Fall 2020 Newsletter
Greetings from American Studies,
As the new chair of American Studies, I welcome you all to a virtual beginning to our academic year. We’ve had a very tough half-year, marked by the loss of loved ones from COVID-19 and by police violence against Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many more. In the midst of these tragedies, I have been preparing to teach a freshman seminar called Women, Rage, and Politics. This course begins with a question posed by bell hooks—“Where is the rage?”—so we can move toward living Brittney Cooper’s benediction: “May your rage be a force for good.” In solidarity with Black Lives Matter and BIPOC and immigrant communities, I encourage you all to let your rage be a force for good.
This fall, we welcome a new cohort of graduate students who concentrate on critical Black studies and critical Indigenous studies. I welcome Martin Manalansan as the new Director of Graduate Studies, Elliott Powell as the new Director of Undergraduate Studies, and Kiara Padilla and Chelsea Osademe as the graduate student representatives to the Administration Committee. I thank our staff for doing a tremendous job of pivoting to a virtual front office via Zoom. As we adjust in real-time, we appreciate your patience.
Brittney Cooper also reminds us to find joy in the fight for justice. In this spirit, I highlight recent achievements by our faculty, students, staff, and alumni. To help students understand the pandemic, we have added a new course AMST 2041 Pandemics and Politics. We are thrilled to announce that graduate student Amanda Lugo is the recipient of the 2020-21 Leadership in Equity, Inclusion and Diversity (LEID) Fellowship. Riv-Ellen Prell was awarded the Lee Max Freidman Award Medal by the American Jewish Historical Society in recognition of her distinguished service to the field of American Jewish history. David Karjanen received the prestigious mid-career Talle Faculty Research Award for his project “Detention and Processing of Unaccompanied Migrants in the United States.” Alum Patricia Marroquin Norby was appointed the first full-time Native American curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
We recently hosted a panel featuring first books published by alumni: Ryan Cartwright (Peculiar Places: A Queer Crip History of White Rural Nonconformity), Waleed Mahdi (Arab Americans Films: From Hollywood and Egyptian Stereotypes to Self-Representation), and Jasmine Mitchell (Imagining the Mulatta: Blackness in U.S. and Brazil Media).
And keep an eye out for book presentations by Terrion Williamson (Black in the Middle: An Anthology of the Black Midwest), Elliott Powell (Sounds from the Other Side: Afro-South Asian Collaborations in Black Popular Music), and myself (Indigenous Dispossession: Housing and Maya Indebtedness in Mexico). We are delighted to share that E. Patrick Johnson, Dean of the School of Communication and Annenberg University Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, will be giving the David Noble Lecture on April 2.
These are a sample of the events American Studies has lined up this year. I invite you to join us as we work toward justice.
Letting Your Tastebuds Talk: The Emotion & Experience of Food
Associate Professor Martin Manalansan specializes in subjects from queer theory to aspects of the Filipino diaspora and returns to a topic that requires only our senses: food. Manalansan’s latest project takes a look at the emotions and experiences of Filipino immigrants with Filipino-American cuisine.
Studying Black Life in the Midwest
Kidiocus King-Carroll studies Black life in Milwaukee and the Midwest. As a doctoral candidate in American studies and resource coordinator for The Black Midwest Initiative, his research dives into the meaning and making of Black social life through autoethnography, family narratives, and social histories of his home in the Midwest.
Jingle Dress Dancers in the Modern World: Ojibwe People & Pandemics
Professor Brenda Child discovered that the Jingle Dress Dance Tradition arose in response to the influenza pandemic of 1918-19. This documentary explores those origins and describes what the tradition means to dancers and Ojibwe people today, and how it has evolved to include modern protest movements such as Standing Rock and calls for racial justice.
Sounds from the Other Side: Popular Music & Gender
Assistant Professor Elliott Powell studies the historical intersection of sexuality, gender, and race in popular music. He looks at the role of sexuality in collaborations between South Asian and Black popular music from 1960 to the present.
Breaking Away: Freedom for Cultural Feminisms & Food Justice
The role of culturally appropriate food practices and traditionally practiced indigenous and immigrant gender roles are undergraduate Madeline Brennan’s research focus. "I want to look at how food can help communities," she explains, "and also help heal them by getting their physical needs met and support culturally appropriate food initiatives."