What I Did On My Summer Vacation: Gaila Sims

After finishing my first year of graduate school, I was most looking forward to relaxing, swimming, and reading for fun. I was able to do all three of those activities this summer, but I actually spent the majority of the summer working at Austin’s Asian American Resource Center as an instructor for their summer camps. The Asian American Resource Center (AARC) opened in September 2013 and serves Austin’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities with programming, resources, and community spaces. Among the center’s many educational offerings is summer camp, which usually runs June-August, and includes a number of themed camps meant to teach kids about Asian and Asian American cultural traditions.


Photo Courtesy of the City of Austin Asian American Resource Center

The first of this summer’s camps was “Game Master,” where kids learned coding basics and about traditional Asian games, including Yut Nori, Mah Jong, and Tuju Tins. We also made our own mancala sets and played a lot of ping pong. The second of the summer’s camps was “Art and Mindfulness,” during which campers were taught methods of mindfulness and meditation, all stemming from Asian and Asian American cultural practices. We learned about zen gardens, about sand mandalas, and did a lot of yoga. After “Art and Mindfulness” came “Tall Tales and Traditions,” which focused on storytelling, theatre, and oral history. This camp was especially interesting for me, since I had not previously known a lot about Asian storytelling traditions. We taught the kids about Kamishibai, a form of Japanese street theatre, as well as the Ramayana, an ancient Indian epic poem. The summer ended with “Asian Adoptee Camp,” which provided education and resources to adoptees, and allowed for community building among campers of various ages and from various cultural backgrounds. We talked about the history of Asian adoption in America, had great discussions about some of the challenges involved with being adoptees, and actually met adult Asian adoptees and got to learn about their experiences.

AARC Kids Yoga

Photo Courtesy of the City of Austin Asian American Resource Center

I was one of three instructors for the camp, and spent most of my time with some of the younger campers, ages 5-8. The kids were wonderful, and had such unique perspectives, and it was awesome to be able to learn from my fellow instructors, both of whom have backgrounds in education. It was great to be able to spend time doing work totally different than what I do during the semester—teaching younger kids, learning about cultural traditions different from the ones I study, and working in a community center environment instead of on a university campus. While working at summer camps has its challenges, it was really nice to be able to spend time with kids and engage my brain in different ways. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do interesting and engaging work, and am looking forward to settling back into the semester, although I might see if some of my fellow graduate students are interested in playing some Mah Jong this semester, now that I finally know how to play.

Gaila Sims

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!

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

Grad Research: Ph.D. students Kerry Knerr and Elissa Underwood inaugural recipients of Les Dames D’Escoffier, Dallas Chapter Endowed Presidential Fellowships in American Studies

Steve Hoelscher; Mary Kimbrough*, Susan Auler*, Kerry Knerr, Elissa Underwood, Tracey Evers*, Marvin Bendele (Executive Director, Foodways Texas). * member of Les Dames D’Escoffier, Dallas Chapter

Steve Hoelscher; Mary Kimbrough*, Susan Auler*, Kerry Knerr, Elissa Underwood, Tracey Evers*, Marvin Bendele (Executive Director, Foodways Texas).
* member of Les Dames D’Escoffier, Dallas Chapter

A hearty congratulations to Ph.D. students Kerry Knerr and Elissa Underwood, who have been named the 2016 recipients of the Les Dames D’Escoffier, Dallas Chapter Endowed Presidential Fellowships in American Studies. Les Dames D’Escoffier of Dallas have offered their generous support of American Studies graduate scholarship at UT on topics relating to food studies.

Kerry Knerr’s project, “Cocktails, Class, and Conspicuous Consumption in the Progressive Era U.S.,” examines the early history of the American cocktail and its entanglement with American cultural imperialism. The project will build upon her master’s report, “In Search of a Good Drink: Punches, Cocktails, and Imperial Consumption,” currently under review at Global Food History. In it Kerry argues that understanding the material aspects of alcohol consumption (what people are doing), through close readings of recipe collections and material cultures of public and home bars, can ground otherwise nebulous discourses (what people are saying) of social movements, gender politics, or class formation. Kerry will conduct research at the National Food and Beverage Foundation in New Orleans, which houses both the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and the Museum of the American Cocktail. There she will analyze menus, published cookbooks or bar manuals, private recipe collections, newspaper clippings, and photographs.

Elissa Underwood’s project, “Women and Food in Carceral Spaces,” will explore women’s understandings of and experiences with food and foodways, including specific nutritional needs and distinct relationships with food, during and after incarceration by conducting oral histories with formerly incarcerated women in Texas. Elissa will interview women working and learning or perfecting skills in food-based industries, as well as women who have started their own food-based companies or non-profit organizations specifically aimed at combating recidivism and/or preventing incarceration.

The winners were announced at this year’s Foodways Texas conference, an organization now housed in the Department of American Studies. For more on the conference, check out this very in-depth, fascinating recap of the weekend of festivities.

Grad Research: INGZ Collective curator Natalie Zelt produces “Sampling,” March 31 – April 2

Exciting news from one of our graduate students: Ph.D. student Natalie Zelt, a curator for the INGZ Collective, has curated a performance series entitled “Sampling,” where artists Tameka Norris (aka Meka Jean), Brontez Purnell and The Younger Lovers, and Kenya (Robinson) CHEEKY LaSHAE adopt personae culled from tropes and representation of musicians- exposing pervasive norms, pressing the boundaries of everyday identity, and reflecting on the relations between personae play, embodiment and power.

All are invited to attend, to participate, to engage!

Thursday, March 31
  • 10-11:30 am: Tameka Norris Become Someone Else Workshop I (Location: GWB Multipurpose Room) Email info@ingzcollective.org to sign up.
  • 5:30-6pmSampling Opening Reception (In Winship Building)
  • 6-8pm: Screening of Free Jazz & Performance by Brontez Purnell and The Younger Lovers followed by a Movement Workshop open to the public (location: Lab Theatre)
Friday April 1, 2016
  • 2-3:30pm: Tameka Norris Become Someone Else Workshop II (Location: WIN 1.148) Emailinfo@ingzcollective.org to sign up
  • 4-4:30pm: CHEEKY LaSHAE gives a paper at New Directions in Anthropology Conference (Location CLA 1.302B)
  • 5:30pm-7pm: Meka Jean “Ivy League Ratchet” Happy Hour Performance (Location GWB Multipurpose Room)
  • 9pm-11pm: MONTH os SUNDAYS–CHEEKY LaSHAE Singes BLACK SABBATH with Meka Jean encore performance of “Ivy League Ratchet” and a opening act by The Younger Lovers (Location: Museum of Human Achievement)
Saturday April 2, 2016
  • 11am-12pm: Brunch Talk with Tameka Norris, Brontez Purnell and The Younger Lovers and Kenya (Robinson) (Location: CLA 1.302D)

Grad Research: Josephine Hill on Communism and Hybrid Corn

Alien-Corn-04-28-1948-by-Daniel-Robert-Fitzpatrick.-The-cartoon-is-held-at-The-St.-Louis-Post-Dispatch-Editorial-Cartoon-Collection.-Congratulations to UT AMS grad student Josephine Hill, who recently published an article called “Sowing the Seeds of Communism: Corn Wars in the USA” on Not Even Past, the blog of the UT History department. You can read the article here, and we’ve included an excerpt below.

Today we often associate hybrid or genetically modified corn with agricultural monopolies, big business, and capitalism, in the early Cold War some feared that the rise of hybrid corn would sow the seeds of Communism in the United States. Daniel Robert Fitzpatrick’s editorial cartoon, “Alien Corn,” published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 28, 1948, shows Henry A. Wallace grinning at a corn plant, whose leaves bear hammers and sickles and whose tassel sports a Soviet star –- the fruits of Communism. Wallace was the founder of the Hi-Bred Corn Company (today owned by the Dupont Corporation). He was also vice president to Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of Agriculture (1933-1940), Secretary of Commerce (1945-1946), and 1948 presidential nominee of the Progressive Party. Appearing during the 1948 election season, the cartoon most directly reflects contemporary suspicions about Wallace’s possible Communist sympathies, which were fueled by his endorsement from the U.S. Communist Party, his progressive platform that included universal health care, voting rights for African-Americans, and an end to segregation, and his interest in Eastern religions. Here, the fear of the “alien” seems to have stronger political than environmental implications, yet this title presciently describes the many ways in which these two concerns would become more and more closely intertwined.

Grad Research: Julie Kantor in the LARB

Congratulations to UT AMS graduate student Julie Kantor, who recently had some of the poems from her chapbook Land published in the “No Crisis” issue of the Los Angeles Review of Books Quarterly. We spoke to Julie about her work when Land came out last spring, and we’re excited to able to share a selection with you, below.