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Fall 2020 Newsletter

October 14, 2020

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.

In solidarity, 


Bianet Castellanos