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

5 Questions: Dr. Simone Browne, Associate Professor, African and African Diaspora Studies

Browne Picture

Today we share with you an interview with Dr. Simone Browne, Associate Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies department and affiliate faculty member of the American Studies department. Dr. Browne and American Studies senior Rebecca Bielamowicz discussed teaching in the public school system, black feminist thought, the politics of creative expression, and her new book, Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness (Duke University Press, 2015). And, you’re in luck: the conversation was so engaging that we expanded it beyond our usual five questions. Read on for a fascinating discussion!


What is your scholarly background and how does it motivate your teaching and research?

Oh that’s a good question – nice – and I like that you put teaching first because that’s so important to me. So my scholarly background, I grew up in Toronto and I went to school at the University of Toronto for undergrad, master’s degree, and PhD. In between that I got a teaching degree, and so I actually have background teaching kindergarten and the second grade as well, too. And so one of the things that was important in my graduate studies was that in the program that – so I’m a sociologist, but the program that I was in was sociology and equity studies, and so it wasn’t like an add on, it was something that was really important to the department’s political project, and I think that comes in to how I think about how we can see the world sociologically, it’s also about equity as well, so I think that kind of influences my teaching.

After I did the teaching degree, I wanted to go into a master’s in education in the field of education. I was interested in pursuing those issues around social justice and equity in the public school system and so – but when I went there, sometimes you get a little sidetracked with some things, and I was kind of interested in those same things but as well as a cultural studies approach to looking at sociology and so that’s how I ended up in more of the, I guess more of the academic track as opposed to public schooling.

How was teaching the younger kids?

It’s hard. That was the hardest job I’ve ever had. A different type of hard because you’re on every day, there’s so much prep work to do, of course there are always, and I’m sure it’s changed a lot now where it’s been ramped up, but there’s always these metrics and benchmarks and testing and everything that you have to do. There’s oftentimes that you have to create spaces for them to learn through play or other things, and so it was tough, I’ll tell you that. My mother was a teacher, so I have a great – she was actually teaching at the same school as me for one time – but it was a great appreciation for the labor that they do. It’s no joke. They are really putting it in and they’re often not given the respect they deserve and the schools are not given the money they need. It is the toughest job but so important. And they’re great – to see the students, some of them are finished with university now, you know, that was such a long time ago.

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Announcement: See these talks at the Texas Book Festival

The annual Texas Book Festival is upon us this weekend, so we’ve curated a list of events that would be of interest to friends of American Studies for your perusal and planning.

We’d like to draw your attention especially two events with American Studies participants. The first is a discussion moderated by Dr. Steve Hoelscher: “A Long Walk Home,” featuring Magnum photographer Eli Reed. Eli Reed: A Long Walk Home presents the first career retrospective of Reed’s work. Consisting of over 250 images that span the full range of his subjects and his evolution as a photographer, the photographs are a visual summation of the human condition. This event will take place at the Contemporary Austin – Jones Center (700 Congress) at 2:00 PM on Saturday.

The second is a discussion moderated by Dr. Shirley Thompson: “Negroland.” Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and memoirist Margo Jefferson recounts growing up in a small region of African-American upper class families in Chicago during the civil rights movement and the genesis of feminism. With this point of view, Jefferson discusses race, identity, and American culture, through her own lens. This event takes place at the CSPAN-2/BookTV Tent at 12:00 PM on Sunday.

Here are some other things to do, too – enjoy!

Reagan: The Life (Saturday)
10:00 AM – 10:45 AM, C-SPAN2/ Book TV Tent

In his newest biography, historian H. W. Brands presents Ronald Reagan as one of the most influential presidents of the twentieth century. Brands traces Reagan’s life from humble beginnings to Hollywood actor to his rise as a politician and president.

The History of Franklin’s Barbecue (Saturday)
10:00 AM – 10:45 AM, Texas Tent

Get hungry for some barbeque with Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay as they talk about their new book, Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.

Jacksonland (Saturday)
11:00 AM – 11:45 AM, C-SPAN2/BookTV Tent

In his latest work, Jacksonland, NPR host and author Steve Inskeep dives deep into an era of change that spanned the country and shaped the future. The Trail of Tears, the Five Civilized Tribes and the acquisition of Jacksonland are important pieces of American history, all of which have two things in common: Andrew Jackson and John Ross.

That Day (Saturday)
11:00 AM – 11:45 AM, The Contemporary Austin–Jones Center (700 Congress)

Join renowned photographer and Texan Laura Wilson as she discusses what it takes to capture the many facets of the unyielding, ever-changing West in her new book That Day: Pictures in the American West.

Talk of the Town (Saturday)
11:15 AM – 12:15 PM, The Sanctuary at First United Methodist Church (1201 Lavaca, enter from Lavaca St.)

Fans! Join two writers who are fans of each other. Jonathan Lethem and Adrian Tomine as they talk about their new respective collections, Lucky Alan and Killing and Dying, which explore humor, identity, and emotional vulnerability in both realistic and absurd landscapes.

The Dystopian Mirror Reflects the Past (Saturday)
11:45 AM – 12:45 PM, Capitol Extension Room E2.016

Whether the starting place is a reimagining of the Lewis and Clark voyage or a historic Texas War, the future is bleak. Join Benjamin Percy and Zachary Thomas Dodson, two futuristic masterminds, as they unravel the mysteries of the past and the ways in which it predicts our future.

The Art of Politics (Saturday)
2:00 PM – 2:45 PM, Capitol Extension Room E2.026

Join poets Mark Neely and Juliana Spahr as they discuss their latest collections and address tackling current events through poetry. From terrorism to environmental issues, two poets converse about their eloquent, witty works.

Place and Race (Saturday)
2:00 PM – 2:45 PM, C-SPAN2/BookTV Tent

Authors Wendy S. Walters and Jason Sokol discuss the dynamic and complicated course of civil rights over the past several decades in America. Racism emerges in unexpected locations, and the ways in which people resist, cope, and consent are not predictable.

Invisible y Sin Fronteras (Saturday)
3:00 PM – 3:45 PM, Ahora Si Tent (12th & Colorado)

Join Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, Javier Auyero, and Ricardo Ainslie, writers tackling issues of race and place through different genres, as they engage in a wide-ranging discussion of Latino identity in Austin and beyond. (Spanish)

Desde distintos géneros, Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, Javier Auyero, y Ricardo Ainslie trabajan temas de raza, etnicidad, e identidad. Los invitamos a sumarse a la conversación sobre varios tópicos relacionados a la identidad Latina en Austin y en el país. (en español)

Wimmin’s Comix (Saturday)
3:15 PM – 4:15 PM, Capitol Auditorium Room E1.004

Cartoonists Marisa Acocella Marchetto, Anne Opotowsky, and illustrator Aya Morton discuss the role of women in comics, and the influences on their current works. From the subversive Wimmin’s Comix to Anna Tenna and the Walled City Trilogy, the graphic novel genre proves to be inclusive and provocative.

The Wind in the Reeds with Wendell Pierce (Saturday)
4:00 PM – 4:45 PM, House Chamber

With moving recollections of his family, childhood, and artistic journey, Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme) relates the story of his mission to rebuild his beloved New Orleans neighborhood after Hurricane Katrina in The Wind in the Reeds: A Storm, A Play, and the City That Would Not Be Broken.

A Portrait of a Critic as a Young Man (Saturday)
4:00 PM – 4:45 PM, Capitol Extension Room E2.010

Join the “Dean of American Rock Critics” Robert Christgau as he dives headfirst into the inspiration behind his new book, a memoir which is equal parts love story and tribute to New York and the metamorphic power of art.

Invisible in Austin (Sunday)
11:00 AM – 11:45 AM, Texas Tent

Join editor Javier Auyero and some of his collaborating graduate students, Katherine Jensen and Caitlyn Collins, in discussion about Invisible in Austin, an essential study of the growing gap between wealth and poverty in a dynamic and overall thriving city.

Getting Real (Sunday)
11:00 AM – 11:45 AM, Capitol Extension Room E2.014

Saeed Jones and James Hannaham bring the crucial Black Lives Matter conversation to the forefront. Join Texas-native Jones and Bronx-born Hannaham in a cross-genre panel as they discuss how race and racism has influenced their respective texts and their poignantly unique perspectives.

Standing Out, Blending In (Sunday)
12:15 PM – 1:00 PM, Capitol Extension Room E2.026

Join Allyson Hobbs and James McGrath Morris as they share their investigations into the tumultuous history of racial identity in the U.S. in their respective works, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life and Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press.

Grant Park (Sunday)
2:00 PM – 2:45 PM, House Chamber

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Leonard Pitts’ latest novel alternates between 1968, the year of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, and Chicago during the election of 2008. Grant Park showcases his talent for addressing racial tensions that are just as relevant today as they were during the Civil Rights era.

Her Texas (Sunday)
4:00 PM – 4:45 PM, Capitol Extension Room E1.026

Multicultural, multiethnic, and multidisciplinary, Her Texas includes stories, essays, memoirs, poetry, song lyrics, paintings, and photographs by 60 Texas women. Some of the contributors are here today to talk about her own Texas.

Announcement: “Como La Danceflor,” Artist Talk/Music Set/Interview with AB Soto


We’re excited to share with you the first of a few events within a series called “MIGHTY REAL The Politics of Queer Nightlife.” AB Soto, a visual/performance artist and musician, will be sharing and discussing his work on Thursday, September 17 in the Ransom Center’s Prothro Theater, from 1:30pm – 3:15pm.

A brief word about Soto:

Born in East Los Angeles AB’s work as a visual / performance artist and musician is an amalgamation of his Latin roots and early influences; street and pop culture. This combined with a rebellious streak that challenges and questions mainstream gay culture and norms is what defines AB as a recording artist. AB’s early background as a professional dancer and fashion designer informs his work as the artist he is today – all of AB’s work is original and self produced; choreography, lyric, styling and design. AB’s art is a stylized commentary on homophobic attitudes present in the dominate culture. His aim is to show the diversity of the more marginalized members of the gay community and bring them to a wider audience.

And a brief word about the MIGHTY REAL  series:

This artist/speaker series, open to the university and Austin communities, will invite musicians, entertainers, DJ, and organizers working in queer nightlife spaces to offer their perspectives on politics, performance, and labor. Prior to the infamous Stonewall Riots of 1969, bars, house parties, and nightclubs have been essential sites of community making and political action for gender and sexual dissidents. While these spaces are imagined as utopians and escapist, nightlife has long been the target of state surveillance and moral legislation. Additionally, recent scholarships have demonstrated how people of color, working class people, and gender non-conforming people are kept at the margins of entertainment cultures. It is imperative, in a climate of state-sanctioned racial surveillance, border patrols, and trans phobic attacks, to more critically politicize queer nightlife, an industry that is assumed to offer refuge from the psychic and physical violence of heteronormativity and racism. This series will offer perspectives from those working on the ground, and will provide a nuanced understanding of nightlife as a space of political action.

Alumni Voices: Phil Tiemeyer, Assistant Professor, Philadelphia University

In 2013, Phil Tiemeyer, UT AMS alum and current Assistant Professor of History at Philadelphia University, released Plane Queer, a history of men working as flight attendants. We recently caught up with Tiemeyer to talk to him about his book, his teaching, and his time at UT. 


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

My favorite coursework at UT was strewn over various departments: from Janet Davis’ course on social movements, to Ann Cvetkovich’s (English Dept) seminar on queer studies, to Mark Lawrence’s (History Dept) teaching on US Diplomatic History. So, naturally, I wanted to combine all these topics–especially gender, sexuality, and globalization–into one dissertation topic. This led me to think about viable topics that involved LGBTQ roles in the global economy. Between my own childhood passion for flying and Janet Davis’ love for her prior work as a flight attendant, I ultimately ended up focusing on airplanes—the mode of transport that most quickly binds the globe’s disparate nodes of economic activity. And it wasn’t long before I was reading about and conducting interviews with gay men who served as flight attendants, literally working in the aisles and galleys of these planes that are linking the world together. It seemed to me that these men could serve as an important lens for examining the ways that gender and sexuality are intertwined with work in today’s global economy.

Plane Queer ended up being a well-received addition to LGBTQ history, as it is the first book-length chronicle of a gay-oriented career. Work so often gets overlooked as a locus of queer life, in favor of better-documented realms like LGBTQ activism or queer urban nightlife. Plane Queer didn’t end up being as global in focus as I originally envisioned–it focuses only on US-based flight attendants–but I was happy that it was able to chronicle queerness in this workplace all the way back to the 1930s, and all the way forward to the 2000s.

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

Almost every thing I do nowadays is a continuation of my time in American Studies at UT. I got hired in my current job because of my writing in LGBTQ history, and that’s the field I’ve been writing in since my early seminar papers at UT. I also teach a survey class now, so I’m really grateful that I read those hundreds of books for orals and sat in on Janet Davis’ and Shirley Thompson’s surveys and later TA’ed for Bob Abzug’s survey. The more I work on my next book project, which is more focused on globalization and less focused on LGBTQ issues, I find myself grateful for the other work I did with Mark Lawrence and Richard Pells in the History Department–and equally grateful that our grueling preparation for orals forced me to master more than just one field. The only thing American Studies didn’t prepare me for were the other tasks that eat up so much of my time as a professor: committee meetings, advising, and other administrative tasks. Shielding us from these things, though, was surely a merciful act!

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for students in our department about how to get the most out of their time here?

There are so many components to landing a good teaching job that aren’t simply tied to writing good seminar papers and getting As in courses. All of these things matter just as much, if not more, even though they don’t appear on our transcripts: presenting at conferences, getting a couple of articles out while in grad school, and networking with scholars outside of UT who are doing similar work. It is also extremely advantageous to have introduced yourself and your book topic to acquisitions editors at university presses before graduating, since you’ll likely need to have your manuscript finished and under contract within 4-5 years after finishing at UT…and everything about the publication process moves really slowly. I know I could have done a better job with these tasks, and each would have helped raise my prospects on the job market and made my progression towards tenure much less hectic. But it was easier at times to stay complacent in the undergraduate student mindset: as long as I’m writing good papers and getting good grades, I’m fine.

Grad Research: Jeannette Vaught on teaching the mystique of the cowboy

One of our department’s chief strengths is that it gives advanced graduate students the opportunity to create and teach their own small classes for undergraduates. Today, Ph.D. candidate and instructor-of-record Jeannette Vaught relates a fascinating unit she created for her class, “The Cowboy Mystique in American Culture.”

By presenting science as a central part of cultural history, I show students how scientific inquiry responds to cultural pressures. In the first unit of my “Cowboy Mystique in American Culture” seminar, I paired selections from Gail Bederman’s Manliness and Civilization about Theodore Roosevelt’s constructed sense of masculinity with “Agassiz,” a chapter from Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club detailing battles between various nineteenth century scientific race theories. To offer a concrete example of how race, gender, and science were entangled with politics, in class we analyzed Roosevelt’s use of the term “race suicide” in his own writings. By the end of the class, students understood that Roosevelt’s valorization of manly virility was deeply tied to emergent scientific anxieties about whiteness in the face of immigration and imperialism. Such transformative realizations eventually led the class to question the cultural pressures that shape current scientific debates, and to learn how to approach them from a historical, not polemical, position. In the Unit wrap-up, several students commented that they’d had to “break up” with TR (he’d been their favorite president!) after they’d learned to turn their critical eye towards his identity. The “Roosevelt as Bad Boyfriend” discussion was fun, for sure, but it resounded with students’ developing critical thinking skills.  Music to my ears! 

Announcement: Screening Blackness series continues next week


One of our favorite things to do here at AMS :: ATX is to draw your attention to some of the great events happening around UT. This week was the first installment of the Screening Blackness series called “The Black Leading Lady: Olivia Pope and ABC’s Scandal.” Nicole Martin, PhD candidate in the Department of Theater and Dance, will be screening episodes of the hit ABC series Scandal and leading a discussion about key topics from each episode, including race, gender, and sexuality. Nicole sent along the following description of the event, which continues next Monday, October 20 at 12:00pm in the ISESE Gallery at the Warfield Center:

When Scandal premiered in April 2012, ABC became the first major network to feature a Black woman protagonist in a primetime drama in nearly forty years. The show follows Olivia Pope who, with her team of associates, manages the public relations crises of Washington D.C.’s elite while hiding her own illicit interracial affair with the President of the United States. Created by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice), Scandal is one of the highest rated dramas currently on television making Olivia Pope, arguably, one of the most influential figures for contemporary Black female representation.

Week one of the series, “Desirability and Sexuality: Scripting the Black Leading Lady” focused on the construction of Olivia Pope as a black woman protagonist through the lens of sexuality. Discussion centered on the visual and embodied markers of Olivia Pope’s subject position vis-à-vis elements of costuming, character interaction and narrative structure. Attending to the scriptive moments of the show revealed the series’ strategic navigation of race, gender, and sexuality. In particular, audiences addressed the “double-reading” that occurs when observing Olivia Pope’s relationship with the President. This “doubleness” simultaneously activates a long history of sexual violence against black women’s bodies while also challenging the tropes of black womanhood that continue to dominate mainstream television.

Week 2, October 20, 2014

“Navigating Patriarchy: Black Masculinity, White Masculinity and Black Womanhood.” Watch: “A Door Marked Exit” (Season 3, Episode 10). This week will interrogate the assertion of power through character navigation of patriarchy.

Week 3, October 27, 2014

“Toward Freedom: Black Feminisms and Black Female Representation.” Watch: “The Price of a Free and Fair Election” (Season 3, Episode 18). This week will consider how to write and read for resistance in representations of black female subjectivity.

The event is sponsored by the John L. Warfield Center For African and African American Studies. Hope to see you there!