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.

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: Tirza Latimer Talk on 3/9

1Tomorrow, 3/9, the Art History Lecture Series is hosting a talk by Dr. Tirza True Latimer, titled “A Manifesto of Eccentric Modernism.” The talk will be at 4 PM in ART 1.120. We’ve included the description of her talk, below. We hope to see you there.

Focusing on a case study from Eccentric Modernisms: Making Differences in the History of American Art (UC Press, 2017), Latimer presents a piece of ephemera she describes as a “manifesto of eccentric modernism” — a souvenir program for the 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts. The opera premiered in an eccentric venue, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. An eccentric libretto, penned by Gertrude Stein, was set to music by the modernist composer Virgil Thomson, choreographed by the neo-romantic Frederick Ashton, with extravagant sets and costumes by the uncatagorizable artist Florine Stettheimer. Perhaps the most unconventional aspect of the production was its all African American cast. Within the frame of American modernism, the opera’s producers and performers challenged not only prevailing artistic heirarchies but also sex/gender codes and racial prohibitions to imagine daring social and cultural alternatives. The souvenir playbill presented this event in carefully calculated ways that enable us to speculate today about the collaborators’ vision(s) of modernism in America.

 

Five Questions with First-Years Returns…with Caroline Johnson!

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We roll into a new semester with another addition of “Five Questions with First-Years!” Today, we bring you Caroline Johnson, hailing from the the great Buckeye state of Ohio. Expert and enthusiast in the field of visual culture and media, Caroline talks with us about her academic origins, her research goals, and her love of travel, public intellectual work, and dogs.  Enjoy!

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

I received BAs in History and Anthropology, as well as my MA in History from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In my Master’s program I worked primarily as a TA in the History Department and as a graduate assistant in the Miami University Archives. I enjoy perusing boxes of handwritten letters and miscellaneous artifacts, yet I also relish the opportunity to bring history to life in a classroom. Both, I believe, are necessary components for public scholarship. For me, the solitude necessary for deep inquiry combined with vast opportunity for intellectual engagement is part of the magic of academia.

In addition to my time in an archive or classroom, I have traveled a great deal (both personally and professionally). Such experiences have drastically shaped the way I approach teaching and research. Whether encountering sites of memory standing in Flanders Fields, living as a pilgrim on el Camino de Santiago, or simply meeting new friends at a hostel in London, travel has taught me to be aware of my cultural biases, to keep an open mind, and to allow people and places to inspire you. I find the ability to remain firm in one’s convictions while engaging with new ideas and perspectives is invaluable in this field. The passion for historical and cultural understanding infused by travel is something that cannot be taught. It has made me a better communicator and creative thinker, and those are learned skills I strive to bring into the classroom and my written work.

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

When looking to apply to graduate programs, I realized I needed a space where I could bring together my love for both History and Anthropology. At the time, my MA advisor, Dr. Kimberly Hamlin (an alumna of the AMS program at UT) suggested I look into the program. Research-wise, I am interested in the relationship between language and visual sources, so the Harry Ransom Center and Briscoe Center for American History were extremely appealing, as they are known for housing some of the widest variety of photography and photojournalism collections in the world. Teaching-wise, I sought a university and program with faculty known for their teaching, and the AMS faculty at UT is second-to- none. The interdisciplinary nature of the program with its dedication to both the production of knowledge and quality teaching is truly what drew me to UT. I already know I will continue to hone the skills necessary to be a professional researcher, writer, and public scholar as a result of my time here.

3) What projects or people have inspired your work?

Where do I even begin? I have been lucky enough to work under brilliant professors who value not only producing strong, ethical work, but also quality pedagogy, and for that I will be forever grateful. Recently, I have been inspired by research of the Magnum Photo collection by Dr. Steven Hoelscher and the continuing conversations brought about by photography critics such as Susan Sontag, Susie Linfield, Robert Hariman, and John Lucaites. As I made the move from comics and visual art to photography and photojournalism, I owe a large credit to my conversations with Mr. Louis Palu during his fellowship with the Harry Ransom Center. It’s one thing to have an idea- it’s another for someone to encourage that idea and insist it’s a necessary area for research and discussion.

4) What projects do you see yourself working on at UT?

Seeing as I’m in the beginning stages of the doctoral program, it’s tough to say with any clear intention what shape future projects will take in the next several years. With that being said, I am currently interested in the ethics of captioning in photojournalism and the power relationships between photojournalists, the media, and American citizens. Who has the authority to make meaning of the visual past?

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

Naturally I’ll be either a) living the dream with a tenure track position at the university of my choice or b) working full time in a museum or cultural center, either in the archives or in an educational outreach position. Either  scenario includes a lab or a puggle, name to-be-determined.

In all reality, I am passionate about both research and teaching, all while remaining realistic regarding the job market and the many directions life can take you while in pursuit of a doctoral degree. Regardless, I want my work to bridge the gap between the archive and public. I wish to share the excitement that comes with being able to hold history in your hands and to be transparent about the way in which knowledge is produced. Whether I do this through teaching or on staff at a museum is up in the air. I look forward to searching for this interview in four to six years and see how accurate it is.

Bonus: How would you define American Studies? 

Rain check 🙂

Religions Texas: Mapping Religious Diversity, A Consultation

billieholidayflier170125This week, there will be a “consultation” on campus called Religions Texas: Mapping Diversity. The program features both a talk and a keynote by Arizona State University professor of Religious Studies Tracy Fessenden. The talk (poster above), which is to be 7:30 PM Wednesday night at the Historic Victory Grill on East 11th, will feature Fessenden discussing work from her new book “Religions Around Billie Holiday” and performances of Holiday’s music by Austin musician Pam Hart. The keynote (poster below), Thursday night at 6 PM in the Glickman Center, CLA 1.302E, is called “Mapping Religion in Post-Secular Landscape.”

Finally, on Friday will be the “consultation,” a series of panels beginning at 8:00 AM, in SAC 2.120, on such topics as “The Study of Religions in Texas,” “Mapping Religion and Digital Humanities,” and “Religious Literacy, Pedagogy, and Public Humanities.”

We hope to see you there.

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