Announcement: Dr. Julia Mickenberg Publishes Article in Journal of American History

The week of good news continues here at AMS::ATX! Congratulations are due to our very own Dr. Julia Mickenberg, who recently published an article, “Suffragettes and Soviets: American Feminists and the Specter of Revolutionary Russia” in the Journal of American History.


Dr. Mickenberg’s 2006 book, which won the Grace Abbott Book Prize from the Society for the History of Children and Youth and the Children’s Literature Association’s Book Award, among others

Here is a taste of the article, which considers the importance of Russia in the struggle over suffrage in the United States:

Russia became a crucial foil in the battle over woman suffrage. As a product of the first revolution inspired by socialism, “new Russia” came to represent the very notion of internationalism. Thus it loomed large for many progressives, including feminists, whose struggle was “decidedly internationalist” in orientation—and closely associated with socialist agitation—beginning around 1890. Russia served as a powerful framing device for considering the nature of women’s citizenship in the United States, for reasons specific to Russia’s gender politics and its place in the U.S. imaginary. For a significant number of American women—few of whom could rightfully be called Bolsheviks—the Russian revolutions in 1917, and the “new Russia” that emerged from them, became touchstones for a cosmopolitan, social democratic vision of female citizenship in the United States that encouraged American feminists to set their sights well beyond suffrage. A belief that Russian revolutionaries were taking practical measures to transform women’s place in society opened space for American feminists to conceive a new model of citizenship that encompassed not simply political rights but also social rights, economic security, and, to use the philosopher Etienne Balibar’s formulation, a new kind of subjectivity that results from being citizens rather than subjects.

For those of you with access to journals through a library website, check out the full article here.

Announcement: More on American Studies and the Texas Bookshelf Project


Last week, we shared the exciting news from UT Press about their new Texas Bookshelf series, a 5-year, 16-book series from UT faculty centering on what Texas is and means. Today, we have a few more details about the project (and our our faculty members’ involvement in the project) from department chair Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt.

And stay tuned this fall for more specific details about each of these four approaches to Texas.

Four core faculty members in American Studies are among the distinguished faculty chosen as authors in the Texas Bookshelf Project. Designed to be the most ambitious and comprehensive publishing endeavor about the culture and history of one state ever undertaken, the book series and website will draw on the state’s brightest writers, scholars, and intellectuals.

Professors Bob Abzug, Elizabeth Engelhardt, Karl Hagstrom Miller, and Shirley Thompson each will write for the series. The Department of American Studies thereby is contributing to the project more authors—in sheer numbers and in percentage of faculty—than any other department on campus. Were we to add in our American Studies affiliate faculty members, we might need to rename it the TexAMS Bookshelf.

In the words of President Bill Powers, “Texas deserves a comprehensive series of books that explores its history and culture. A collaboration between our esteemed faculty and UT Press is the ideal way to produce The Texas Bookshelf and to share the rich resources of this campus with the rest of the world.”

American Studies is proud to participate in the endeavor.

Announcement: New UT Press Book Series Features 4 American Studies Professors

Texas Bluebonnets

Texas Bluebonnets

We’re absolutely thrilled to share the news with you that four core faculty members of the American Studies department will contribute to a fascinating new University of Texas Press book series, The Texas Bookshelf, that centers on our home state.

Bob Abzug, Elizabeth Engelhardt, Shirley Thompson, and Karl Hagstrom Miller will all participate in the sixteen-book project.

A few more details from the UT Press:

This project will be the most ambitious and comprehensive publishing endeavor about the culture and history of one state ever undertaken. The Texas Bookshelf will comprise sixteen books and a companion website launching in 2017, all to be written by the distinguished faculty at The University of Texas at Austin. The first book will be a new full-length history of Texas, followed by fifteen books released over five years on a range of Texas subjects—politics, music, film, business, architecture, and sports, among many others.


The Bookshelf will be supported by an interactive website that will facilitate an extended online community. Visitors to the site can access related supplemental content, including audio, video, photography, and downloadable readers’ guides, as well as links to rich primary source materials located in the magnificent research archives and special collections on the UT Austin campus. Additionally, a schedule of special programs and public events for the university community and general public will be developed in conjunction with the publication of each book.

See the UT Press’s announcement for more details, and check back at AMS :: ATX for updates on this wonderful series.

Faculty Research: Dr. Randy Lewis discusses new book, ‘Navajo Talking Picture’

This past July, Dr. Randy Lewis published his third book, Navajo Talking Picture (University of Nebraska Press). I sat down with Randy to discuss the conception of the book, its challenges, its delights, and how the narrative he tells engages with broader conversations within American Studies and beyond.

Where did the idea for this book come from? How did the film [Navajo Talking Picture] and the filmmaker [Arlene Bowman] come onto your radar screen initially?

Probably about ten years ago, I realized that there wasn’t much scholarly literature in film studies and none in American Studies on Native American cinema or indigenous media in a global sense. I started thinking about how to remedy that. I began collecting texts to consider and got deep into Alanis Obomsawin’s work, which I thought was just going to be a chapter of a book that would look at some of the major figures in Native American cinema who had been neglected. It just kept going into a book. It’s hard to imagine this, but it was the first one devoted to a Native filmmaker. This says something about how much “Native art” is narrowly associated with traditional art forms in opposition to modern, technologically-dependent art forms, as well as how rarely Native people have been able to get their points of view on screen, even as they are obsessively represented by outsiders like John Ford.

While I was writing the Obomsawin book that came out in 2006, I was aware that I had these other things that I was really interested in. Part of it stemmed from writing in the southwest at the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe for a year. I was really close to Navajo Nation, and I was coming across a lot of amazing Navajo artists and getting a sense that not only were they doing a lot with Navajo-language radio on the reservation, but there were a lot of Navajo media professionals doing all kinds of projects that were not on the film studies or American Studies radar. And I learned that there was a Navajo filmmaker named Arlene Bowman, who was really early in this story of Native filmmaking, who seemed to interest and dismay audiences equally. I wanted to see this film she made as a graduate student that had made a little splash in the 1980s when it came out, at a time when she was the first Native woman in film school at UCLA or probably anywhere else.

Arlene Bowman, 1980

So I watched the film called Navajo Talking Picture, and I found it kind of confusing and unfamiliar. Then I’d show it to other people, to friends and students. What got me really hooked on it was that I had never seen something upset people and divide audiences so much. Apparently back in the 1980s when she screened it at festivals, Bowman said, there were these camps that were set up. Some people said, “You have the right to make this film, and you have a right to put your traditional grandmother on film even if she appears unwilling.” And other people would say, “This is an example of everything that you should not do in documentary.”

As I started to register the depth of the divide and the racially-infused animosity, I became interested in the film itself as a cultural object, as a kind of wound, as I write in the book. I’m probably more interested in this question of wounding – or, let’s use the metaphor of a rock and ripples, because I have to have my eccentric metaphors. The rock is the text under consideration, and it drops into the pond of the culture, and it creates ripples. The ripples are the things that really fascinated me: why there were so many strange responses and strange resonances to this very small film.

Reading the ripples

The fact that it’s a film almost became incidental. I became fascinated by what you could learn about the way different audiences responded. About why some viewers had such strong expectations about what Native artists, or Native women, were “supposed to do.” About what was “authentic” and “appropriate” for Native artists, things we rarely ask about non-native artists, you know? I ended up writing some of the first pieces about the reception and intentionality involved in the reception of native art. Why do we want it to be this way and not that way? Why do we think it was meant to do x and not y? And who is the “we”? These are revealing questions in terms of race, power, and gender.

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