Undergrad Research: “Exhibiting Austin” Presentations This Tuesday


The amazing undergraduate research just keeps coming! Earlier this week we featured a project by Dr. Steve Hoelscher’s Intro to American Studies class, Postcards from Texas, a photo blog that considers the themes of the American Dream and mobility. Today we would like to invite you to attend a series of presentations by students in Dr. Cary Cordova’s “Exhibiting Austin” class that ruminate on Austin’s diverse history. The presentations will take place at the Austin History Center photo gallery (810 Guadalupe St.) on Tuesday, May 13, from 3:00 – 5:00pm.

Here is a description of the project from Dr. Cordova:

Students have spent the semester studying not just the history of Austin, but the collections of the Austin History Center.  Studying our local archive has inspired diverse and unique research projects: students have gathered oral histories, composed photo essays, generated economic studies, composed resource guides, and launched fundraiser projects.  Their research topics vary widely, but feature examinations in education, the arts, activism, food, transportation, and human trafficking, and include meaningful contributions to Mexican American history, Asian American history, Native American history, Czech history, and LGBTQ history.

Please join us to celebrate the hard work of these students and to share in their excavations of Austin histories.

5 Questions with Dr. Cary Cordova

Dr. Cary Cordova, with a painting by Carlos Loarca

Painting by Carlos Loarca

We return today to one of our favorite blog series: 5 questions with members of the American Studies core and affiliate faculties. Below, we feature a conversation with Dr. Cary Cordova, assistant professor of American Studies and graduate of our program (Ph.D. 2005).

What has been your favorite project to work on and why?

I would turn to the projects that have helped me work with people, the projects in which I am engaging with others, whether it is students or other colleagues or professionals out in the world; these projects have probably netted me the most personal satisfaction. Specifically, i am drawn to doing oral history. When I initially approached oral history, I viewed it as a way to source information, as a way to get data that otherwise wasn’t available. But then in doing interviews, I learned a lot more about myself and about other people, and oral history became a significant amplification of my education, it became a way of expanding my universe well beyond the world that I thought I was in. For instance, one of the artists I interviewed passed away, and I went to his funeral, and it was striking to see the numbers of people that were there. And I did not expect this, but his family had decided to play the interview that I had recorded with him there at the funeral for everyone to hear, and it was so moving and so powerful to suddenly have everyone in that room listening to an interview that had just been me and him, and it helped me see the ways in which the work I was doing had a greater relevance than just me and him sitting in that room.

How do you see your work fitting in with broader conversations in academia and contemporary society?

Academically, it’s pretty easy to see where I have come to be, because it has been pretty consistent. I have always been trying to negotiate this world between American Studies and Latino Studies, and I came to graduate school specifically to study Latina literature. I didn’t end up focusing on Latina literature, but disciplinarily that has been a continuous framework. Then through graduate school and a lot of other things I came to realize I was doing a lot with Art History and with Urban Studies, but those are just the disciplines, and per my previous answer, my academic engagement has always been tied to thinking about others and thinking about my community and thinking about people that make the world matter to me.

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Stories from Summer Vacation: Anne Gessler on Cooperatives in New Orleans

Photo from Gathering Tree Growers Collective

This post comes to use from UT AMS doctoral student Anne Gessler, who is doing research this summer in New Orleans, Louisiana:

For the past two months I have been conducting archival research and compiling oral history interviews with cooperative and collective members in New Orleans.  Digging through the Louisiana State University Special Collections, Amistad Research Center, and Tulane’s Louisiana Research Collection, I have discovered a wealth of Louisianan cooperatives representing a broad range of political and economic ideologies.  For example, during the 1930s and into the 1950s, a New Orleans man unionized his fellow barbers, joined the local chapter of the Socialist Party, and then organized a successful credit union and cooperative grocery store, serving mostly other barbers and residents of Freret Street.  In the mid 1960s, Catholic priest Father McKnight and CORE field worker John Zippert organized a largely low-income African American sweet potato growers co-op and other cooperative ventures in rural Southwestern Louisiana.  Their connections to the civil rights and anti-poverty movement so threatened local and state officials that the Louisiana Joint Legislative Committee on Un-American Activities accused the cooperative organizers of being Communists.  Louisiana’s interest in cooperative organizing continues; I have interviewed eleven cooperative members representing bike collectives, collective gardens, child care co-ops, and more.  You can see the oral history interviews (as they are transcribed) online at http://coophistories.wordpress.com.

Photo from Plan B: New Orleans Community Bike Project

Announcement: Photography Workshop this Thursday!

Calling all AMS-ers! Join us this Thursday evening for an exciting workshop with Austin photographer Marshall Wright entitled, “Photography as Parallel Oral History Practice.” The workshop will take place on Thursday, May 3, from 6:00 – 7:00 pm in BUR 436A. The workshop is open to AMS grad students, AMS faculty, and Foodways Texas oral historians.

Photograph by Marshall Wright for Edible Austin

Here is what our very own Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt has to say about Marshall Wright:
Marshall Wright, one of Austin’s most accomplished food photographers, a Foodways Texas member, and a generally gifted food writer, thinker, and artist, will be leading a workshop for the AMS community. How do you use your camera to tell a parallel story when conducting an interview or oral history? How do you do it even when you’re not a photographer? How could we use images to enrich AMS research more broadly? What might the visual add to our written and spoken texts in practice?
You can learn more about Marshall (and view some of his photography projects) here. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Questions? Email Elizabeth Engelhardt, e.engelhardt@austin.utexas.edu.

And don’t forget to check the AMS::ATX calendar for more great events!

Faculty and Grad Research: Photos from Texas Restaurants Project

As we mentioned yesterday, one of our graduate seminars was hard at work preparing a presentation at the Foodways Texas Symposium centering on oral histories from iconic Texas restaurant owners and staff members.

Today, we’re sharing some wonderful photographs of several American Studies graduate students (and others!) hard at work in the field. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more fascinating dispatches from the American Food graduate seminar!