Grad Research: PhD Candidate Carrie Andersen wins P.E.O. Scholar Award!

We love it when our grad students do awesome stuff, so we’re thrilled to be able to share that PhD Candidate Carrie Andersen has been awarded the prestigious P.E.O. Scholar Award!

11150307_10102030799772771_5875756648760492413_nCarrie’s advisor, Dr. Randolph Lewis, had the following to say about Carrie’s work in a recent Chicago Tribune article announcing the award:

Few scholars have reckoned with the profound implications of UAVs or “drones” in ways that go beyond the legality of CIA drone strikes on foreign soil or private drones invading our backyard pool parties with remote-controlled video cameras. These are important matters, but Carrie is exploring something that extends far beyond a single academic discipline, something that requires an interdisciplinary fusion of research and method, indeed, something that probes to the heart of American culture.

Congratulations, Carrie!

Announcement: AMS Graduate Conference this week: “Home/Sick”

Join the graduate students of the Department of American Studies at UT as they put on a conference that takes on the theme “Home/Sick” this Thursday and Friday, April 2 and 3. The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Kim Tallbear (Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, UT Austin) on Thursday, April 2nd at 6pm in NOA 1.124. Dr. Tallbear will give a talk called, “Molecular Death and Redface Reincarnation: Indigenous Appropriations in the U.S.” Panels will take place Thursday and Friday in the Texas Union. See below for a full schedule, or click here.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 3.35.36 PM

The following is a description of the conference theme from the organizers:

The death of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this August, the immigration crisis centering around the influx of children from Central America to the United States, and the recent panic over the spread of the ebola virus can all be read as the newest manifestations of a long-running pattern throughout American history and culture: the relationship between constructions of “healthy” communities, the fear that these communities will be violated, invaded, or contaminated, and the mobilization of these fears as justification for action in the name of community preservation. The history of the United States is littered with rhetorical constructions of safety and security, purity and contamination—as well as with the results of very real processes of violence, displacement, and exclusion. The 2015 AMS Graduate Student Conference considers constructions of home and health, and explores how these concepts have been and continue to be mobilized in the construction and erasure of American communities, families, and selves.

Schedule for Panels

Thursday, April 2

Registration 1pm- 5pm
Sinclair Suite (UNB 3.128), Texas Union

2:00pm – 3:30pm – Panel 1: Surveillance at Home
Texas Governors’ Room (UNB 3.116), Texas Union

3:45pm – 5:15pm – Panel 2: Sick: Bodies and Affect
Texas Governors’ Room (UNB 3.116), Texas Union

Friday, April 3

Registration 8:30am – 5:00pm
Eastwoods Room (UNB 2.102), Texas Union

9:00am – 10:30am – Panel 3: Race and Reconfiguring the Home
Chicano Culture Room (4.206), Texas Union

10:45 – 12:15 –  Panel 4: Home in Digital Life
Chicano Culture Room (4.206), Texas Union

1:45 – 3:15 – Panel 5: Leisure, Labor, and Contested Homes
Chicano Culture Room (4.206), Texas Union

3:30 – 5:00 – Panel 6: Gulf Coast Oil and the Labor of Self, Loss, and the South
Chicano Culture Room (4.206), Texas Union

Grad Research: MA student Ashlyn Davis’ work featured on LightBox blog

We are thrilled to draw your attention to Time magazine’s LightBox blog, which recently featured MA student Ashlyn Davis’ collaborative artist book project, Islands of the Blest, which brings together historic photographs of the American west that Davis and photographer Bryan Schutmaat sourced from the online archives of the Library of Congress and the United States Geological Survey.


The following is a description of the book from the publisher’s website:

These photographs depict various places in the American West, and were taken over a one hundred-year period, from the 1870s through the 1970s. The photographers represented range from the completely unknown to some of America’s most distinguished practitioners of the medium. All of the images were sourced from digital public archives.

Grad Research: PhD student featured on television series ‘American Canvas’

We are thrilled to be able to draw your attention to the great work our graduate students do both on and off campus. PhD student Kirsten Ronald, who is writing a dissertation about social dance, gentrification, and cultural preservation, is featured in a segment that was recently filmed for the program American Canvas on the cable channel Ovation TV. The segment follows Ronald as she leads two-step dance lessons at The White Horse in Austin. The episode airs this Wednesday, March 18, at 9pm Central Time. You can find the channel number for your cable provider here.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.07.52 PM

Ronald shared the following with us about her research about and through dance:

Most of us in American Studies are lucky enough to study what we love, and I’m no exception – I’ve been an avid two-stepper almost since I set foot in Texas, and I research and write about social dance, gentrification, and cultural preservation in Austin.  I also teach beginning two-step classes at a few bars around town.  My co-teacher Houston Ritcheson and I were thrilled when the folks from American Canvas, a new cultural travel show on Ovation TV, asked if they could come film our class at The White Horse for their pilot, and now we’re super psyched to announce that the Austin episode is airing, and we’re in it!  With fingers crossed that they made us look far cooler than we actually are, please check it out: March 18th at 9pm on Ovation.

Grad Research: Graduate presentations abound this semester


We recently highlighted some of the folks presenting at the American Studies Association Annual Meeting in Los Angeles November 6-9. But our students and faculty present all over the place. Here are just a few examples of the exciting new research UT AMS grad students are sharing around the country this semester:

Andrew Gansky

Graduate student Andrew Gansky recently attended the Society for the History of Technology Annual Conference in Dearborn, Michigan, and took part in the SIGCIS Workshop. His presentation was titled, “The Meaning of Life in the Automated Office.” Here’s what Andrew had to say about his paper:

Many previous studies have looked at computer automation, or the displacement of human workers with computerized processes, through the lenses of labor and economics. However, the effects of automation extend far beyond the workplace. I examine automation as a fundamentally social technology, which helps engineer human relationships as technological feedback loops. In this paper, I focus on Control Data Corporation’s proposals to computerize and automate the American Indian national education system during the 1970s, and critique the application of teaching machines as the displacement of human care and responsibility for maintaining a functioning educational system.

Josh Kopin

Graduate student Josh Kopin presented his paper, “A Cosmonaut in Palomar: Seeing, Showing, and Imagining In Gilbert Hernandez’s Heartbreak Soup” at the the International Comic Arts Forum. Josh sent us the following snapshot of his paper, and he has a longer description of the event here:

Although the Palomar of Gilbert Hernandez’s Heartbreak Soup comics is something of a backwater, a small town where news always seems to come late, Hernandez populates it with characters who have dreams that go beyond the town’s limitations, even as he centers their lives there. Although they could easily be trite or descend into kitsch, the stories set in Palomar are involved in defending the dignity of those characters and the legitimacy of what they want, both in the context of the small town and outside of it. Perhaps the most instructive of the many ways that Hernandez mounts this defense is the way he relates his characters’ imaginations to visual culture external to Palomar; this talk will discuss the ambivalent relationship that Palomar has with outside visual influence, beginning specifically with the moment in the 1985 story “Space Case” when Luba’s daughter Guadalupe, recently introduced to the mysteries of the cosmos, looks out her window and finds the churning sky of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. In order to illuminate the relationship between seeing and imagination, in order to figure out of if Guadalupe sees the same thing we see, I will approach questions of seeing, showing, and imagination in Hernandez’s work by further investigating the music teacher Heraclio’s relationship with and attempted dissemination of high art, and the presence, in “An American in Palomar,” of American photographer Howard Miller, who embodies Palomar’s conflicted relationship with seeing and showing as he looks at the town and the town looks book at him. These investigations will show both that, for Hernandez, ambivalence, perhaps even doubt, is the key to dignity and legitimacy, and that in his supposedly beleaguered backwater we can find a metaphor for comics’ relationship to other kinds of art.

Jeannette Vaught

PhD candidate Jeannette Vaught organized the panel “Beyond the Laboratory: Animals and the Culture of Scientific Knowledge” for the annual meeting of the History of Science Society in Chicago. The following description of the panel and her contribution to it comes to us from Jeannette:

This panel looks at places where animals and science intersect beyond a strict research setting. Investigating material from across the globe, spanning the sixteenth century to the present, the panelists show how the use of animals in the production of scientific knowledge gets at larger questions about how scientific knowledge is used, what cultural anxieties it informs, and how animals continually shape the definition of science. Jeannette will join the panel, made up of scholars from a range of institutions, home disciplines, and career stages, to present her talk “Envisioning Living Tissue: Race, Animality, and Conflicts Over Vivisection in 1920s America.” This paper considers the battle over vivisection in 1920s America, showing how arguments for and against the practice depended on problematic conceptions of race and animality.


Grad and Faculty Research: UT AMS at ASA!

It’s that time of year again–time for the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, which will be held from November 6-9 in Los Angeles. This year’s theme is “The Fun and the Fury: New Dialectics of Pleasure and Pain in the Post-American Century,” and the program features a number of UT AMS folks. Here’s a snapshot of what grad students and faculty from UT American Studies will be presenting at this year’s conference:

THURSDAY, November 6

Anne Gessler, “Second Lines, Creative Economies, and Gentrification: Music Cooperatives in Post-Katrina New Orleans” (Thu. Nov. 6, 4:00-5:45pm, San Pedro). Part of a panel called, “Alternative Economies of Pleasure in Contemporary Southern Working-Class Cultures.” Gessler’s paper examines the ways in which New Orleans’ black, working-class participatory culture uses music and performance as tools of social critique: second lines parades, for example, have become forums for protesting gentrification of black residents’ communities. Specifically, she will argue that contemporary cooperatives have used their city’s long tradition of innovative, egalitarian cultural production to empower working-class New Orleans citizens to alleviate the effects of structural inequality and poverty.

FRIDAY, November 7

Julia Mickenberg, “Child Savers and Child Saviors: Horror, Hope, and the Russian Famine of 1921” (Fri. Nov. 7, 8:00-9:45am, Santa Anita). Part of a panel called, “Other World(s): Childhood, Nation, and the Price of Feeling Good.” Dr. Mickenberg’s paper considers the way in which the Russian child became a focal point for humanitarian relief efforts (typically gendered as feminine) and thus offered a socially acceptable vehicle for American women to enter Soviet Russia, through agencies like the American Friends Service Committee. Alongside widely disseminated images of starving Russian children were tales of rosy-cheeked, self-governing, artistic, and socially engaged children to whom the Soviet Union’s bright future belonged; “child savers” in Russia were thus, in part, motivated by the notion that the Russian child rescued from starvation might go on to become a child savior.

Jennifer Kelly, “Blueprinting Post-Return: Tourism, Pedagogy, and the Work of Imagination in Palestine” (Fri. Nov. 7, 2:00-3:45pm, San Anita). Part of a panel called, “Political Imaginings of Palestine Beyond the Here and Now.” Kelly will explore the collaboration between the Israeli organization Zochrot and the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, a Palestinian organization in the West Bank, as they respectively and collectively use tourism to expose Israel’s displacement of Palestinians and imagine futures of decolonized space in Israel/Palestine.

Andrew Hamsher, “Controlling Fantasyland: Surveilance and Freedom in Transmedia Storyworlds” (Fri. Nov. 7, 4:00-5:45pm, Santa Monica B). Part of a panel called “We’re Listening: Surveillance Technologies and Non-Private Publics.” Hamsher’s paper explores how entertainment conglomerates are seeking to exploit the proliferation of branded storyworlds to dramatically expand and normalize datavalliance practices.  He focuses on Disney World’s new billion-dollar MyMagic+ initiative.

SATURDAY, November 8

Elizabeth Engelhardt, “Appalachian Food Studies: A Tale of Belgian Waffles and Cast Iron Fried Chicken” (Sat. Nov. 8, 8:00-9:45am, San Gabriel). Part of a panel called, “The Invention of Authenticity: Troubling Narratives of the “Real” Southern Foodways.” Dr. Engelhardt will discuss the impossibility of “Appalachian Chicken and Waffles” as well as the usefulness of such an impossible term.

Kerry Knerr, “Institutionalizing the Bon Vivant: Reading Empire through Jerry Thomas’s Cocktails” (Sat. Nov. 8, 10:00-11:45am, San Gabriel). Part of a panel called, “Commerce of Pleasure.” Knerr will consider early cocktails, mainly punch, as a form that moves through various European colonial contexts. In her paper, she offers a close reading of a particular punch from Jerry Thomas’s How To Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862) to demonstrate its imperial inheritance through to the American context.

Elissa Underwood, “Food” (Sat. Nov. 8, 2:00-3:45pm, Beaudry A). Part of a Critical Prison Studies Caucus panel called “Keywords in Critical Prison Studies I.” Using a lively format of words and visuals, the panelists will explore sixteen terms – some ordinary, some unexpected – related to critical prison studies.

Announcement: “The End of Austin” Named One of 2014’s Best Publications

Every year, The Austin Chronicle solicits readers’ and critics’ assessments of Austin’s best institutions: restaurants, bars, swimming holes, museums, publications, and more. This year, the publication lists the Department of American Studies’ own The End of Austin as one of 2014’s best publications, naming it the “Best Place to Rise Above the Old Austin vs. New Austin Fray.”


Here’s what The Austin Chronicle had to say about the project:

“An online magazine originating in UT’s American Studies department, TEOA is an engaging mélange of written and visual material devoted to our city’s anxiety about itself. It’s also a hodgepodge of surprises: A meditation on the state surplus store and history of civic racism both suit it well. And while the quarterly’s contributors emigrated mostly after 1995, they’re more invested in the mythology than earlier cranks – see expatriate professor Barry Shank’s corrective, “Cities Do Not Have Souls” – who rein in the nostalgia and validate newcomers. That makes it a most interesting place to drop in on the dialogue – which, like Barton Springs, is eternal.”

Congratulations to the members of the editorial board for this honor, and see The End of Austin to learn more about “our city’s anxiety about itself.”

The End of Austin was founded in Fall 2011 as a pilot project within Dr. Randolph Lewis’s “Documenting America” graduate seminar. The site relaunched as an extracurricular digital humanities project in Winter 2013 and is currently collecting submissions for its sixth issue. In addition to Dr. Lewis, members of the editorial board include American Studies graduate students Carrie Andersen, Sean Cashbaugh, Ashlyn Davis, Brendan Gaughen, Julie Kantor, and Emily Roehl. For more information about the project’s development, see The End of Austin‘s press page.

For more information, contact the editorial board at