Watch This: UT American Studies Departmental Video Released

Any American Studies student or scholar has likely encountered the following question in the non-academic wild: what is American Studies? With the answer so difficult to tease out – there’s a reason we ask our faculty members that very question in our “5 Questions” series! – we were thrilled to see the emergence of this new departmental video, the fruits of faculty and undergraduate labor. The video not only explores what the field is, but how students encounter the field here at UT.

Here’s what Dr. Randy Lewis had to say about the project’s inception and focus:

When I arrived here in 2009, I mentioned the idea of a departmental video to Steve Hoelscher, who was very supportive. However, finding funding and time was difficult—no other department in the college had done something like this. Fortunately, we had some good luck about a year ago when were working with Associate Dean Mark Music on a separate project, and we mentioned our desire to create a short video promo for American Studies. We sometimes feel like one of the undiscovered gems on campus, and a video seemed like one way to get out the word and attract more majors. So with the backing of the Associate Dean, Steve asked Cary Cordova and I to spearhead the creation of the video, working with some fine videographers and editors on campus. The first challenge was finding undergraduates who could convey the breadth and depth of what we do in the AMS classroom, but we were able to find a dozen stellar students who did a great job on camera. It’s very hard to make something that is institutional in nature without it seeming too bland. I guess I’m glad that I didn’t push some of my earlier, more colorful ideas beyond the brainstorming stage. I’m thinking about the dark comic vision I had of the AMS faculty in full-on Insane Clown Posse garb, sitting around talking about Melville in Juggalo lingo. I think that would have had a much more limited demographic appeal, mostly with bookish Ninjalos, of which there may not be many, but it would have been really funny.

Check the video out here to learn about the field, the American Studies community here at UT, and the usefulness of our interdisciplinary mode of inquiry beyond the classroom – all from the mouths of undergraduates in the program.

Maybe next year we’ll see the Juggalo sequel – stay tuned, y’all.

Watch This: Dr. Julia Mickenberg on Book TV

This past weekend, Dr. Julia Mickenberg appeared on C-SPAN’s Book TV about her book, Tales for Little Rebels: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States, co-edited with Dr. Philip Nel.

Good news: the video is now online! Bad news: the site doesn’t permit embedded videos. But you can check the interview out here, and the book here.



Watch This: Time Lapse of Migrant Mother (in pumpkin form!)

As any graduate student will tell you, free time to enjoy any kind of leisure activity is at a premium. Amidst catching up with work or preparing for upcoming work, though, it’s important to find a moment to decompress and do an activity that exercises a totally different part of one’s brain.

But sometimes those activities manifest as completely odd diversions that still have some relevance to our work in American Studies. Here, we present a video (and sort of an art project) by Carrie Andersen, whose love for working with her hands has manifested in a strange, infrequent hobby: carving intensely detailed pumpkins. Take a look at this time lapse video to see an icon of American photography and life take form in a somewhat unexpected way…

Watch This: Bodega Down Bronx

In the Bronx, bodegas are a way of life. You can get everything from snacks to supper. Who decides what they sell? Why is their stuff so cheap? Why should we care?

There is a lot of talk these days about national health, and the topic of food deserts often comes up in these conversations. It’s all too easy, however, to oversimplify the issue or bemoan the situation without a clear sense of how to address it. If you haven’t had the chance already, check out this great documentary short that maps out a local food system, one based in the bodegas that serve residents of the South Bronx, and considers the ramifications of this system for area residents and businesspeople, including the bodega owners.

Bodega Down Bronx is a project from The Center for Urban Pedagogy and a group of students from the South Bronx that “explains the ins and outs of bodegas – from global supply to local demand – to reveal how a web of subsidies shapes their neighborhood’s health from hundreds of miles away.