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!

Conference Preview: The Dream in Popular Media

Today our series of sneak peeks at the American Studies Graduate Student Conference continues with”The Dream in Popular Media,” a panel that will feature commentary on the American Dream and representations of alternative pasts and hopeful futures as expressed in popular music and comedy.

Photograph by Andrew Jones

Photograph by Andrew Jones

The Dream in Popular Media” panel will feature the following presenters and papers:

  • Jen Rafferty, “‘If the South Woulda Won’: Reimagining the Southern Past in Contemporary Country Music”
  • Sequoia Maner & Yvette DeChavez, “‘Build Your Fences, We Diggin’ Tunnels’: Remixing the American Dream”
  • Carrie Andersen, “‘I Find Human Contact Repulsive’: The Pain of Political Discourse and Community in Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm

This panel will take place on Friday, April 5 from 2:15p.m. – 3:45p.m. in the Texas Union,  4.206 Chicano Culture Room.

Flow Conference this Week

This week marks the fourth biennial Flow Conference, put on by the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin.

This just in from the Flow Conference staff:

The 2012 Flow Conference staff is pleased to invite you to the fourth biennial Flow Conference, a critical forum on television and media culture.  The conference will be held Thursday, November 1st to Saturday, November 3rd at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

The Flow Conference is hosted by the graduate students and faculty of the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin.  The conference is comprised of a series of roundtable discussions addressing the future of television and media culture and scholarship.  The goal of the Flow Conference is conversation; there are no traditional panels, papers or plenary sessions.  Instead each roundtable is organized around a compelling question regarding television and media culture.  We have invited columnists from the FlowTV journal to propose these organizing questions to which scholars, practitioners, journalists, and other members of the public have proposed responses.

Attendees are also invited to attend the conference screening and opening reception at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (Friday, November 2nd, 6-10:30pm), as well as the closing party at the Dog and Duck Pub (Saturday, November 3rd, 5-8pm).

Registration is free for all UT students and faculty.  Walk-in registrants welcome.

Conference response papers and a full schedule of conference events are available on the conference website:

Hope to see ya’ll there!

Grad Research: Carrie Andersen Writes on Louis C.K.’s Conservative Vision

Graduate student Carrie Andersen has just published a piece for the Radio-Television-Film department’s online journal, Flow. She explores the surprisingly conservative threads within stand-up comedian Louis C.K.’s oeuvre, whose television show on FX (aptly entitled Louie) deals with moral questions more often than we might expect from typical comedy programs.

An excerpt is reprinted below and the full article is available here:

…Louie explores lofty questions that half-hour comedy programs rarely confront. How do we live a good life? How do we cultivate a code of conduct for our world? How can we avoid being awful to each other?

C.K. is no stranger to questions of living an ethical life—and, aware of his moral choices, often puts his own behavior on trial. In his December 2011 stand-up special, Live at Beacon Theater, the comedian describes one of his own falls from grace.

Too late for a flight to return his rental car, C.K. simply drives the car to the terminal—not to the rental car return—and boards his flight. He then calls Hertz to explain where the car is, and the employee exasperatedly explains the proper rental return procedure. C.K. replies matter-of-factly, “Well, I didn’t do that already, and now I’m leaving California.” Hertz sends an employee to retrieve the car, and C.K. avoids any consequences from his failure to abide by the rules.

Although C.K. realizes he could do this every time he flies to avoid Hertz’s bureaucratic song and dance, he knows it is wrong. Considering the broader consequences of this behavior, Louis advises, “You should act in a way, that if everyone acted that way, things would work out. Because it would be mayhem if everyone was like that.” This is Louis C.K.’s crude twist on Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative: for Kant, a principle (or, in his words, a maxim) is ethical if it would “become through your will a universal law of nature.”

C.K.’s maxim is, of course, not a strict reinterpretation of Kant’s. Louis is concerned with the outcome of his actions—he wants “things to work out”—while Kant questions whether we act in alignment with what duty requires of us. But both evaluate ethical choices based on the negative criterion of universalizability: you can’t make exceptions for yourself even if you want to.

(image from The AV Club)

Announcement: Elizabeth Engelhardt on UT TV Show, ‘Game Changers’

We are very excited to share the news that one of our faculty members, Elizabeth Engelhardt, will be featured on a television show on the Longhorn Network called Game Changers, which highlights “our most dynamic and inspirational faculty with fresh perspectives about contemporary and relevant topics.”

Texas-Style Barbecued Brisket from the Oven

Brisket, Texas style – one topic of conversation!

She’ll be discussing the importance and relevance of southern food, from greens to barbecue:

A southern meal of fried chicken or barbecue, homegrown tomatoes, a mess of greens, and peaches. Should they be subjects of academic research? Does southern food matter? We live in an era of great interest in food—with high stakes questions of who has enough food, what food contributes to our society’s and our planet’s health, and how food makes reputations of people or places. Simultaneously, a cultural fascination with the US South has continued for at least two hundred years. Civil rights, identity, definitions of home and away are debated in portraits of southern culture. When we bring the two together and apply academic lens to southern food, we access complex gender, racial, and class politics of the past as well as our present. Our discussion reveals the southern food matters in a meal, a can of tomatoes, a pot of greens, and a pitmaster’s story.

All of YOU are invited to attend the taping on Wednesday, June 20, at 6:00pm at KLRU, Studio 6A, in the Jesse H. Jones Communications Building (CMB 6th Floor).

RSVP here (scroll down for directions – don’t worry, it’s free!). The doors will open around 5:15pm, and the taping will last until 7:00pm.

Be there or be square – it will be a really fun and fascinating event!

Faculty Research: Dr. Randy Lewis on Unplugging at Flow

Dr. Randy Lewis has a new piece over at Flow that questions why it is so difficult to imagine unplugging from the constant buzz of electronics that characterizes modern life:

Yet… are we not curious about how it would feel to experience the “great unplugging”? Would we relish the ensuing silence as we restore the old ways of communicating and connecting with one another? Or would we lapse into a languorous funk without Google and HBOAvatar and Annoying Orange? Would we feel permanently stuck in the isolation tank of our own boredom, marooned with the hideousness of our own organic thoughts? Would we start sketching the “Real Housewives” on the walls of our condos in crayon, breathlessly narrating their erotic adventures like an ancient bards singing the tale Odysseus and the sirens? Would we pine for our iPhones, laptops, and flatscreen TVs like postmodern amputees cursing the loss of our cyborg appendages? Would we grieve for our machines?

Probably. But what fascinates me is how loathe we are to even imagine this scenario. We are increasingly unwilling to contemplate the absence of the various screens that convey so much of our entertainment, sociality, and labor. Like Francis Fukuyama’s Cold War “End of History” argument in which capitalism’s apparent triumph over socialism foreclosed any discussion of alternatives, the new media juggernaut is so powerful that it has blotted out our ability to imagine anything else. We are all hopeless screenagers now.

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Grad Research: JFK, Reality, and Mediation at the Sixth Floor Museum

I probably don’t have to tell you that Austin is a vibrant, exciting place to live and work: with a killer live music scene, ubiquitous tacos, and barbecue that’ll make you weak in the knees, it certainly ranks near the top of my favorite cities in America list.

That said, one of the benefits of living in Austin has also been having opportunities to explore other parts of Texas, from Marfa to Houston. This past weekend, I decided to venture out of the Austin city limits to Dallas, a city I had only ever experienced through way too many layovers at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.

Though Dallas has its share of tourist destinations, my motivation was research-related. At the moment, I’m knee-deep in my Master’s Report, which explores representations of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in two video games, and how their odd, perhaps ethically questionable gamification of the event – an incredibly traumatic moment in American history – reconfigures and negotiates our understanding of history and politics. What kind of residue is left in our historical memory if we play these games? What do they do to our imaginations of power, official state accounts of history, our ability to interact with history and meaning-making? How do we understand history if we only experience it virtually?

But to me, a 25-year old, Kennedy’s assassination always felt remote, a moment in a textbook rather than a lived, traumatic experience. So I embarked on a journey to the place where it happened, to make it feel as real as it probably could to someone who was never there: Dealey Plaza, and the Texas State Book Depository, now a museum dedicated to Kennedy and the assassination.

Placard on the museum's exterior (click to enlarge; photo by author)

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