Dr. Lauren Gutterman Writes for Jezebel about Flight Attendants’ Anti-Sexist Organizing

UT AMS assistant professor Dr. Lauren Gutterman, along with Sexing History co-host Dr. Gillian Frank, recently penned an article for Jezebel about how flight attendants organized against the “swinging stewardess” stereotype.

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The pictorial includes several fascinating images and videos, including the Braniff International advertisement above, that illustrate the cultural context in which flight attendants labored and resisted throughout the late-twentieth century. Check out the article here, and be sure to listen to Sexing History’s most recent podcast episode, “Sexism Takes Flight,” on Soundcloud.

This Friday and Saturday (11/30-12/1): Symposium on Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

This Friday and Saturday, November 30 and December 1, 2018, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies will host Puerto Rico in the Wake of Crisis: Toward a Just (After)life of Disaster. This two-day symposium focuses on Puerto Rico one year after Hurricane Maria, bringing together scholars, activists, and artists from the island and the diaspora to reflect on how Maria and its aftermath have affected their work.

For more information, and to register for the symposium, please visit the event website. 

Puerto Rico In the Wake of Crisis

Five Questions with First-Years: Taylor Johnson!

In our third installment of “Five Questions with First Years” for the incoming cohort of 2018-19, we bring you Taylor Johnson. Taylor earned her undergraduate degree from Duke University in International Comparative Studies, and her research remains rooted in the ethical, moral, and methodological questions she began asking at Duke: how might one write on and for anti-imperial and anti-capitalist projects? How might we consider popular culture and media as sites of “subversive power?” Read on to learn more about Taylor’s academic background, interests, and her all-important (and quite excellent) definition of American Studies.

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

I came out of a transnational studies background; my undergraduate degree was in an interdisciplinary department created by Duke called International Comparative Studies. My coursework spanned Women’s and Gender studies, Cultural Anthropology, Global Cultural Studies, and History.  This has lent a transnational or comparative element to my academic research and my teaching interests. Before coming to UT, I worked in independent private schools and Austin ISD.

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

The publications by faculty at UT AMS indicated a cultural history focus to the department and a tradition of examining subaltern cultural representations, which mapped on very closely onto what I wanted to work on – primarily media studies, indigenous studies, and comparative studies between U.S. and non-Western poplar cultural materials.

3) What projects or people have inspired your work?

My theoretical grounding is in Marxism and anti-colonialism, and Fredric Jameson’s “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture” gave me a foundational understanding of the oft-overlooked subversive power of mass or “popular” culture. Mohawk Interruptus by Audra Simpson, an ethnographic project on indigenous struggles to maintain political sovereignty within settler colonialism, had a transformative impact on my indigenous studies research direction. Jill Lepore’s The Name of War provides both theory and methodology for analyzing depictions of brutal warfare from separate populations.

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

To foreground: my research will always be on anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, or decolonizing projects. I’m very interested in comparative media studies, with a specific emphasis on media productions by subordinate populations usually excluded from the dominant popular culture, and the ideological influence of that media on the populaces that encounter it.

My primary focus for research and academic background has been on indigenous rights reclamation in North America through forms of media like independent films and record labels, Vimeo, and Soundcloud. I have a particular focus on social movements of the last decade, such as Idle No More, Standing Rock, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement.

I’m also very interested in a comparative project examining depictions of the atomic bomb in Japanese animations starting in the 1980s, such as Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and the corresponding but less overt references to atomic warfare in popular American cartoons of the 21st century, such as Steven Universe and Adventure Time.

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

I hope to get a further research grounding from my coursework and then to successfully complete the research projects I would like to focus on. I hope to get experience submitting to publications and presenting my research. My ultimate goal is to teach in a higher educational setting, so I look forward to gaining experience instructing and interacting with students.

Bonus Question:  In your own words–what is American Studies?

American Studies is for me an interdisciplinary project of subverting and critiquing the dominant cultural experience of Americanness, as well as exploring the silenced and under-examined imperial and colonial projects done in the name of “America”.

Du Bois @ 150 Symposium: Thursday, 11/29

In honor of W.E.B. Du Bois’ 150th birthday, the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies will be hosting a symposium exploring the life and work of one of the most important black intellectuals of the 20th century, W.E.B. DuBois, this Thursday, 11/29.


The event will feature lectures in the Harry Ransom Center’s Prothro Theatre from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M., by Dr. Annette Gabriel-Joseph (Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Dr. David Roediger (Foundation Distinguished Professor and department chair in American Studies, University of Kansas), and Dr. Claudrena Harold (Professor of African American and African Studies and History, University of Virginia).

The lectures will be followed by a roundtable discussion between the three lecturers and UT professors Dr. Stephen Marshall and Dr. Jennifer Wilks, held in the Gordon-White Building’s Multipurpose Room (GWB 2.206) from 4:30 – 6 P.M.

To learn more about the event, the lecturers, and the specific topics of each lecturers’ speech, please visit the Warfield Center’s event page for the symposium.

What We Did in Atlanta: An ASA/NWSA Recap

From November 8-11, graduate students and professors from the UT Austin American Studies Department presented papers and chaired panels at the American Studies Association and National Women’s Studies Association meetings. Read on for our reflections on the conferences and to find out what we did in Atlanta. 

Gaila Sims

I got to shake Kathleen Cleaver’s hand! My sister was on a panel with the iconic former Communications Secretary for the Black Panther Party as part of an ongoing project to process Ms. Cleaver’s personal photography archive, and I got to meet her beforehand. She was funny and no-nonsense and told us some very fascinating stories about giving birth to her first son while in exile in Algeria in 1969. It was pretty magical.


Sims Cleaver Panel ASA

ASA Presidential Session, “Visualizing Revolution: Building the Eldridge and Kathleen Cleaver Family Archive.” Photo courtesy of Gaila Sims.


Andi Remoquillo

The annual conference for the National Women’s Studies Association is known by many for cultivating a space where scholars, activists, both or neither can come together and re-instate new—and old—feminist solidarities. The 2018 NWSA conference in Atlanta, Georgia was no exception. This was my second year attending and presenting at NWSA, and similar to my first year, I left feeling reinvigorated, re-charged, and re-inspired to pursue the feminist work that I have committed myself to, even before entering graduate school. Similar to so many other conference attendees, I was reminded of the importance and power behind the work that I do for my own community. This year’s conference was organized around the theme of imagining feminist futures of freedoms, and the variations of presentations truly illustrated just how multifaceted and exciting the future of feminist activism and scholarship is. One of the most memorable moments was when keynote speaker Angela Davis praised the diverse faces she saw throughout the hundreds of audience members—for her, this was so indicative of the rebirth of feminist politics in the wake of a socio-political predicament in the U.S. framed by anti-black, anti-immigrant, and anti-woman sentiments. Davis, as well as the other keynote speakers whose activism was rooted in the 1960s, recognized the power of organization and solidarity across multiple identity-lines. By recognizing the audience members in this way, it was as if the speakers were re-directing the gaze to make the claim, “we are here for you, as you are here for us.” 


NWSA 2018

Kate Grover, Leah Butterfield, and Andi Remoquillo at NWSA. Photo courtesy of Andi Remoquillo.


Janet Davis

After chairing and commenting on a terrific ASA panel exploring intersectional considerations of multispecies justice, fellow panelist (and UT AMS MA alumna) Sherri Shue and I spent a wondrous evening at the Georgia Aquarium watching four juvenile whale sharks, manta rays, beluga whales and other charismatic megafauna float in the blue twilight.


Kerry Knerr

Atlanta has one of the last remaining Trader Vic’s in the world, once the favorite restaurant of Rita Hayworth, my Houstonian grandparents (janitor/nurse), and Richard Nixon. Donald Trump shut down the last Trader Vic’s in New York City because it had “gotten tacky”—everyone hates their landlord. Now, there are more in Abu Dhabi than there are in North America. What does the tiki bar in Riyadh serve?


Trader Vics Atlanta

A display case at Trader Vic’s. Photo courtesy of Kerry Knerr.


Sarah Carlson

I was all nerves the 24 hours leading up to our session. As the chair, I’d been in touch with all of our participants, from the initial cold-contact email to the last-minute questions about printing on site. We knew as much about each other as our brief bios shared and we were to have a 90-minute conversation at 8 am on a Saturday. As happens with broad and generous session topics, the round-table was a somewhat eclectic mix that posed a bit of a head-scratcher: would this conversation make any sense? Yet, unbeknownst to me, all four of us had various, independent networks that somehow intersected: some in the digital humanities realm, others in museum studies, and yet more in pedagogy. Over breakfast after our session, we all followed each other on Instagram.

The serendipity of conferences reveals surprising relationships, and this is especially so at ASA where unusual presentations often have an unexpected and remarkable relevance. Similarly, those who attended the session and the questions they posed were ones I never expected, which was a good lesson for why we actually go to conferences. It’s not to present what we already know, but to be reminded that we don’t know what we don’t know and that’s what makes these projects interesting.


The Vortex Little Five Points

The Vortex in Little Five Points. Photo courtesy of Kerry Knerr.


Kate Grover

Here are some things I learned while attending NWSA and ASA in Atlanta:

  1. In Atlanta, as in Austin, no one is prepared for freezing temperatures
  2. The people in Little Five Points are cooler than I’ll ever be 
  3. When you combine multiple tater tots into one giant tater tot, it’s called a tater cake 
  4. Visiting a tiki bar with a tiki scholar is a joy 
  5. If your Airbnb is in an “urban pioneering” building from 1970s, you’ll go through three layers of security and probably take some interesting selfies 
  6. Receptions are life-savers (see no. 3)
  7. Old feminists rock 
  8. In a pinch, a paper towel can be a coffee filter 
  9. Presenting at two conferences in one weekend is exhilarating, and also a lot
  10. My colleagues are brilliant (but I already knew that)


NWSA plenary 2

NWSA Friday plenary speakers (left to right) Angela Davis, Bernadine Dohrn, Ericka Huggins, Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Madonna Thunder Hawk and moderator Robyn C. Spencer. Photo courtesy of Kate Grover.


Nick Bloom

Reflecting on this year’s ASA, I am only able to think about the bravery of all of the people I knew who got behind microphones in front of rooms full of strangers inside of what appeared to be the tallest building in Atlanta and said, “I have a monumentally important question about our social world.” It’s a strange place to ask monumentally important questions about the social world, and it is too bad there aren’t more places, less nerve-wracking places to ask such questions. The questions people were asking were urgent, about catastrophe, love, struggle, and the meaning of social existence, not mere intellectual exercises, and I hope we keep feeling brave enough to ask these personally important, righteous questions again and again, in public and in private places.


UT AMS Doctoral Candidate Natalie Zelt Featured in New Routledge Focal Press Companion (2018)

focal press companion to the constructed image in contemporary photographyUT AMS doctoral candidate Natalie Zelt is featured in a new Routledge Focal Press Companion, The Constructed Image in Contemporary Photography (2018). Natalie, who wrote the collection’s introduction, spoke to us about framing the companion in her introductory essay.

Natalie: “I had the honor of writing the introduction which I titled ‘State of Photograph: The Status of Photographs.’ The editors’ ambitious plan was to put together a compendium of essays, interviews and artist vignettes focused on the idea and practice of constructed photography since 1990. My intro was supposed to take a macro view of the photograph’s relationship to ‘constructed-ness’ and that is just what I did. I pull references to Photoshop 1.0, the collapse of the USSR and Black Feminist Thought all into a paragraph on photography and 1990; I do a quick survey of recent publications and exhibitions that consider the topic of constructed photographs and then summarize the book’s sections, like any good introduction should. My closing line is one I am pretty proud of: ‘Together, [the texts in this volume] manifest a collective effort to grapple with the ever-changing power, politics and pleasures of a vexing medium that refuses to tap out.'”

Here’s a synopsis of the collection from the Routledge website:

“This compendium examines the choices, construction, inclusions and exemptions, and expanded practices involved in the process of creating a photograph. Focusing on work created in the past twenty-five years, this volume is divided into sections that address a separate means of creating photographs as careful constructs: Directing Spaces, Constructing Places, Performing Space, Building Images, and Camera-less Images. Introduced by both a curator and a scholar, each section features contemporary artists in conversation with curators, critics, gallerists, artists, and art historians. The writings include narratives by the artist, writings on their work, and examinations of studio practices. This pioneering book is the first of its kind to explore this topic beyond those artists building sets to photograph.”