Dr. Lauren Gutterman Debuts Second Season of “Sexing History” Podcast

Last year, we profiled the new podcast Sexing History, “a podcast about how the history of sexuality shapes our present” co-written and co-hosted by UT AMS Assistant Professor Dr. Lauren Gutterman, as well as Dr. Gillian Frank, Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Religion. After a successful first season, Sexing History has just debuted the first episode of their second season. The episode is entitled “Bandstand and the Closet,” and you can listen to it here.sexing-history

“Bandstand and the Closet” is an exploration of the immense, and often damaging, narrative power of American Bandstand in shaping popular conceptions of youth culture in the 1950s and ’60s. “The hit television show American Bandstand,” Frank and Gutterman write, “has shaped how we understand the 1950s and early 1960s. For many, American Bandstand still evokes nostalgic images of white youth culture and sexually innocent teenage romance: a world made up of malt shops, juke joints, sock hops and drive-in movie theaters. If we look closer at how Bandstand was staged, and what was hidden from sight or hiding in plain view, we can see how the show’s creators erased blackness and queerness from the show itself and from the official story of youth culture.”

What I Did On My Summer Vacation: Caroline Johnson on Interning at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

In this third installment of “What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” UT AMS doctoral student Caroline Johnson takes on the near impossible task of telling us what it’s like to be a Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum intern. 

I breached the surface of the L’Enfant Plaza metro station as the escalator carried me toward a particularly dismal day in Washington, D.C. Wearing my spirited red Toms and holding an umbrella to block the drizzle, I made my way to Independence Avenue. As I rounded the corner and saw the familiar blue and yellow of the Smithsonian symbol, my mind churned over a sea of questions—was I too old to be an intern? What would it be like? Will I fangirl over everything I do and see? Not to ruin the post, but the answers were no, near indescribable, and absolutely.

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I always thought it a sad reality we can’t put special narratives on our resumes, so I have decided to use this post to give you the two versions of my summer at the Smithsonian.

The first is what I like to call the “LinkedIn description,” and it is as follows:

As a curatorial intern in the Aeronautics Division at the National Air and Space Museum, I worked with the curators of the permanent military suite galleries spanning WWI, WWII and the Cold War. My primary duties included conducting archival research at the National Archives and Library of Congress as well as contacting key personalities and their families for participation in the exhibits. Since I specialize in visual history and the Cold War gallery will be a new addition to the military suite, most of my energy was spent collecting media relating to topics such as Vietnam airstrikes and photo transparencies from the Berlin Airlift and Korean War. (If you’re thinking that sounds like history nerd heaven, you are 100% correct.)

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Caroline at the National Air and Space Museum, Summer 2018

The second version of my summer contains the narratives that don’t quite make it into the bullet points on my resume. As a devoted FRIENDS fan (the TV show), I have titled each experience accordingly:

“The One Where She Almost Breathed on Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit”: During my first week, my supervisor gave me a behind-the-scenes tour of NASM’s Udvar-Hazy Center, located in Chantilly, Virginia. While in the preservation lab, a specialist pulled back a large sheet draped across a human-shaped figure. I stared at the freshly revealed artifact laying before me—it was a spacesuit. That alone was a special moment, and then I saw the label, “Armstrong.” Yes, friends, there in front of me, with no glass and subject to my very own mortal breath, was Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. Keep in mind, this was my first week.

“The One Where She Befriended the Berlin Candy Bomber”: One of my first tasks was to track down Colonel Gail S. Halvorsen (USAF, Ret), better known as the “Berlin Candy Bomber” or “Uncle Wiggly Wings” for his efforts in dropping parachutes containing Hershey bars and bubble gum to the children of West Berlin during the Berlin Airlift in 1948. After weeks of calling various air bases and historical societies, I received a phone number. Much to my surprise, Col. Halvorsen picked up! At 97-years-old, he is one of the most humble, kind, and enthusiastic human beings I have had the pleasure of speaking to. He referred to me as “sunshine” on subsequent calls, and I assume that makes us friends.

“The One Where They Went to the CIA”: “I’m going to need your social security number. We’re heading to CIA Headquarters on Thursday.” My supervisor casually dropped this line as he stopped by my cubicle on his way back down the hallway lined with model spacecraft. This vignette is shorter than most, as I feel it keeps the air of mystery alive. I can say, we spent a little too long in the gift shop. As I sit here sipping my coffee from my official CIA mug, however, I have no regrets.

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The view from the top of the Naval Observatory

“The One Where Marine II Landed Thirty Yards in Front of Her”: I often accompanied my supervisor on tours he would provide visitors and other groups of invited guests. On this instance, I met a group of interns at the Naval Observatory, and their supervisor extended an offer for me to tour their facilities. In addition to viewing the telescopes and incredible library with copies of works by Galileo, Copernicus, and Newton, the VP decided to make a guest appearance during the tour. We stood outside as Marine II landed on the front lawn, and then watched a secret service agent chase the VP’s dog across said lawn.

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The WASP Congressional Gold Medal, located at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia

“The One Where She Cemented her Dissertation Topic”: A few times this summer, I found myself at a seminar table consisting of brilliant individuals who work around the clock to provide the most exciting digital content to NASM audiences. The 160th anniversary of aerial photography, and the 75th anniversary of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) were fast approaching. With some encouragement from my supervisor, I volunteered to write these posts, and I ended up doing a bonus story on archival WASP images. My favorite part of this experience was seeing the public interact with the posts on social media, and it only confirmed my desire to return to UT and churn out a prospectus focusing on women in aviation. Yes, this is a shameless, self-promotional plug for you to read these posts, as I greatly enjoyed writing them!

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Books and resources for writing on women in aviation and conducting archival research

And so there we have it, the professional job description, and just a few vignettes to bring the experience to life. Though perhaps atypical in format, I figured it was the only way for me to convey the human element behind the trove of professional experience I gained this summer.

In academia, we are trained to teach, to write, and to distill and present information at a rapid rate, yet we often forget we are building a wide range of skill sets in the process of doing so. I never thought my family aviation history, archival work, enthusiasm for Cold War material, and research on women in visual culture would combine in the most unexpected fashion to qualify me for this experience. To me, that has been the beauty of working in an interdisciplinary field: if you pursue your varying interests with a passion and seize opportunities to expand your knowledge base (or even to write in unconventional forms), you might just find yourself spending a summer in the sky, where, at least at NASM, I saw no limits.

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Cary Cordova, Steve Hoelscher to participate in “Facing Racism: Art & Action” Symposium at the Blanton (9/27)

In conjunction with the exhibition “Vincent Valdez: The City,” the Blanton Museum of Art will host “Facing Racism: Art & Action,” a day-long symposium on Thursday, September 27th. Artists, curators, and scholars will speak on the role of the arts in addressing racism, including UT Austin American Studies faculty Cary Cordova and Steve Hoelscher.

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Vincent Valdez, The City II, 2016

Please visit the event page to register for the day’s events. Aruna D’Souza, author of Whitewalling: Art, Race & Protest in 3 Acts (Badlands Unlimited, 2018) will deliver the keynote address at 6:30pm.

Facing Racism: Art & Action is co-sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Central Texas Regional office, the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin, and the Humanities Institute at The University of Texas at Austin.

This Friday (9/21): Award-Winning Hip Hop Journalist Joan Morgan in Conversation with Dr. Lisa B. Thompson

This Friday, September 21, at 1 pm, African and African Diaspora Studies Associate Professor Dr. Lisa B. Thompson talks with journalist and scholar Joan Morgan. The event is part of the Warfield Center’s Performing Blackness Series “Duets: Black Creatives in Conversation” curated by AADS Faculty Affiliate Dr. Jennifer Wilks, Associate Director of the Center.

Joan Morgan and Dr. Thompson will discuss Morgan’s new book, She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the latter’s new play Monroe, which is currently on stage at the Austin Playhouse, and all things black and feminist. The event will take place at the Glickman Conference Center in RLP and refreshments will be provided.

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A Conversation with Ben Lisle (PhD 2010), Author of 2017 Monograph “Modern Coliseum: Stadiums and American Culture”

Dr. Benjamin Lisle (UT AMS PhD, 2010) published his first monograph last year, entitled Modern Coliseum: Stadiums and American Culture (University of Pennsylvania Press). AMS :: ATX sat down with Lisle to discuss the genesis of Modern Coliseum during Lisle’s time as a UT doctoral student, the works, ideas, and thinkers that inspired Lisle’s project, and the place of Modern Coliseum in broader intellectual trends and debates, both inside and outside of the academy. Lisle also shares his appreciation for the inspired and collegial atmosphere of the UT American Studies department, and offers some advice for current graduate students. Please enjoy this fascinating–and inspirational–interview.modern coliseum

Dr. Benjamin Lisle is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies at Colby College.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book Modern Coliseum, and how you came to the project?

Modern Coliseum tracks changes in stadium design and culture since World War II—from Brooklyn’s legendary Ebbets Field to Baltimore’s retro Camden Yards and its contemporary siblings. At the heart of the story are the modernist stadiums of the 1960s and ’70s, exemplified by Houston’s Astrodome, “eighth wonder of the world.” These engineered marvels channeled postwar national ambitions while replacing aging ballparks typically embedded in dense urban settings. They were stadiums designed for the “affluent society”—brightly colored, technologically expressive, and geared to the car-driving, consumerist suburbanite. The modern stadium thus redefined one of the city’s more rambunctious and diverse public spaces, while reshaping perceptions of the city and its public. And its influence on the stadiums of today is profound, though unappreciated. I try to tell the story of urban change, the shifting ways people experienced the city and each other, and the development of modernism on the ground, as it was imagined, designed, built, and lived as an architectural and social phenomenon. It also has a lot of fun images.

I came to Austin with an interest in stadiums, sport, and urban culture—stemming in part from living in Boston after college, where I became fascinated with that urban geography and Fenway Park. My master’s thesis project had examined nostalgia and baseball in the late twentieth century, which included analysis of Camden Yards. People’s valorization of both the “classic” urban ballpark and their replicas led me to wonder why the intervening stadiums—these modern “concrete doughnuts” so universally loathed—were even built at all. In my first semester at UT, someone suggested I visit the Center for American History, which hosted the papers of one of the Astrodome’s engineers. There I found Inside the Astrodome, this incredible, 260-page glossy program sold in the stadium at its opening in 1965. It is this wonderfully hilarious and transparent volume of stadium propaganda that basically answered the question I had—what people were thinking when they built these modern stadiums. I started writing on the Astrodome, then moved outward to other stadiums and cities.

What projects or people have inspired your work? 

I found plenty of inspiration close to home—Jeff [Meikle]’s approach to the material and visual, Steve [Hoelscher]’s expertise in the spatial, and Janet [Davis]’s dynamic study of the historical. Jan Todd [UT-Austin Professor of Kinesiology and Health Education] helped introduce me to networks in sport history. And, of course, many of my friends and writing partners in the department then.

As for other scholars, I loved Roland Marchand’s Advertising the American Dream, which shaped the ways I approached images as clichéd patterns and stories—I could apply these techniques directly to stadium programs and brochures. David Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity exploded my head—it was a book that provided this total explanation of everything I was seeing. I’ve cooled on it in recent years, but I still value it as an insanely ambitious explanatory text—and one that helped me see how space and time relate to human experience and cultural expression (even if it gets the culture part wrong some). Marshall Berman’s All That Is Solid Melts into Air was similar in that way. Thomas Sugrue’s, Origins of the Urban Crisis was important for my book. Though he is a historian, he pushed me to think more about how postwar space was weaponized to define racial experience—something the postwar stadium does too. I’ve gotten a lot out of George Lipsitz. Oddly enough, he wrote an article early in his career about modernist stadiums and political economy in Houston, St. Louis, and Los Angeles—stadiums and cities I examine in my book. But more conceptually, I appreciate his ideas about the white spatial imaginary, which I came to later in the writing but were quite useful in the book (and in teaching). I’ll stop there.

How do you see your work fitting in with broader conversations in academia and beyond?

The “spatial turn” was the theme of the ASA annual meeting in 2005—my first paper presentation at a big conference. My work reflects that move in American Studies that integrates the spatial and the cultural, thinking about how ideas are expressed through the built environment and the different experiences of those environments. The book and much of my teaching connect to and rely on conversations in urban history and geography—though I’m less interested in planning or politics than I am the cultural aspects of urban space and identity. Modern Coliseum also channels some of the work in critical sports studies—and is relevant to debates over public investment in stadiums and sport as a political platform (both explicitly and implicitly). More amorphously, I think it has been shaped by popular conversations about race, class, and space, provoked by movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter.

How is this work you’re doing now, as a scholar, teacher or both, informed by the work you did as an American Studies student at UT? 

One of the things I valued about UT—a major reason I chose to go there, in fact—was the way it mediated between what I saw as an older brand of American Studies and a newer one. I think people at UT particularly valued the place of history in American Studies more than many other programs or some of the work you see at ASA. I don’t mean to sound reactionary, but that historical rootedness was something I was looking for. You can see that in my teaching and research.

Teaching is important. I’m not a genius, and I was never interested (or it never occurred to me) that scholarship alone was realistic or desirable. The faculty I worked with in Texas were great models for that—obviously they are wonderful scholars, but they were also very generous with their valuable time.

The general spirit of the place—my relationships with others in the department—was great. People got along. This too was a reason I went to UT, and that probably sounds incredibly naïve, particularly in the current job market. But going somewhere that people got along was important to me at the time, and it’s something I think about every single day in my current position, where I love my colleagues. Institutions are always going to be frustrating, so being a good citizen locally is crucial. One of my colleagues here at Colby College tells us that the first rule of our American Studies program is “Don’t be an asshole.” For me this motto is both practical in a human sense, but also tied to the practice of American Studies—it fuses the ethical to the intellectual. I am thrilled to be associated with the UT program, which has this amazing family tree of teachers, scholars, and people—people that aren’t assholes and fight assholes, basically.

Do you have any advice for students in our department about how to get the most out of their experience at UT? 

I doubt my advice would be very valuable, particularly in this job market. I’m not very strategic. But I did come into this (sixteen years ago?) knowing there were narrow prospects for work. So I told myself then that I wanted the experience of being around smart people and learning and writing, and whatever happened after I graduated would be a different thing. I’ve been lucky to have a position that allows me many of the freedoms I suspect we all like about academia. And I deserve it in the sense that I can do my job well. Even so, there are a hell of a lot of people out there who could do it just as well if not better. So, as hard as it is, I think it’s important to do things you are energized by, even if they seem unfashionable. I don’t think you can game the system by anticipating the project that will pop with the ASA theme in two years—or at least I can’t. There just aren’t enough permanent positions out there. This job takes a lot of energy, and in my now seven-ish years of doing it, post-graduation, I have been increasingly trying to strip away the things I don’t care about to focus on those that I do—whether or not they seem more likely to help me get a tenure-track position (which I don’t currently have). I try to trust that what is interesting to me will be interesting to some other people too. And as practitioners of American Studies, we typically bring compelling questions to any topic.

What projects are you excited to work on in the future?

Well, I thought I might write about things other than stadiums once the book came out, but now I find out that if you want people to read it, you need to keep writing to draw them to it. That’s not the question though.

One thing I am excited about is a project on craft beer culture, with a particular focus on urban geography. I’m starting in Maine, developing a digital archive with oral histories, maps, collections of visual ephemera, and some short writing as a form of drafting. You can find the Maine Beer Project, in its infancy, here: http://web.colby.edu/mainebeer/. Depending on how that goes, I might try to scale it out to other places.

I’ve been trying to help develop courses and student work in the digital humanities at Colby in recent years, so some of my other work has taken on a more public and local focus—things like examining urban renewal in a small city like Waterville, Maine. I’m the project coordinator for Digital Maine (http://web.colby.edu/digitalmaine/) which supports DH projects at the college.

Last semester, I taught a class on ethical urban development. We had the chance to work some with the Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates, whose work really inspired our group. We’ve used that as a launching pad for a design group of students and community partners to develop actual material urban interventions in Waterville, an economically distressed former mill town where the college is located. That’s been fascinating and challenging—and not the sort of thing I would have anticipated a year ago.

So, the things that excite me now are projects that are creative, collaborative, and hybrid. While making a book is certainly creative and rests on the contributions of others, these new projects have different dimensions to them. Making things in public seems to be what excites me these days, and it seems appropriate to the challenges we’re facing as a society.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation: Leah Butterfield on Interviewing Women Solo Travelers in Spain

In this second installment of “What I Did on My Summer Vacation,” UT AMS doctoral student Leah Butterfield recounts her experience interviewing women solo travelers in Spain.

Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain

Leah at the Plaza Mayor in Madrid

 

We were seated on a sidewalk terraza on a hot, cloudless afternoon. Over icy glasses of
Cruzcampo, a Spanish beer, Alexandria talked to me about her solitary travel experiences. As the conversation circled back to the expectations society often has for women—and the ways that traveling alone runs counter to those expectations—she pondered, “We’re warriors in a way.” “Backpack warriors,” she added, with a chuckle. With every solo trip, she suggested, women are fighting against cultural conventions and expectations: that they should remain in the home, that they should prioritize romantic and family ties, that they should avoid risk or adventure.

Alexandria is one of the twenty-six American women that I interviewed this summer as part of my preliminary dissertation research. Though not all of these women might label themselves as warriors, most expressed an awareness that their solitary travels are a challenge to traditional gender norms. Despite the often-negative reactions from friends, family and strangers, these women choose to journey solo, on trips ranging from a few days to a few months, to destinations around the globe. The individuals that I spoke with ranged in age from nineteen to seventy. They included women of color and second- and third-generation immigrants, though the majority of interviewees were white. Most women identified as somewhere between lower-middle and upper-middle class, and over 40% of the women claimed queer identities, from “mostly straight” to “fluid” to “Let me put it this way: I don’t usually like sleeping with men.”

El Albaicín district in Granada, Spain

El Albaicín district in Granada

I spent much of my summer listening to these women’s stories. They shared anecdotes of
afternoons spent in charming cafes, of forming unexpected friendships and of being followed by unknown men. They talked about the moments when they felt safe and at peace in their solitude and of the moments when they did not. They told me about the books and blogs and people who inspired their journeys. When I asked interviewees to describe how they feel when traveling alone, they responded with words like joy, exhilaration, terror, independence, self-reliance, worry and love. This discordant mixture of terms suggests that the emotional uplift of women’s travel is often weighed down by the burden of fear. While the vast majority of these women had never experienced sexual assault or violent crime during their travels, the possibility of such occurrences was constantly on their minds. As one interviewee put it, traveling alone is “empowerment tinged with fear.”

As I explored Madrid, where I rented a room for two months, and traveled to other parts of Spain, I experienced the truth behind these women’s words. I walked along the shore in Cádiz and through the winding streets of Seville. I marveled at the royal library in El Escorial and pet friendly, stinky goats at the Madrid Zoo. I watched flamenco from the cheap seats at El Teatro de Canal and danced along with the crowd during Madrid’s Orgullo Gay parade. I got pickpocketed, I got catcalled, and I broke down crying to more than one stranger in the Barcelona Sants railway station. I ate countless meals with only a book for company. And, like most of the women that I interviewed, these solitary experiences made me deeply, unshakably, embarrassing-to-try-to-put-into-words happy.

Playa De La Caleta, Cádiz, Spain

Playa De La Caleta in Cádiz

As a PhD student feeling the pressure to be productive, it has been challenging to justify my choice to spend the summer in Spain. When people ask me the inevitable, “Why’d you do that?” I emphasize that the trip wasn’t all play, that I offset my costs by working as a nanny, teaching English to three sweet niños. I tell people that I wanted to escape from the Texas heat, that I wanted to practice my Spanish, that I wanted to return to the city, Madrid, that enchanted me as a study abroad student.

While these reasons are all true, what I yearned for, above all, was the experience that one interviewee described. Solo travel, she said, “is like when you’re in the shower, but for days.” She explained, “It’s time to really think through s—.” Perhaps, for a scholar-in-training, spending a summer really thinking through s— is the best justification of all.

Views of Greenland during the return flight to the US

Views of Greenland during the return flight to the U.S.

Some things I’m thinking through next? How American travelers conceive of their ties to the U.S., how age, race and physical appearance influence the anonymity of travel, and how the unsettled nature of travel can alter the value one places on “settling down.”

 

Mitch Landrieu, Former Mayor of New Orleans, in Conversation with Angela Evans, Dean of LBJ School of Public Affairs (9/18)

The LBJ School of Public Affairs and the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin will welcome former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to the UT campus on Tuesday, Sept. 18. Angela Evans, dean of the LBJ School, will lead a conversation with Landrieu at the Texas Union Theatre from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m.

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Please RSVP at https://landrieu.eventbrite.com 

From the LBJ School’s event page: “Landrieu became the 61st mayor of New Orleans from 2010 to 2018, taking office when the city was still recovering from Hurricane Katrina and was in the midst of the BP oil spill. Under his leadership, New Orleans is widely recognized as one of the nation’s great comeback stories. Landrieu’s decision to remove four Confederate monuments in New Orleans and his speech explaining it vaulted him into the national spotlight in 2017. He examines racism and the lingering shadow of the Confederacy in America in his New York Times best-selling book, In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History (2018).”