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

UT tower lit entirely in orange

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.

Announcement: Imagined Futures


Tomorrow, the Humanities Institute of the University of Texas at Austin is hosting a symposium entitled “Imagined Futures,” the culmination of the 2014-2016 Faculty Fellows seminar of the same name. An all day event, the symposium features a keynote from Professor Emeritus Betty Sue Flowers as well as a talk by AMS faculty member Dr. Shirley Thompson, entitled “The Political Economy of Black Futures.” We’ve posted the full schedule below, and hope to see you there.

8:45 am – 9:00 am Opening Remarks
Pauline Strong, Director, Humanities Institute
Randy Diehl, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts

9:00 am – 10:30 am Social Movements and the Future
Madeline Hsu, “Migration and imagined futures”
Virginia Burnett, “Revolutionary Catholic priests in Central America, 1960-1983”
Paola Bonifazio, “Postfeminism and the future of gender”
Xavier Livermon, “Black queer futurity in South Africa”
Shirley Thompson, “The political economy of Black futures”

10:45 am – 11:45 am Untold, Unintended, Unimaginable Futures
Minkah Makalani, “The politically unimaginable in the political thought of C.L.R. James”
Marilén Loyola, “The past and the (un)imaginable future in contemporary Spanish theatre”
Lucy Atkinson, “Political consumption and its unintended, uncivic consequences”

12:45 – 2:15 pm Designing and Imaging the Future
Allan Shearer, “Composing futures”
Violina Rindova, “Where strategy meets culture: finding a place for design in strategic management research”
David Edwards, “Reflexive reflective practice and the future of social theory”
Mary Bock, “The future of photojournalism”
Brian Korgel, “Innovation arts”

2:30 – 3:45 pm Crisis and Sustainability
Craig Campbell, “Postindustrial dreamworlds and nightmares in Siberia”
Wenhong Chen, “The risk society and a sustainable future: PM2.5 and the networked public sphere”
Donna DeCesare, “Collaboration and a sustainable future for photojournalism”
Patricia Somers, “The entrepreneurial university: scholars on the precipice?”

4:00 – 5:00 pm Keynote Address: Betty Sue Flowers
Elizabeth Cullingford, Introduction
Betty Sue Flowers, “Working with Imagined Futures”

Announcement: Dr. Jane Ward, “Not Gay: The Homosexual Ingredient in the Making of Straight, White Men”


We are pleased to announce a lecture by Dr. Jane Ward, “Not Gay: The Homosexual Ingredient in the Making of Straight, White Men,” to be given on Thursday, February 25th at 1:30 PM in CLA 1.302B. We’ve included a description of Dr. Ward’s talk below; we hope to see you there.

Although the U.S. media has recently been abuzz with commentary about heteroflexibility, most accounts have focused on “girls who kiss girls” for the pleasure of male spectators, or men of color “on the down low” who are presumed to be gay and in the closet.  But where do white men—the dominant culture’s most normalized and idealized figures—fit in to these narratives? In this talk, Ward traces narratives about straight white men’s homosexual encounters across three sites— the United States military, online personal ads, and popular culture—illustrating the unique ways that whiteness and masculinity converge to circumvent the pathologizing gaze of popular science, the gaze applied to men of color. Taking sex between straight white men as its point of departure, Ward’s project offers a new way to think about heterosexuality—not as the opposite or absence of homosexuality, but as its own unique mode of engaging homosexual sex, a mode characterized by pretense, disidentification and racialized heteronormative investments.