies is delighted and honored to announce the establishment of the Jo Giese Excellence Endowment in American Studies. A graduate of the American Studies program in 1969, Ms. Giese went on to a path-breaking career as a radio journalist, author, teacher, and community activist.  She attributes much of that success to her undergraduate degree, especially the experience of researching and writing a senior thesis on the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Although Ms. Giese traveled to some of Wright’s important buildings, financial constraints limited her research. She established the Jo Giese Excellence Endowment to assist outstanding American Studies students in doing more than she was able to do.  As she puts it, “this Endowment seeks to make it financially possible, easier, and more fun for students to do their research, and to travel when necessary, whether domestically or abroad.”

We celebrate both the accomplishments of this esteemed alumna and the generosity with which she supports the American Studies teaching and research mission. For more on both Jo Giese and the Excellence Endowment named in her honor, please see the description below.Jo Giese

Jo Giese was an American Studies major at the University of Texas at Austin.   While working on her American Studies senior thesis, she traveled around the country, interviewing people about Frank Lloyd Wright’s contribution to American architecture.  She craved doing more, especially visiting more of Wright’s important buildings.  But she couldn’t afford to travel that extensively.

After graduation, in 1969, Jo says that she “lucked into her first job” as a Consumer Reporter for The Houston Post.   In New York City, she wrote for a trade publication in the design field, and then produced documentaries for public television, doing exactly the same kind of work she’d learned at UT when she was passionately researching and writing her undergraduate thesis.

She established the Jo Giese Excellence Endowment to assist outstanding American Studies students in doing more than she was able to do.  This Endowment seeks to make it financially possible, easier, and more fun for students to do their research, and to travel when necessary, whether domestically or abroad.

Jo became an award-winning radio journalist, author, teacher, and community activist.  As a special correspondent she was part of the Peabody Award-winning team at Marketplace, the most popular business radio program in America.  At Marketplace she won an EMMA for Exceptional Radio Story from the National Women’s Political Caucus and a GRACIE from the Foundation of Women in Radio.  She has contributed to Ira Glass’s This American Life and is the author of several books, including Never Sit If You Can Dance, A Woman’s Path, and The Good Food Compendium. 

Jo has written for many top publications, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Vogue, the LA Weekly, European Travel & Life, BARK, Montana Outdoors, and The Malibu Times.

An intrepid and enthusiastic world traveler, Jo has visited more than 50 countries.  She lives in Southern California, and Bozeman, Montana, with her husband, Ed Warren

New Episode of Dr. Lauren Gutterman’s “Sexing History” Podcast: “The Pickup Artist”

htpug+cover+pageThe Sexing History podcast, co-written and co-hosted by UT AMS Assistant Professor Dr. Lauren Gutterman, as well as Dr. Gillian Frank, has a new episode: “The Pickup Artist.” You can listen to the episode here.

Straight white men’s sexuality is too often imagined as natural, timeless, and unchanging. In “The Pickup Artist,” we showcase the 1970 bestseller, How to Pick Up Girls, in order to explore the cultural forces that have shaped how white men experienced and publicly expressed their desire for women in increasingly casual and aggressive ways.

How to Pick Up Girls by Eric Weber was a mass-marketed book that advised men on how to introduce themselves to and seduce women. The book spawned several sequels and countless imitators. But more importantly, How to Pick Up Girls represented the triumph of a male-dominated sexual revolution that allowed men to demand ever-greater access to any woman’s time, body, and attention.

“Flu in the Arctic”: UT AMS PhD Student Coyote Shook Featured on Blog of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Flu in the arctic

Congratulations to UT AMS PhD student Coyote Shook whose graphic essay “Flu in the Arctic: Influenza in Alaska, 1918” was recently featured on the blog of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE). Coyote’s work kicks off a timely series on the SHGAPE blog that examines “the lived experience of Americans during the 1918 influenza pandemic.”

As Coyote explains, the graphic essay “came from a combination of factors. Janet Davis shared the opportunity to write a post on the SHGAPE blog about the Influenza epidemic with the AMS community just as I was doing research on the Great Race of Mercy and how Balto became a vaudeville star. A big part of that story is that the vast majority of deaths from diphtheria in and around Nome in 1925 were Inuit children. I’d read several articles about how the Influenza epidemic in Alaska had wiped out about 50% of the Indigenous population around Nome, and so I expanded a bit on that research to focus on the absolutely devastating impact the 1918-1919 flu outbreak had on Alaskan Native people. There were obvious overlaps in narrative between Influenza and Covid-19, from the total ineptitude of public health officials to the disproportionate impact of the illness on Indigenous communities, all of which I tried to incorporate into my comics.”

You can find a full PDF of “Flu in the Arctic,” as well as the text with image descriptions, here.


UT AMS PhD Student Whitney S. May Published in Children’s Literature

Children's literature 48Congratulations are in order for UT AMS PhD student Whitney S. May whose article “The Lioness and the Protector: The (Post)Feminist Dialogic of Tamora Pierce’s Lady Knights,” was recently published Volume 48 of Children’s Literature. Whitney spoke to us about the inspiration for the article and the urgency of critical work on young adult fantasy. Read on!

Whitney: I’m especially pleased with how this article turned out because it was one of those rare labors of so much love that they never actually manage to feel much like labor at all. As a passionate fan of Tamora Pierce’s young-adult fantasy novels since I was a child, I’ve read all of her books several times over. This project on feminist dialogue in Pierce’s work emerged when I noticed that I always found myself getting choked up when I read a specific conversation between two women in one of her novels, Squire from The Protector of the Small quartet. I followed that observation into an early draft of this research, which was presented at the Mythopoeic Society’s 2016 conference in San Antonio, TX. The powerful response I received during and after that talk’s Q&A session made me realize that many women who read Pierce’s fantasy felt the same way when reading the same scene, and many were keen to read research that might put into clearer words why that might be.

This article pulls back the focus on the conversation in that scene, using it as a model by which to interpret the broader dialogical interventions at play between not just the two conversing characters in that moment, but between their entire respective quartets as these reflect Pierce’s broader, multidimensional feminist dialogic that observes the ideological shifts in feminism which occurred between the quartets’ respective eras of publication. Ultimately, the article finds that, “[r]eflecting the self-critical relationship of postfeminism to previous feminisms, The Protector of the Small (1999-2002) critiques and engages the problems of The Song of the Lioness (1983-88) and generates a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of the feminism as we have known it, as well as a vision of what it might look like in the future. In so doing, Pierce offers, by way of her fantastic postfeminist dialogic, a successful model of how to diligently engage with the past and responsibly project its ideological lessons into a critical, better-equipped future” (52-53).

As we have seen in global headlines just this month, authors of fantasy for young adults are uniquely positioned to not just reflect, but encourage the momentums of social change—or not. This article details one of the many ways in which Pierce’s feminist fantasy has taken great care to hold itself accountable to its readers by not merely recognizing weaknesses when they appear, but actively seeking to correct them. In so doing, her work encourages feminists across almost five decades to do the same.

New Episode of Dr. Lauren Gutterman’s “Sexing History” Podcast: “Love and Labor”

Black+MidwivesThe Sexing History podcast, co-written and co-hosted by UT AMS Assistant Professor Dr. Lauren Gutterman, as well as Dr. Gillian Frank, has a new episode: “Love and Labor.” You can listen to the episode here. 

The story of African American midwifery is part of a larger history of Black women’s struggles to protect their own lives, as well as the lives of other Black women and their children. This episode explores the long history of African American midwives, doulas, and birth attendants who have labored to ensure the safety and dignity of Black mothers and their children in and beyond the maternity ward. These Black women have worked to provide emotional support and medical advocacy for other pregnant and laboring women. Their reproductive advocacy makes clear that the delivery room has become an important site to ensure that Black Lives Matter.

Five Questions with First-Years: An Interview with Cooper Weissman

IMG-5829It’s the final week of (virtual) classes and our final installment of Five Questions with First-Years. Today, we bring you Cooper Weissman. Cooper comes to UT by way of the Pacific Northwest where his interest in outdoor recreation activities sparked his research on racialized experiences of “the outdoors.” Read on to learn more about Cooper’s plans at UT, as well as his future plans to live on a farm and “use homegrown veggies to cook recipes that Coyote Shook sends me from their archival research.”

What is your background, academic or otherwise, and how does it motivate your research?

My research interests actually grew out of the short thesis I wrote for my Gender & Queer Studies minor at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. I examined a contemporary mountaineering magazine to explore how language used to describe climbing mountains still employs many of the same Eurocentric, hypermasculine, and imperialistic narratives that were used when mountaineering first became a sport in the mid-nineteenth century. This interest emerged from my own outdoor recreation experiences. I did not grow up in an outdoorsy family, but when I moved to the Pacific Northwest for college, I became more interested in activities like hiking, backpacking, and kayaking. As I ventured to places like climbing gyms and R.E.I. for the first time, I was frankly struck by their whiteness and how unwelcoming they could be at times to the uninitiated. While I continued to love spending weekends at Mount Rainier National Park, I also sought to better understand how these dominant cultures of outdoor recreation and environmentalism came to be.

Since my undergraduate studies, I have continued to be passionate about how different groups of people conceptualize their relationships to the natural world, especially as a consciousness of ecological crisis becomes more widespread. While completing my M.A. in American Studies at Yale, I became fascinated by the peculiar fact that so many early conservationists were also ardent eugenicists and my research interrogated the affective and intellectual overlaps between these two ideological movements. I have also written about several different nativist currents within mainstream environmentalism during the twentieth century. While I am still invested in critiquing dominant environmental ideas and movements, since coming to UT, I have increasingly been interested in thinking through alternative histories and futures of human relationships to the natural world. I have looked for these in the actions of migrants today who are forced to make dangerous crossings through deserts and rivers, histories of fugitive enslaved people who lived clandestinely in the woods and swamps of the U.S. South, and the fictional worlds of Octavia Butler.

Why did you decide to come to AMS at UT for your graduate work?

What initially drew me to AMS at UT was the brilliant work being published by the faculty. I was also excited about the opportunity to work closely with students and professors in other departments such as African and African Diaspora Studies and Geography. As I became more interested in the program, I looked into what the other graduate students were studying and I was struck by the amazing interdisciplinary scholarship that they were doing in addition to the creative courses they were designing and teaching. I knew that if I came here, I would be a part of an intellectual community that would broaden my perspective and challenge me to think in new ways. When I had the chance to visit the campus and meet the faculty and graduate students, their kindness and generosity sealed the deal.

What projects or people have inspired your work?

Foundational work on race and the environment by scholars like Dorceta Taylor, Laura Pulido, Stacy Alaimo, and so many others continues to help me think through the historical and ongoing entanglements of race, colonialism, and notions of nature. Caribbean thinkers such as Sylvia Wynter and Éduoard Glissant aid me in understanding the destructive force of colonial modernity while also inspiring me to imagine alternative modes of relationality. More recently, books like Mishuana Goeman’s Mark My Words, Kathryn Yusoff’s A Billion Black Anthropocenes or None, and Tiffany King’s The Black Shoals have provided wonderful models for how to do interdisciplinary scholarship that reaches toward alternative worlding practices that are at once history, present, and future.

Most importantly, I am constantly inspired by the brilliance and fellowship of my cohort in addition to everyone else who is and has been part of my academic community.

What projects do you see yourself working on at UT?

I am currently most passionate about a project that examines histories of marronage in the U.S. South and considers the insurgent ecologies that these fugitive acts point toward. While scholarship on marronage has primarily focused on the more established communities, and even pseudo-state formations, of fugitive enslaved people in the Caribbean, scholars are increasingly examining the histories of enslaved people who lived alone or in small groups in the woods and swamps of the U.S. South. I am in the early stages of thinking about how these fugitive ways indicate alternative conceptualizations of “the outdoors” and alternative ecologies or modes of relationality with other forms of life and non-life. I envision this project involving a good deal of archival research in addition to a deep engagement with black literary work.

What are your goals for graduate school? What do you see yourself doing after you graduate?

As far as goals for graduate school, I just want to stay curious and passionate about the work I’m doing and to do my best to support others around me whether that be other graduate students, undergrads, our department as a whole, or my loved ones outside of the academy. Once I am finished with graduate school, I would love to be able to turn my research into a book-length project. It has also long been a dream to teach in some capacity. In an ideal world this would be as a University professor – and in a really ideal world this would be somewhere in the Pacific Northwest so I can live on a farm and write books and make goat cheese and eat marionberries and use homegrown veggies to cook recipes that Coyote Shook sends me from their archival research. Of course, I am aware that the academic job market is not as strong as it once was, so another goal of mine for the next couple years of graduate school is to develop skills and networks that might help me to find a fulfilling role in other related fields such as documentary filmmaking, podcast journalism, and museum work.

Bonus: In your own words, what is American Studies?

American Studies is a place in the academy for interdisciplinary scholars of all kinds to come together and share their work. It is a place where scholars refuse to draw boundaries and are willing to read and engage with scholarship that might not immediately seem relevant to their own because they know it might radically change the way they think. Ideally, it is a force that works to revolutionize the academy while also remaining active in transnational freedom struggles that are led by those beyond its walls.

The End of Austin Publishes “Sheltering In a Weird Place: Notes from a Quarantined Austin”

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The End of Austin, a digital humanities project housed in the UT Department of American Studies, recently published “Sheltering in a Weird Place: Notes from Quarantined Austin.” The collection features reflections on quarantine from writers throughout Austin, including several UT AMS graduate students, undergraduates, and faculty.

“They’re like dispatches from a surreal battlefield,” TEOA editor Randy Lewis writes, “people cooped up, waiting, goofing off, scared out of their minds, lonely, going broke, thwarted, cautiously optimistic, and a thousand other feelings that are bubbling up in neighborhoods under the violet crown.”

You can read “Sheltering in a Weird Place” here.