Undergrad Research: Postcards from Texas

We love to feature student work here on AMS :: ATX, and today we are pleased to direct your attention to a project by Dr. Steve Hoelscher’s Spring 2014 Intro to American Studies class, Postcards from Texas. We mentioned this project previously here on the blog, and we’re thrilled to show you its latest iteration. The Postcards project is a blog that features photographs and text created by students that reflect on various concepts–previously the American Dream, and this time around, mobility–and what they might mean today.

postcards

Here is a description of the project from the Postcards website:

Over the past couple of years, undergraduate students in Prof. Steven Hoelscher’s Introduction to American Studies class at the University of Texas at Austin researched competing notions of American identity in a two-step project. Beginning with the inspirational model of Magnum Photos ongoing Postcards from America series, students were asked to explore one segment of the U.S. visually, through photography. First, each student considered a complex cultural phenomenon—“the American Dream” in 2012 and “Mobility” in 2014. Second, students then recorded their thoughts in the form of a photographic image in Texas. In these original photographs—and in the detailed, unedited captions that accompany them—the extraordinary range of how American cultural life is envisioned comes into full view.

What follows are visual documents of the hope and confidence that often come naturally to college students, but also, in many cases, an equal recognition of life’s injustices and uncertainties. A composite, multifaceted picture of modern America emerges from these photographs: of idealism and pragmatism, the political left and political right, acquisitiveness and a rejection of materialism, arguments for traditional family values and LGBT rights, conformity and insurgency.  Together, these postcards from Texas—of cotton fields and strip malls, millionaires and homeless men, junkyards and mansions—complicate glib calls for an unproblematically unified America. They also demonstrate the creative energy and thoughtfulness that has always been central to “the American dream”—whatever it means – and to American mobility.

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