This listing of events from 2012 and earlier is preserved for archive purposes only. For current events, see the Department's calendar page.
Friday, May 4, 2012: End-of-semester department happy hour, Llewellyn's Pub, 4747 McPherson Avenue
Please join your classmates, colleagues, and faculty members for an end-of-semester happy hour and celebration at Llewellyn's Pub in the Central West End.
Friday, May 4, 2012: Doctoral student Kate Boudreau, dissertation proposal defense, 12 noon, Adorjan 142
American Studies graduate student Kate Boudreau will present her dissertation proposal as she seeks to move on to Ph.D. candidacy. The working title of Kate's dissertation project is "You're Too Smart for That! Federal Education Legislation and the Changing Image of the Public High School Teacher in American Culture and Society, 1944-2001." Open to the public.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012: Doctoral student Corinne Wohlford Taff, dissertation proposal defense, 9:00 a.m., Adorjan 142
American Studies graduate student Corinne Wohlford Taff will present her dissertation proposal as she seeks to move on to Ph.D. candidacy. The working title of Corinne's dissertation project is "Empire of Emotion: American Popular Responses to Disasters Abroad, 2004-2011." Open to the public.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012: American Studies senior capstone presentations, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Busch Student Center 251A
American Studies seniors Laura Frye, Molly Gould, and Shara Rowe will present their capstone projects, developed in the senior seminar with Dr. Matt Mancini, as part of the Senior Legacy Symposium. Open to the public.
Friday, April 13, 2012: Blixen Lecture Series presentation by Carlo Rotella, 1:00 p.m., Pere Marquette Gallery, DuBourg Hall
We are gratified to announce that the renowned scholar and cultural critic Carlo Rotella will inaugurate the Mary and John Blixen Lecture Series with a presentation entitled: "Hollywood on the Charles: A Provincial Backwater Goes Global." For more details, see the Blixen Lecture tab on the left bar of the American Studies website.
Monday, March 26, 2012: American Studies graduate student panel, 2:30 p.m., Adorjan 142
Please join us for a panel of presentations by American Studies graduate students, showcasing some of their current work. The scheduled presentations are: Mark Koschmann, "Lutherans as Civil Rights Activists in Chicago"; Melissa Ford, "Between the Activist and the Deliberative Democrat: Occupy St. Louis and an Argument for a Dynamic Notion of Social Movements"; Jacqueline Kutnick-Bauder, "Miscegenation in a Mid-America State." Open to the public.
Friday, March 23, 2012: Doctoral student Brandy Boyd, dissertation proposal defense, 2:10 p.m., Kolmer Seminar Room
American Studies graduate student Brandy Boyd will present her dissertation proposal as she seeks to move on to Ph.D. candidacy. The working title of Brandy's dissertation project is "Keep Your Chin up and Your Skirt Down: Female Country Artists' Struggles for Respectability Within the Nashville Music Industry, 1953-Present." Open to the public.
Friday, February 24, 2012: Doctoral student Nicole Haggard, dissertation proposal defense, 2:00 p.m., Adorjan 142
American Studies graduate student Nicole Haggard will present her dissertation proposal as she seeks to move on to Ph.D. candidacy. The working title of Nicole's dissertation project is "Race, Sex, and Hollywood: The Illicit Representation of the Black Man-White Woman Pair in American Cinema." Open to the public.
Friday, February 24, 2012: Graduate student Melissa Ford presents at the SLU Humanities Forum, 3:30 p.m., Xavier 332
Please join us for the next installment of the SLU Humanities Forum, where American Studies graduate student Melissa Ford will be presenting a paper entitled "Deliberative Democracy and the Humanities." Melissa will be joined on the roundtable discussion by John Min (graduate student, Political Science) and Amy Wallhermfechtel (graduate student, History). Open to the public.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012: Paper presentation by recent department Ph.D. alumna Jamie Schmidt Wagman, 10:00 a.m., Adorjan 142
Dr. Jamie Schmidt Wagman, who earned her doctorate in American Studies from SLU in December, presents a paper entitled "'Can the Enemy be Stopped?': The Pill and Puerto Rico." Open to the public.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011: Ph.D. candidate Jamie Schmidt Wagman, Dissertation Defense, 1:00 p.m., Kolmer Seminar Room
American Studies Ph.D. candidate Jamie Schmidt Wagman defends her doctoral dissertation, entitled "Our Pill, Ourselves: American Anxieties Surrounding Oral Contraception, 1956-2000." Open to the public.
Friday, November 11, 2011: American Studies professor Dr. Susanne Wiedemann's lecture for Saint Louis University's Center for Intercultural Studies, 3 pm, in Adorjan 142.
Dr. Wiedemann will present a lecture entitled "Transnational Encounters with America: German Jewish Refugees' Identity Formation in Berlin and Shanghai, 1939-1949."
Friday, November 11, 2011: American Studies PhD student Mike McCollum participates in a roundtable discussion on "War" for the Saint Louis University Humanities Forum, 3:30 pm, in Xavier 332.
Saturday, November 5, 2011: American Studies photo documentation project at Occupy St. Louis camp, 12 noon, at Keiner Plaza
Faculty members Susanne Weidemann and Ben Looker are organizing a trip for interested American Studies community members and others to the Occupy St. Louis encampment in downtown St. Louis. Participants will observe an Occupy STL General Assembly meeting, converse with activists, and create photographic documentation of the local Occupy events. Meet downtown at 12 noon, or arrive at Adorjan Hall at 11:30 a.m. for a ride downtown.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011: Prof. Heidi Ardizzone participates in a roundtable discussion on The Help, 4:00 p.m., in Adorjan 142:
Professor Lorri Glover (History Department), Professor Jamel Bell (Communication), Professor Heidi Ardizzone (American Studies) and Professor Katrina Thompson (History & African American Studies) will have a discussion on the book and film, The Help. Light refreshments will be provided. It should be a very interesting discussion!
Wednesday, September 7, 2011: Maurice Tracy presents at the American Studies Colloquium, 3:00 p.m., Adorjan 142.
American studies graduate student Maurice Tracey will present a paper entitled "American Queers Go to Diaspora: Tensions and Contradictions with Queer-a-spora" to interested members of the SLU community. Maurice will also be presenting this paper at the conference "Contingent Belongings: Queer Reflections on Race, Space, and the State," at the University of Minnesota, Sept. 16-17, 2011.
Sunday, August 28, 2011: Department Barbecue and Picnic, 12:30-4:00 p.m., Tunica Picnic Site, Tower Grove Park
The day before the fall semester begins, members of the American Studies community are invited to gather at Tower Grove Park for food and outdoor food fun. Bring your own main dish (grills available on site); all other food and drink will be provided. Sports equipment welcome.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011: Ph.D. candidate Josh Roiland, Dissertation Defense, 11:00 a.m.
American Studies Ph.D. candidate Josh Roiland defends his doctoral dissertation, entitled "Engaging the Public: Toward a Political Theory of Literary Journalism." Open to the SLU community.
2010 - 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011: Graduate student Karen Smyth presents at the SLU Feminist Epistemologies Colloquium, 1:30-4:00 p.m., Pius Library, Knights Room
American Studies graduate student Karen Smyth will present research alongside other members of the Feminist Epistemologies Colloquium, a project of the SLU Women's Studies Program. The title of Karen's paper is "The Silencing of Women in Patriarchy: Examples from Academia and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Open to the public. Full event details here.
American Studies Ph.D. candidate Rob Hawkins defends his doctoral dissertation, entitled "Natural Born Ease Man?: Work, Masculinity, and the Itinerant Black Musician." Open to the SLU community.
Friday, May 6, 2011: Department Meeting and Reception, 4:00-6:00 p.m., Adorjan Hall, 2nd Floor Common Area
Members of the SLU American Studies community are invited to the year-end department meeting and party. Senior American Studies majors Erin Mahoney, Amanda Wolters, and Katy Spears will present overviews of their capstone projects, and we will announce and celebrate the many accomplishments of our graduate and undergraduate students during the 2010-11 academic year. Refreshments will be provided.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011: Ph.D. candidate Jody Sowell, Dissertation Defense, 12 noon, Adorjan 142
American Studies Ph.D. candidate Jody Sowell, who is also a public historian at the Missouri History Museum, defends his doctoral dissertation, entitled "Divided Discourse: The Kerner Report & Stories of Separate and Unequal." Open to the SLU community.
Friday, March 25, 2011: Ben Looker presents at Washington University "City Seminar", 3:00 - 5:00 p.m., Busch 18, Danforth Campus, Washington University
American Studies faculty member Ben Looker presents at the City Seminar, an ongoing interdisciplinary lecture series hosted by Washington University. Open to the public.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011: Dr. Wynne Moskop presents at Women's Studies Brown Bag Lunch Series, 12 noon - 1 p.m., McGannon 144
American Studies affiliate and SLU political science faculty member Wynne Moskop presents a talk entitled "Feminist Ethics and the Problem of Unjust Care" at the SLU Women's Studies Brown Bag Lunch Series. Bring a lunch; refreshments are provided.
Monday, March 7, 2011: Rob Hawkins, Ph.D., discusses life after the completion of classwork, 5:30-6:30 in Adorjan 142
Rob will talk about the dissertation writing process, the juggling of teaching, research/writing and family, publication/conference decisions, the job search, and much more. Refreshments provided.
Friday, March 4, 2011: Prof. Matthew Mancini at Washington University Political Theory Workshop, 12 noon-1:00 pm, Seigle Hall 248, Danforth Campus, Washington University
Dr. Matthew Mancini, SLU American Studies professor and chair, presents a paper entitled "Tocqueville Twenty Ten" at the Washington University Political Theory Workshop. Serving as discussant is WU History professor Gerry Izenberg.
Friday, February 25, 2011: American Studies Presents at the SLU Humanities Forum, 3:30-5:00 p.m., Adorjan 142
At this month's Humanities Forum, entitled "Women's Place: A Roundtable on the Roles of Women in the Catholic and Mormon Churches," American Studies graduate student Karen Smyth presents alongside Hector Conde Rubio and Sarah Sparks. Karen's paper will discuss women in the Mormon church, looking at the tradition of barring them from the priesthood based on their gender and predicting what might happen to women's role in the future. Reception to follow.
Thursday, February 24, 2011: American Studies Ph.D. student Trevin Jones to present "Captivity Narratives", 1:00-2:00 p.m., Student Room 200, Saint Louis Community College, Meramec Campus. Download the PDF.
Friday, January 28, 2011: American Studies and History Present at the SLU Humanities Forum, 3:30-5:00 p.m., Xavier 128
At this month's Humanities Forum, entitled "Constructing Conflict: The Role of the Civil War in Creating and Remaking National Identity," American Studies doctoral student Mike McCollum presents alongside History graduate student Marcus McArthur. Mike's paper focuses on the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial and the ways in which it has been reinterpreted in the context of contests over regional, racial, and national identity.
Wednesday, December 10, 2010: Museum studies class exhibition opening, 11:00 a.m., Pius Library, 2nd floor
Join undergraduates in Dr. Cindy Ott's course "Introduction to Museum Studies" for the public opening of their year-end exhibitions at Pius Library. Refreshments provided.
Thursday, December 9, 2011: Department Holiday Gathering
The American Studies community is invited to an end-of-semester celebration at Six Row Brewing Company, 3690 Forest Park Ave., from 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010: "Is There an Orient?: Politics of Constructing the Other"; 4:00-5:30 p.m., Adorjan 142
Join SLU's Middle East Circle for an event featuring presentations from American Studies faculty member Susanne Wiedemann, Joya Uraizee from the Department of English, and moderator Hayrettin Yucesoy from the Department of History.
Thu.-Sat., October 21-23, 2010: SLU American Studies presenters at Fontbonne collective memory symposium
Current graduate students and Ph.D. alumni/ae of the SLU American Studies Department will be presenting papers at a Fontbonne University symposium entitled "Collective Memory in St. Louis: Recollection, Forgetting and the Common Good." Among the SLU American Studies graduate students presenting papers are Kate Boudreau ("Fairground Park: Foregrounding St. Louis's Inequities"), Lou Robinson ("Forgetting to Remember: Memory and Commemoration of the East St. Louis Race Riot of July 2, 1917"), and Adam Kloppe ("A Spectacle for the Eyes and Mind: The Photographs and Speeches of the Congress of Arts and Sciences, World's Fair, 1904"). Department Ph.D. alumni/ae presenters include Dr. Henry Brownlee, Dr. Gregory Taylor, and Dr. Kris Runberg Smith. Organizing the conference are department graduate students Corinne Taff and Jamie Schmidt Wagman, both of whom teach in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department at Fontbonne University.
2009 - 2010
May 4, 2010: Grad Student Brandy Boyd Presents at the SLU Feminist Epistemologies Colloquium, 2:00-3:00 p.m., McGannon 144
SLU American Studies graduate student Brandy Boyd will present research alongside other members of the Feminist Epistemologies Colloquium, a project of the SLU Women's Studies Program. The title of Brandy's paper is "It's ‘Stand by Your Man,' Not ‘Obey and Submit to Him': Analyzing Tammy Wynette's Dismissal as Anti-Feminist." Open to the public.
April 30, 2010: Department Meeting and Reception, 3:30-5:30 p.m., Queen's Daughters Hall, 3730 Lindell Blvd.
Members of the SLU American Studies community are invited to the year-end department meeting and party. (Mandatory for graduate students, with undergraduates cordially invited.) Senior American Studies majors Rebecca Gorley, Hannah Koesterer, and Lauren Bozesky will present overviews of their capstone projects, and we will announce and celebrate the many accomplishments of our graduate and undergraduate students during the 2009-10 academic year. Refreshments will be provided.
April 16-18, 2010: The Department hosts a Visual Culture Conference entitled "Urban Cuts: Appropriation and Resistance in the American City"
February 22, 2010: American History Forum - "The 60s", 3:30-5:00PM, Adorjan Hall Rm. 142. See all the details by downloading the flyer for the event.
February 19, 2010: American Studies and Philosophy present at the SLU Humanities Forum, 3:30-5PM, Adorjan Hall Rm. 142.
Please join us as American Studies doctoral student Laura Shields presents alongside Philosophy doctoral student Robyn Gaier at the February Humanities Forum, "Imperialism and Evildoing: Explaining the American Imperial Project and the Failure of Moral Motivation." Reception and refreshments to follow!
November 11, 2009: "During/After SLU: The Work Worlds of American Studies Ph.D.s", 7:30-9:30PM, Humanities Building Rm. 142
Please join Dr. Angie Dietz, a recent Ph.D graduate from our department, and five current Ph.D. students (Trevin Jones, Jamie Schmidt Wagman, Jody Sowell, Greg Taylor, and Corinne Wohlford Taff) in a panel presentation and discussion about how their graduate training in American Studies has shaped their professional careers outside of SLU. If you wonder about what you can do with your graduate training in American Studies, how you can apply what you have learned within the university walls in what we like to call the "real working world," or what career paths are open to you - from the college classroom to the museum to administrative work in higher education - hear about the possibilities "first hand" from your peers.
October 19, 2009: American Studies Colloquium, 12:00-1:30PM in the Humanities Building conference room
Please join us as American Studies doctoral candidate Rob Hawkins presents his paper, "A Vague and Vagrant Gender: Work, Citizenship, and the Legal Distribution of Masculinity," noon-1, in the Humanities Conference Room. Read the abstract for this paper.
October 16, 2009: American Studies and History present at the SLU Humanities Forum, 3:30-5:00PM in Xavier Rm. 332
Please join us as American Studies doctoral student Jaclyn Kirouac-Fram presents alongside History master's student Kristi Roberts in the second installment of the 2009 Humanities Forum. Each paper describes one aspect of the relationship between the Missouri Botanical Garden and it surrounding community. Despite the apparent divergence in these two histories - Roberts's telling of the Garden's involvement in environmental education in St. Louis, Kirouac-Fram's telling of the Garden's role in a recent urban clearance program - together they provide the basis for an interesting discussion about the complex roles of contemporary urban institutions.
October 14, 2009: Illinoistown: A Cultural History of East St. Louis, 6:00-7:20PM in Beracha Hall Rm. 218
The American Studies Department is pleased to welcome to campus Dr. Martha Patterson and Dr. Ann Collins, who will share an overview of their innovative public history project on the cultural history of East St. Louis in the twentieth century. Funded by the American Studies Association and conducted in association with East St. Louis Senior High School, the project brought together community residents, scholars, and area high school and college students as part of a collective examination of the city's rich cultural and artistic heritage as well as its contemporary economic challenges. See the poster for the event.
October 5, 2009: American Studies Colloquium, 1:30-2:15PM in the Humanities Conference Room
Doctoral student Emmett McKenna will present his talk "Postcolonial Harlem: The Postcolonial Identities of Afro-Caribbean Radicals," which he will give at the "Postcolonial Actualities: Past and Present" conference on October 16. ABSTRACT: Scholars recognize the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s as the pinnacle of African American culture, but some of the most influential figures of the movement arrived from outside the United States. Afro-Caribbean immigrants, whose radical ideologies can be attributed to their knowledge of and encounters with European colonialism, contributed to and inspired much of the black radicalism of the early twentieth century. Although scholars do not tend to think of these men as "postcolonial," their experience with European colonialism provided them with a different perspective of racism than their African American counterparts, and convinced them that the solution to racism and colonialism was in some variation of the ideology of black nationalism. This paper considers how the Afro-Caribbean radicals were shaped by a postcolonial identity, and how this in turn influenced the culture of the Harlem Renaissance.
September 25, 2009: A Discussion and Walking Tour for SLU's American Studies Community
Members of the SLU American Studies community joined architectural historian Michael R. Allen for a discussion and walking tour focusing on local developer Paul McKee's controversial proposal to remake a vast section of the city's North Side. The tour highlighted the community's social and architectural history, the local response to the McKee proposal, and the redevelopment plan's potential impact on the district. See the event flyer.
2008 - 2009
April 6, 2009: Ph.D. Student Brandy Boyd presents "That's Why I Keep Singing My Song: A Critique of Theodor Adorno's 'On Popular Music" Via the Medium of Women in Early American Country Music 1880-1920"
In the third section of Theodor Adorno's essay "On Popular Music," Adorno argues that mechanized and predictable popular music is not and can never be an appropriate medium for politics. Showing an evident disdain for low-cultured "bad" music, Adorno argues, "Those who ask for a song of social significance ask for it through a medium which deprives it of social significance. The uses of inexorable popular musical media is repressive per se. Such inconsistencies indicate that political conviction and socio-psychological structure by no means coincide" (On Popular Music, Adorno).
While early American country music (1880-1920) may not have been widely distributed, it was certainly popular with working-class, rural Americans, particularly in the southern Appalachian region. Representing more than merely a means of entertainment, early country music provided a vehicle for political expression for impoverished women in Appalachia. Specifically, this research project focuses on women and country music, in terms of their struggles with their qualities of living. Woes of unsafe and unequal working conditions, unsatisfactory living conditions, and problems with women's roles in the home pervade the lyrics to these songs; for individuals who have virtually no other outlet for political uprising, country music served as a medium for these women to make their voices heard.
As such, the questions addressed in this research project are twofold. Why does Adorno automatically assume that a particular style and popularity precludes a song from being socially, politically, and/or culturally important? Do aesthetics and marketability alone decide the significance? Secondly, how did Appalachian women use country music to forward their political agendas? Why this medium at this particular time?
These questions are important because they help us, as historians, to understand the culture of a particular people from a non-traditional perspective. The plight of these Appalachian women can be found in select history books, but their songs their means of political uprising and outcry, cannot be forgotten. Music is monetarily free, and as such, it was often the means chosen by impoverished mountain women to voice their complaints regarding their poor standards of living. Little research exists on early American country music; with this in mind, my project's ultimate goal is to shed light on the political and cultural significance of country music as Appalachian women's chosen vehicle for political and social commentary at the turn of the 20th century.
March 2, 2009: Ph.D. Student Josh Roiland presents "Getting Away from It All: The Literary Journalis of David Foster Wallace and Nietzsche's Concept of Oblivion"
During the past twenty years, David Foster Wallace greatly influenced the direction of American fiction and nonfiction, but none of the critical obituaries that appeared after his recent suicide mentioned him as a literary journalist. My paper examines Wallace's reporting and makes the case for his inclusion in the canon. Wallace broadened the methodological definition of literary journalism by using not only the storytelling techniques of fiction, but also the academic practice of footnoting (one article contained 137).
Wallace was a "cultural phenomenologist," to use David Eason's useful taxonomy. The phenomena that best defined his journalism were vacations. He covered the Illinois State Fair and a Caribbean cruise for Harpers, and the Maine Lobster Festival for Gourmet. I examine these and other essays and explain how vacations, for Wallace, embodied Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of oblivion. Nietzsche believed that individuals could not experience happiness, serenity, or hope without oblivion-the selective forgetting of past events. The people in Wallace's vacation essays exude unconsciousness and are, often, mindlessly happy. Oblivion, however, was impossible for Wallace who, himself, was hyperattentive to the smallest details, historical antecedents, and etymological origins; consequently, this tension created a strong current of despair through Wallace's journalism.
My analysis of Wallace demonstrates how literary journalism does not need help explaining mythologies of power or political fictions. The conventions of the daily press do not regulate literary journalism; therefore, the genre can inform at the same level as literature, philosophy, and, in Wallace's case, scholarship.
February 23, 2009: Ph.D. Student Emmett McKenna presents "Behind the Veil of Algeria: Cinematic Representations of Women and the Veil in Algeria"
During the colonization of Algeria, French officials targeted the customs of Algerian women, especially the veil, as a means to convert Algerian society into adopting French culture, thereby accepting French rule. Algerian men recognized women's rights, symbolized by the veil, as a site of contestation, and sought to preserve traditional Algerian patriarchy as a way to defy French cultural imperialism. As a result, Algerian women were caught in a struggle between French colonialists and Algerian patriarchs.
Algerian films express the ways that Algerian women resist these dual forms of oppression. The classic film The Battle of Algiers depicts Algerian women manipulating their gender identity in order to revolt against the French settlements during the Algerian War of Independence. However, women's active role during the war failed to help them escape patriarchal rule, and they continue to confront problems of gender inequality. By studying three contemporary Algerian films,?Daughter of Keltoum, Viva Laldjerie, and Rachida?this paper examines the way that Algerian women forge their identities in spite of opposition from Algerian patriarchs and French cultural imperialists.
January 26, 2009: Ph.D. Student Michelle Cordone presents "Feminized Fandom: Inappropriate Gender Coding Within Television Fandom"
This paper examines television fandom, and its negative stereotypes, through the lens of gender by exploring the characteristics assigned to male and female genders and the ways in which these codes have been applied to fan communities. It also address the reasons that fans have historically been scorned, at the same time asserting that fan communities receive more or less public acceptance based upon their gender codes, Television fandom carries a feminine code based upon the gendered make-up of the participants as well as the veneration of a static medium. However, a brief history of television fandom showcases the active and empowered, and therefore masculine actions of the participants that are not considered in the gender coding. By comparing and contrasting the active behaviors of "feminine" television fans with the passive behaviors of "masculine" sports fans, the author argues that the gender code attached to television fandom has been misassigned.
December 1, 2008: Ph.D. Student Maurice Tracy presents "AIDS as Metaphor: AIDS, Cinema, Othering, and the Need for Resistance"
November 3, 2008: Ph.D. Student Jackie Jones presents "Mobile Homes: Taxis and Transnational Identity"
This project is comprised of a conventional paper and an accompanying 26-minute audio documentary, both of which explore of the lives of transnational taxi drivers in the St. Louis, Missouri as a study of transnational identity and mobility. Rather than the more conventional view of immigration as moving unidirectionally from a departure point to an arrival site, I examine transnationalism as a circular or perpetual experience involving continuous re-evaluation, analogous in several respects to the experience of driving a taxicab. This project explores the ways that the material, working-class experience of transnational St. Louis cabdrivers parallels their experience as immigrants, and how the material realities of cab driving - multiple, unpredictable stops, impermanent companionship with customers, relative autonomy, changing landscapes, and perpetual movement - are analogous to the transnational experience of liminality and ongoing identity re-formation. I explore how the interior of the taxi can serve as a zone of contact, communion, and conflict with others outside of the drivers' cultural, religious, ethnic, and national communities. Finally, I suggest that concepts of rootedness and uprootedness, so prevalent in transnational literature, are less than adequate to describe the transnational experience of home-making and identity formation as a perpetual process, of home as both here and there.
In recording and collecting the oral histories of four St. Louis drivers, I document their experiences as both working-class laborers and as immigrants, exploring the intersections and inter-informations of identity and occupation. The audio portion of the project introduces listeners to Louis, a Nigerian refugee who left the Niger Delta in the midst of violence against anti-Shell Oil protesters; Said, an Iraqi transnational who arrived in the United States during the first Gulf War and hopes to return to start an import/export business; Mehari, an Eritrean refugee who has lived in St. Louis for more than twenty years; and Michael, an Ethiopian refugee whose plans to return to Ethiopia are contingent upon sustained peace in an area at war intermittently for decades.
October 6, 2008: Ph.D. Student Robert Hawkins presents "'Natural Born Eastmen Don't Have to Work': Masculinity, Vagrancy Law, and Furry Lewis's Kassie Jones"
In 1928, itinerant musician Furry Lewis recorded Kassie Jones for the Victor record label. A unique interpretation of the traditional railroad ballad Casey Jones-generally recounted by the black fireman who leapt from the train before the wreck-Lewis's recording re-imagined the narrator as an independent character rather than a conduit for the valorization of white subjectivity. Although Lewis's recording did not sell many copies, it addressed a context in which racism and exploitative vagrancy laws excluded black workers from skilled union jobs and funneled them toward unpaid or poorly paid physical labor. Lewis's transformation of the voice of the fireman from mere narrator to leading role afforded the opportunity to insert an African-American perspective on work, race, and public space into a narrative of heroic and hard-working white manhood. This study will argue that Lewis's Kassie Jones engaged in a comparison of two disparate conceptions of work and masculinity in order to critique the ideologies that governed vagrancy law, access to employment, and status as a working male citizen.
In the early decades of the twentieth century, vagrancy laws regulated the public space of American cities and sought to distinguish legitimate work activities from begging and criminal behavior. Such statutes disproportionately affected African Americans; not only did white racism and economic interests motivate authorities to target black bodies, but the tendency of labor unions' racial policies to challenge black employment and promotion in railroad work and other industries made African Americans all the more likely to resort to the utilization of public space for private enterprise. Vagrancy laws were also gendered documents which outlined hegemonic conceptions of hard-working American masculinity in relief by enumerating and prohibiting possible departures from a white bourgeois norm. Within this context, itinerant black musicians like Furry Lewis existed in an ambiguous legal space between self-employment and criminality. Since vagrancy laws-to say nothing of their enforcement-were not uniform in their treatment of musicians, traveling performers could never be certain whether authorities would recognize them as workers and, correspondingly, as men. This study will argue that Lewis's Kassie Jones reflected the need of laborers in the informal economy, caught between conflicting notions of what constituted "work," to improvise their own masculine identities based on understandings of labor that were more compatible with black working-class experience. By privileging the story and commentary of the black narrator, Furry Lewis challenged the role of the white engineer Casey Jones as sole protagonist and transformed the song into a double-voiced text that denaturalized legal divisions between the formal and informal economies. By repeatedly referring to himself as an "eastman"-a man who lives in part on the wages of a woman-Lewis rejected the breadwinning manhood codified in vagrancy law and represented by Casey Jones in favor of more habitable definitions of work and masculinity.
September 15, 2008: Ph.D. Student Jamie Schmidt Wagman presents "Abstinence-Only Sex Education, Tiaras and White Roses: Fort Wayne Purity Ball Planners Explain their Project"
A purity ball is a father-daughter dinner dance culminating with a young woman's pledge of her virginity to her father until marriage. A Colorado Springs couple conceptualized purity balls eight years ago, claiming that the event promotes building healthy father-daughter relationships. Other purity ball planners cite teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases as motivation for creating this event. While abstinence-only teaching methods are becoming more mainstream, they receive criticism for not working due to the high rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in communities where adolescents make virginity pledges. The tension between critics and advocates of abstinence sex education inspired me to recently attend a ball in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I needed to study this social situation because of its implications about gender, sexuality, and power in the family. I went to the Purity Ball with the idea that I could not understand purity balls without experiencing one. I was wary of grouping subjects, or letting one speak for all.
After attending the ball, I held telephone interviews with the all-female group of purity ball event planners. I use a group of Purity Ball planners' voices in my narrative to discuss themes, educational strategies, and symbols at the ball. I also use their voices to show that while they are cast as misguided by mainstream newspapers and popular television shows such as "The Tyra Banks Show," these women have agency in shaping the education of their communities. I also drew on sex education writers and feminist scholars such as Patricia Hill Collins, who writes about an "alternative knowledge" that opposes male control of knowledge validation. After attending the dance, I saw that purity ball planners generated an alternative knowledge, too. Instead of allowing children to be instructed in the schools, church or homes, they assert their own authority regarding sex education.
2007 - 2008 and Earlier
April 11-13, 2008: Department hosts "Constructed Light, Constructed Meanings: A Visual Culture Graduate Student Conference"
April 6-8, 2006: Department hosts Mid-America American Studies Association Conference entitled "American Public Cultures: Space, Performance, and Identity." See program and schedule.