The World in American Studies Today Keynote: Dr. Anita Mannur


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We are pleased to announce that the keynote lecture for our biennial graduate conference, The World in American Studies Today, will be given by Dr. Anita Mannur at 6 PM on Thursday, March 20th in CLA 1.302B. Dr. Mannur is Associate Professor of English and Asian/Asian American Studies and Director, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Miami University. She is the author of Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture and the co-editor of Eating Asian America: A Reader and Theorizing Diaspora: A Reader.

In this talk, Dr. Mannur explores how the figure of the “enemy” is constructed in public culinary sites by examining social media, cook books and food trucks that are devoted to the dissemination of culinary knowledge. The spaces she examines are Michael Rakowitz’s performance art installation “Enemy Kitchen” and Conflict Kitchen, a take-out restaurant in Pittsburgh, PA. In juxtaposing these sites and exploring the performative politics deployed within each context, Dr. Mannur explores what it means to turn to the tactile, olfactory and consumptive to reflect on questions of US diplomacy and foreign policy that have taken on particular forms of cultural xenophobia, directed at the Islamic
subject, in the wake of the war on terror and 9/11. By focusing in particular on the use of “radical hospitality,” Dr. Mannur asks how meals are staged as spaces to provide a counternarrative to xenophobia and the discourse of the
enemy combatant.

Announcement: The World In American Studies Today Graduate Conference Hosted By UT AMS


We are very excited to announce this year’s iteration of the biannual graduate conference in American Studies, entitled: The World in American Studies Today: Nationalism in American Studies, to be held Thursday and Friday March 30th and 31st at The University of Texas at Austin. There will be a keynote, given by Dr. Anita Mannur, on Thursday the 30th at 6 PM. We hope to see you there.

More information on the keynote, and the conference schedule, to follow.

Announcement: Congratulations to our newly minted Ph.D.s!

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Enormous congratulations to the following graduate students who are now, as of this weekend’s commencement festivities, official Ph.D. recipients. We are so proud of them!

Sean Cashbaugh
“A Cultural History Beneath the Left: Politics, Art, and the Emergence of the Underground During the Cold War”
Supervisor: Randolph Lewis

Brendan Gaughen
“Practices of Place: Ordinary Mobilities and Everyday Technology”
Supervisor: Jeff Meikle

Josh Holland
“Kurt Hahn, the United World Colleges, and the Un-Making of Nation”
Supervisor: Julia Mickenberg

Lily Laux
“Teaching Texas: Race, Disability and the History of the School-to-Prison Pipeline”
Supervisor: Shirley Thompson

Susan Quesal
“Dismantling the Master’s House: The Afterlife of Slavery in the Twentieth-Century Representations of Home”
Supervisors: Shirley Thompson and Stephen Marshall

Kirsten Ronald
“Dancing the Local: Two-Step and the Formation of Local Cultures, Local Places, and Local Identities in Austin, TX”
Supervisor: Steve Hoelsher

Jackie Smith
“Black Princess Housewive and Single Ladies: Renee Cox’s Housewife Enactments and The Politics of Twenty-First Century Wealthy Black Womanhood”
Supervisor: Shirley Thompson

Announcement: Stephanie Kaufman receives University of Texas at Austin 2016 President’s Outstanding Staff Award


Congratulations to UT AMS Executive Assistant Stephanie Kaufman, who has received the  University of Texas at Austin 2016 President’s Outstanding Staff Award. As President Fenves writes in his award letter, Stephanie “was chosen for this award from 225 nominees in recognition of the positive effect [she] has had on campus, [her] commitment to excellence, and [her] consistent, high-level performance.”

President Fenves got it exactly right; as anyone in American Studies can tell you, the Department would not run without Stephanie. What isn’t clear from the letter however, what couldn’t be clear unless you have the privilege of working with Stephanie Kaufman on a day to day basis, is that she cares deeply for everyone in American Studies and for their success, and she does everything she can to ensure it. We are very lucky that we have her in our community, and we’re extraordinarily happy that the University has recognized her extraordinary contributions. Congratulations, Stephanie!

Announcement: Dr. Heather A. Williams, “The Emotional Violence of Slavery”

We would love to draw your attention to a series of events transpiring on campus TODAY (Tuesday, March 29) at 4:00pm and tomorrow (Wednesday, March 30). Dr. Heather A. Williams (The University of Pennsylvania) will be delivering two Littlefield Lectures: today’s is entitled “The Emotional Violence of Slavery” and tomorrow’s is “Murder on the Plantation.”

The events will take place in the Glickman Conference Room in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Building, and they are sponsored by the UT History Department.

For more information about Dr. Williams, see her faculty page here.

Announcements: A Take on Dr. Lisa Duggan’s “Normativity and Its Discontents”

In case you missed Dr. Lisa Duggan‘s recent talk at UT, you’re in luck: undergraduate Cole Wilson has provided this wonderful write-up of the event with a few of its takeaways. Enjoy!

Lisa Duggan was invited by the American Studies Department, in conjunction with UT’s English Department, Anthropology Department, and a whole host of other offices and programs as the AMS Department’s bi-annual Spring Speaker. Her presentation centered on the role of diagnosis in the American security state and the rewriting of neoliberalism.

Duggan opened with a discussion of her coming to this project as a sexologist and theorist interested in Disabilities Studies, namely, diagnosis in post-9/11 America. She looked to the Showtime program Homeland for one case study in order to understand how diagnosis figures into post-empire US culture and the security state, and the ways that the ways we interpret diagnoses are embedded in our understandings of empire. For an overview of the show, click here.

She chose this program due to the show’s focus on its protagonists’ mental illnesses. Carrie Mathison suffers from bipolar disorder, but often abandons her medication in order to summon stunning detective work, ultimately at the cost of her sanity. As Duggan put it, she “flies off the rails” in exchange for fits of brilliance. But, Duggan argues, this is justified by her diagnosis. The same goes for Nicolas Brodie, a CIA agent who suffers from PTSD after his years of being a POW. In a crescendo, Brodie attempts to assassinate the Vice President with a suicide vest. Despite this attempted terrorist attack, in a cliché mode no less, Duggan argues that the viewers sympathizes with Brodie due to his diagnosis. He exhibits what Duggan calls “humanized terrorism.”

This is all juxtaposed with Abu Nazir, a grossly ambiguous terrorist figure whose race, location, and affiliation are all skewed in order to present a vague villain that preys on both racial and dogmatic stereotypes of Arab men. He is American islamophobia incarnate. His lack of a diagnosis, argues Duggan, produces a character that is villainized on all fronts because he is simply a “terrorist.”

Beginning her second case study on Ayn Rand, Duggan opened with a few videos in order to set the tone for those of us who haven’t read Atlas Shrugged. The 2011 movie trailer, the GOP’s embrace of Ayn Rand, and a Simpson’s rendition of the classic novel, all illustrated Rand’s continued cultural prevalence.

Duggan began with an observation of Rand’s justification of cruelty. Coined “optimistic cruelty,” a play on Lauren Berlant’s “cruel optimism,” she states that Atlas Shrugged illustrates the desirability of selfishness through its protagonists’ embrace of capitalism. This again is an example of American neoliberalism being rewritten in contemporary America: her fantasies mobilize consent of neoliberalism.

But, how does Atlas Shrugged represent contemporary America, being decades old? According to Duggan the Great Recession of 2008 brought about record sales of the novel. Moreover, as an audience member asserted, high schoolers and middle schoolers are still being prescribed novels and essays by Rand. The word “indoctrinated” was readily thrown around after this statement.

Duggan wrapped up her presentation by noting how Rand “solicits anti-government fantasy in industry” and how she makes neoliberalism attractive, even with its innate cruelty. She goes on to discuss how this attractiveness and fantasy produce a sense of rebelliousness, pointing to Steve Jobs and Donald Trump, who both played, or play, the role of the rebel in a neoliberal America.

Her argument was compelling, insightful, and engaging. If you missed her talk, you can read up on this subject in her book The Twilight of Equality?: Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy or follow here on Twitter to catch her the next time she’s in town.

Announcement: Dr. Jigna Desai, “Contesting Nueral Citizenship: Feminist Crip of Color Neurocultures”


Artist: Karen Norberg, Location: Boston Museum of Science

Please join us for a talk, Contesting Nueral Citizenship: Feminist Crip of Color Neurocultures, by Dr. Jigna Desai on Monday, March 7, 2:00-3:30pm in CLA 3.210. The description is below.

“With the emergence and rise of neural knowledge and its mainstreaming in contemporary culture and society, new forms of knowledge are transforming how we identify, understand, and manage personhood and citizenship vis-a-vis conceptions of “normal” and “abnormal” brains. In short, we live in an era characterized by neurocentrism where the brain is seen as central to explaining who we are. Drawing on intersectional feminist, queer, and disability theories of biopolitics and citizenship, the presentation addresses contestations over our neural selves, imagining feminist crip of color possibilities.”

Dr. Desai teaches at the University of Minnesota.