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Graduate Salon



 
AMS Graduate Student Salon with Ashley Lazevnick and Heath Pearson
 
Friday, November 14, 2014
102 Jones Hall
12:00-1:20
 
Ashley LazevnickDepartment of Art and Archaeology
 
In my dissertation “Feeling and Precision”: Precisionism in the Long 1920s, I consider a world of artists obsessed with the values of precision. What does it mean to call a work of art “precise” in the Machine Age? At the same time that the terms “precision-built” and “precision-made” first came into use, painters such as Charles Sheeler started to make pictures of factories, skyscrapers, and machine parts. It has long been argued that such artists—later called Precisionists—were trying to mimic factory production. Historians have typically considered their work in light of the changing conditions of industry and labor. I argue that this is only one possible understanding of the term “precision.” Precisionist painting is also related to definitions of precision developed by poets Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams and philosophers William James and C.S. Peirce. For Moore, precision was ineluctably related to “feeling,” to energy of “maximum force” and to imagination. For the Pragmatists, precision offered a model for empirical and logical efficiency. In my project, I use this expanded definition of precision to offer a richer, more complex understanding of Precisionist art.
 
Heath Pearson, Department of Anthropology

“The whole problem in these small towns is the families that move in to be close to the inmates,” a Corrections Officer said to me in the prison’s parking lot. According to the muscly officer, the prison itself was not “the problem.” Instead, what followed the prison into town was “the problem.” Contrary to popular opinion, prisons are not stagnant structures, concrete and barbwire fences, that simply house transplanted offenders and employ local residents. Instead, prisons are things that leak from all sides—Corrections Officers that go back to their neighborhoods and families after work, “illicit economies” that attach to the prisons and create new pathways in these towns, and families that move from urban environments to these rural environments, to name only a few. My ethnographic fieldwork is an exploration of these things that leak. My project is an attempt to expand on the research revolving around the Prison Industrial Complex. Much of the current conversation explores the topic as if it is self-contained and stable, a phenomenon to be studied on its own. And though this research has been and continues to be invaluable for understanding the larger, historical picture, it leaves many lingering questions. What happens in the actual (often rural) towns where federal prisons are built? When a family with an imprisoned loved one moves to the “prison town,” how do they negotiate their new landscape? These are only two (of my many and always-expanding) questions, but they help to localize the conversation that can sometimes appear detached and immaterial. My work is an effort to continue exploring the “whole problem” at the local level.
 


Past Salons

AMS Graduate Student Salon with Jennifer Jones and Jane Manners
 
Friday, April 18, 2014
210 Dickinson Hall
12:00-1:20
 
Jennifer D. JonesDepartment of History
 
My dissertation titled “ ‘The Fruits of Mixing’: Homosexuality and the Politics of Racial Empowerment in the South, 1945-1975” chronicles the manner in which characterizations of gay men and lesbians were an important aspect of southern-based campaigns for and conflicts over black racial equality. Advocates and opponents of racial equality used these characterizations to delineate who should have access to the full benefits of national citizenship and race-defined communal belonging. My talk will highlight the portion of the project which analyzes how segregationists characterized African Americans and racial liberals as more prone to homosexuality in their attempts to counter challenges to white supremacy. This rhetoric appeared with increasing frequency during the 1960s and 1970s, co-existing alongside older and more prominent narratives of black sexual depravity and the proliferation of interracial marriage.
 
Jane Manners, Department of History

In 1835, fire destroyed nearly all of Manhattan's mercantile district, causing losses totaling approximately $500 million in today's dollars. My project examines the relief debates that followed, both in Congress and in the courts: who, if anyone, bore responsibility for bailing out the sufferers? That the victims were nearly all wealthy merchants with credit relationships around the country complicated the question: just as a storehouse fire in a crowded port could quickly spread to consume dozens of city blocks, a credit crunch in the nation’s commercial center could easily bring low small-town merchants in the nation’s remotest regions. Who, in a world of such highly contagious misfortune, deserved relief, and who should pay for it? What was the appropriate balance between private right and public need? Drawing on Congressional archives and court records, I argue that the fire precipitated the first instance of a federal bailout premised on the idea that some financial institutions are too big to fail. 


AMS Graduate Student Salon
with Jessica Cooper and Beth Stroud
 
Friday, February 28, 2014
210 Dickinson Hall
12:00-1:20
 
Jessica Cooper, Department of Anthropology
 
My research explores the translocation of health policy into the domain of American criminal justice. I probe this overlapping of domains by conducting ethnographic research on the San Francisco Behavioral Health Court (SFBHC), a  unique, nonadversarial criminal courtroom designed to adjudicate offenders with psychiatric illness as demonstrated by a DSM diagnosis. The SFBHC works to remove these individuals from carceral settings and shift them to therapeutic housing and care sponsored by the Department of Public Health and local community resources. The court plays an active role in monitoring offenders’ progress towards mental health through weekly conferences with clinical and legal teams, in conjunction with face-to-face reviews with the offender and judge. My research investigates the multileveled ramifications of the importation of healthcare into the criminal justice system and seeks to account for the changes in notions of health and criminal law that result from the collision of two domains. I examine these questions in light of anticipated institutional changes in the state of California, from the modifications in sentencing laws due to the processes of realignment and the influx of funding for public health care as a result of the Affordable Care Act. I ask how these various legal, medical, and cultural changes impact the distribution of health care and create particular types of state subjects within the context of the SFBHC. 
 
Irene Elizabeth Stroud, Department of Religion
 
My project investigates American Protestant politics of reproduction around the turn of the twentieth century, through the career of Episcopal reformer Kate Waller Barrett. Barrett was the founder of the National Florence Crittenton Mission, a chain of maternity homes for unwed mothers. The Crittenton homes originated as missions to urban prostitutes, encouraging them to leave prostitution and find redemption in “respectable” employment and motherhood, and only evolved into homes for pregnant, middle-class teenagers (often coercing them to relinquish their children for adoption) later in the twentieth century. Barrett’s leadership of the mission, documented in papers held at the University of Minnesota, illustrates the spirit of disciplining the poor that was often at work in turn-of-the century elite feminism, and also provides an example of the influence of eugenics on Progressive social reform movements.


AMS Graduate Student Salon
 
Friday, February 7, 2014
102 Jones Hall
12:00-1:20

Richard Anderson, Department of HistoryMy project examines the postindustrial transformation of Chicago’s political economy and urban landscape between the mid-1950s and early 1980s. Drawing on a range of archival sources–including the papers of former Mayor Richard J. Daley, municipal records, and the collections of various civic and neighborhood organizations–I will examine how the Daley Machine responded to local manifestations of national trends like factory flight, internal migration, and the African American freedom struggle. I hope to demonstrate that Daley’s Democratic machine–so often portrayed as the quintessence of parochial, ward-heeler politics–established the physical infrastructure and ideological foundation for Chicago to become a neoliberal “global city” of specialized corporate services, high-tech industries, medical research and education, and entertainment and tourism. I will track both top-down and bottom-up vectors of power–asking how businesses, public institutions, civic groups, labor unions, neighborhood associations, and radical activists alternately acquiesced to and challenged the Daley Machine’s prescription for the maladies of deindustrialization and racial conflict. The consequences of these seismic economic and social changes impacted the city unevenly across race and class; however, I will argue that Chicago’s cosmopolitan, white-collar, gentrified districts and its underserved, politically isolated, peripheral spaces were mutually constitutive.
 
Henry Cowles, Department of History of Science.  My dissertation—“A Method Only: The Evolving Meaning of Science in the United States, 1859-1929"—argues that the rise of the human sciences in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era precipitated a shift in the understanding of science itself. I show how, just as evolutionary theory was brought to bear on questions of human nature, the scientific process came to be seen as both a product of human evolution and a process analogous to natural selection. This view, I argue, helped naturalize the emerging “experimental ideal” and paved the way for a new, instrumental understanding of science and its method that gained extraordinary power across the twentieth century. Based in archives in both England and the United States, my work shows how science became human—and how, just as quickly, it came to be seen as beyond the grasp of all but a chosen few.
 
Sara Marcus, Department of English. My project investigates literary and sonic traces of political disappointment in the United States between 1929 and 1989. I use the term “political disappointment” to refer to untimely political desire that is felt beyond the political time that gave rise to it, and persisting through those moments when the way forward, indeed the very viability of “forward,” is a matter of doubt. The extensive archives of the fiction writer Tillie Olsen and the poet Adrienne Rich offer two distinct case studies. The two writers were close friends for years, but whereas Rich continued to actively support and write about radical feminism after the flush of that movement’s initial emergence, Olsen’s fitful career from the ’60s onward registers the difficulties that characterized Depression-era working-class organizing’s fraught afterlife. By analyzing the work of Olsen, Rich, and other midcentury figures, and by tuning in to the soundscape of the birth of Black Power, my project examines how political disappointment has shaped aesthetic production, and how attention to disappointment’s traces can change our conceptions of what kinds of literature and sound count as political.


AMS Graduate Student Salon
 
Friday, March 15, 2013
127 East Pyne
12:00-1:20
 
Grant Wythoff, Department of English.   The canonical story about Hugo Gernsback is that he launched the genre of science fiction as the founding editor of Amazing Stories in April of 1926. Gernsback treated the magazine as merely a commercial venture, wrote in a “crude and heavy-handed” style, and now usually receives little more than a cursory, one-sentence nod in critical works on the genre. Focusing only on the period from Amazing and after, this inherited version overlooks the wider context of the genre's birth in Gernsback's fleet of electrical experimenter magazines as well as his work as a pioneer in wireless technologies and amateur broadcast activist. The Perversity of Things, named after a Gernsback essay on the influence that objects exert on thought, will be a critical edition of these writings. Through extensive archival research, I provide a new picture of modern science fiction as a literary genre that emerged out of an electrical supply catalogue. In the 1910s and 20s, one could find in the pages of these publications a literary treatise on what the genre of “scientifiction” should look like alongside a blueprint for a homebrewed Nipkow disk television set or a pocket wireless receiver. Long before Gernsback founded Amazing Stories, writers used speculative fiction to find a language for emerging media such as radio, television, or the more exotic osophon and telegraphone. This collection occasions a reappraisal of both the “hard” technical roots of American science fiction and the highly speculative orientation toward media technologies in the period.

George Laufenberg, Department of Anthropology.
  While the religious origins of the encounter between psychotherapist and patient are well-documented—practitioners of “the talking cure” have been compared to priests and shamans since Freud conjured the discipline—recent scholarship suggests that the relationship between ‘therapy’ and ‘religion’ appears to work both ways in the U.S: anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann's decade of work with Evangelical Christians, for instance, foregrounds the decline of the fire-and-brimstone God of the old testament and the rise of an unconditionally loving, and profoundly intimate, friend and confidant. What has been described as “the problem of presence”—accounting, that is, for the ways in which the divine becomes real for people—is not confined to evangelicals, however: somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of Americans currently identify as “spiritual but not religious” (or ‘SBNR’). My research took place at the conjuncture of these categories: I conducted ethnographic fieldwork with a community of SBNR Americans—most of whom are licensed mental health professionals—who practice metaphysical healing techniques in spiritual ceremonies. My dissertation explores the milieux in which these healing practices are taught and learned, seeking to understand them as responses to what people experience as profound crises of presence—of the divine and the social—as well as opportunities to ask some questions about the place of the sacred in contemporary American social life.


AMS Graduate Student Salon
 
Friday, February 8, 2013
127 East Pyne
12:00-1:20
 
Ronny Regev, Department of History . Ronny's dissertation, “It’s a Creative Business”: The Ideas, Practices, and Interaction that Made the Hollywood Studio System, seeks to reveal the day-to-day reality inside this industry during its golden age, c. 1930-1950, by examining the effect work relations and politics had on cinematic production and content. It is a social history of Hollywood that will recover the organization of both labor and the creative process through which movies were produced. Surveying the archives of producers, directors, writers, and actors as well as those of the studios, I aim to reconstruct the industry’s division of labor – the different roles created by it, how they were experienced by the people who occupied them, and to what extent this experience affected the on-screen result. It is an attempt to understand how everyday routines and interactions shape entertainment through the industry and time period that transformed this profession from a local experience to a national and global one.


AMS Graduate Students Salon 

Friday, December 7, 2012
McCosh 40
12:00-1:20
 
Olivier Burtin, Department of History.  Using archives from the American Legion headquarters in Indianapolis as a starting point, my project is to explore the many ways in which veterans influenced local and national U.S politics and society in the post-World War Two era. Virtually the single most important veterans’ organization, the Legion was involved in creating local community programs throughout the country, bringing together millions of veterans from different wars, ensuring their access to an efficient healthcare system, honoring the memory of those who had died in service via monuments and cemeteries, and last but not least, lobbying tirelessly the U.S Congress on topics ranging from the Department of Veteran Affairs to national security and “Americanism.” Through these various activities, I seek to understand, for instance, how patriotism became deeply embedded in the everyday life of Americans or the unique place of veterans in the expanding U.S welfare state.

Sean Vanatta, Department of History
.  “Filching the American Dream: Credit Card Fraud in Historical Perspective,” seeks to uncover and reconstruct the agency of credit card criminals, who sought by questionable means to procure the promises of American prosperity, while also detailing the efforts of credit card issuers and state authorities to meet the evolving challenges posed by these malefactors. Using archival evidence from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the New York City Municipal Archives, the project traces the cycles of crime, prosecution, and legislation which attended the rise of the bank credit card industry from the late-1950s through the mid-1980s. In doing so it explores how innovations in both credit card technology and criminal practice shaped the boundaries of card crime, and how prosecutors, along with federal and state politicians sought to police those boundaries.


AMS Graduate Students Salon

Thursday, March 8, 2012
210 Dickinson Hall
12:00 – 1:20
 
Brittney Edmonds, Department of English“Black Inque(e)ries: Space and Time in Post-Stonewall NYC, 1969-1981” focuses on the contours, movements, and tenors of black queer bodies in New York City from 1969 to 1981. That blackness and queerness manifest so variously, in human bodies, in human politics, in social spaces, and in political rhetoric, is testament to their endurance as modes of disciplinary classification and their requisition as sites of potentially libratory identification. This seeming plasticity—the ability for both blackness and queerness to be purposed to differing, sometimes contradictory ends—inspires my research to find moments, if ever, when blackness and queerness are less yielding, when human bodies, geographical space, political necessity, and temporal specificity fix, however fleetingly, their coordinates.  By focusing on black queer bodies, and further locating them within a particularly charged historical period—beginning in 1969 following the Stonewall Riots to 1981 before the widespread public acknowledgment and admission of the AIDS epidemic—my research attempts to apprehend blackness and queerness in moments of crisis and upheaval, and too, in moments of resistance. Through engagement with various ephemera (ranging from club flier to queer manifesto to lesbian weekly), my project seeks to answer questions about identity formation, community constitution, and the political limits and potentialies of this unique period.
 
 
Nika Elder, Art and Archeology. Nika Elder’s dissertation, Show and Tell: Representation, Communication, and the Still Lifes of William M. Harnett interprets the eclectic work of the late-nineteenth-century American artist within his cultural context. It analyzes the drawings and paintings he created over the course of his twenty-six-year career in conjunction with the intellectual discourses that they reference to suggest that Harnett attempted to depict humanity without recourse to the body. He employed man-made objects, syntactical compositions, and laborious techniques to enact and thus embody the cognitive process. A Summer Research Prize from the Program in American Studies generously supported the research and writing of two chapters, which draw on fields as diverse as anatomy and semiotics, physiology and the decorative arts. 
 
 
David Reinecke, Sociology. Claiming the Prize: Rationalizing Adventure Capitalism and Privateering in Revolutionary America. Far from total anarchy, privateering by the late 18th century was a heavily state regulated activity in order to prevent outright piracy. The central regulatory institution was the prize court, which adjudicated over the lawful capture of enemy ships. Reinecke's archival research project draws primarily upon prize court cases during the American Revolutionary War to reconstruct the moral foundations and justifications of state-sponsored privateering vis-à-vis other emerging forms of capitalism.


AMS Graduate Student Salon

Thursday, February 23, 2012
210 Dickinson Hall
12:00 – 1:20
 
Jessica Lowe, History. Jessica Lowe studies eighteenth and early nineteenth century American legal history. Her dissertation, "Murder in the Shenandoah" focuses on a 1791 Virginia murder in which a young gentleman killed a laborer during a fist fight.  Jessica's dissertation tells the story of the case as it wound its way through the various stages of Virginia's criminal process, and uses this narrative to explore republican law reform in Virginia in the era of the Constitution’s framing and adoption. A Summer Research Prize enabled Jessica to travel to Williamsburg, Virginia, where she spent time reading the papers of Judge St. George Tucker (1752-1827) and completed an article on the judge, entitled "Guarding Republican Liberty:  St. George Tucker and Law in Federal Virginia," forthcoming in Signposts: New Directions in Southern Legal History, eds. Sally Hadden and Patricia Minter (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012).
 
Dael Norwood, History. Dael Norwood’s dissertation, Trading in Liberty: The Politics of the American China Trade, c.1784-1862 investigates how Americans’ Asian commerce served as a motive and a medium for politics in the early republic. Tracing changes in the material reality and ideological import of the China trade through contemporary published materials, the files of mercantile firms, and the archives of the American and British governments, Trading Liberty reveals that the capital, goods, and people that made up the China trade became intertwined with the struggles over states’ rights, slavery, and expansion that defined the early American state. Support from the Program in American Studies enabled Dael to complete his research at government archives in Washington D.C. and in merchants’ papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society.


AMS Graduate Students Salon
 

Thursday, February 16, 2012
McCosh 40
12:00 – 1:20
  
Rebecca Rosen, English.
Rebecca Rosen's research on women's commonplace books and scribal canon formation began in Philadelphia and continued this past summer during her research in the Boston area, with the majority of her research taking place at the Houghton Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society and the American Antiquarian Society. There she conducted a comparison between colonial and eighteenth-century Boston and Philadelphia sources in order to better understand how women's manuscript writing practices evolved in the early Republic across geographic and religious lines. During research, two separate projects evolved: one which looks at women's commonplace books in the two cities as serving different but overlapping literary purposes, and another on the development of early American autobiography as a process of individual and collective writing. The wealth of material in these archives--starting with commonplace books, but including documents such as land grants, records of sermons delivered and census counts in Puritan and Native American communities--shows the elaboration of local canons and values, as well as the collective illustration of a community's members, from the copied passage to the list as life writing.
 
Roy Scranton, English
Roy Scranton’s research on Harry Mathews and his connections to both the New York School poets and the Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle has developed into multiple projects. The main project resulting from his research, Dear Moon Governor, will be an edited volume of the selected letters between John Ashbery and Harry Mathews, including an introductory essay discussing Mathews’s friendship with Ashbery, his role in the so-called New York School, and the transatlantic coteries in which they moved. The second project, Talking With Harry, will be to document and edit the long interview Roy conducted with Mathews this summer in Grenoble on his career, work, life, and coterie. In addition, Roy’s research at the Houghton Library at Harvard, at the Annenberg Library at the University of Pennsylvania, and in conversation with Mathews himself, thanks to the gracious support of a Summer Research Prize, has fed and will feed into other work on postwar American literature.


AMS Graduate Students Salon

Monday, December 13, 2010
McCosh B45
11:30 – 12:50
 
Maeve Herbert Glass, History
Maeve spent the summer researching the role of law and diplomacy in nineteenth-century warfare in the American West. After collecting sources from the California State Archives, the National Archives, Beinecke Library, and, in particular, the Minnesota Historical Society, Maeve focused on the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Her dissertation will examine the origins, conduct, and consequences of the war, as told from the perspectives of individual men and women involved in the conflict.
 
Kameron Collin, English
Kameron's project, "Injurious Rites: White Supremacist Melancholia on the Terrorist Stage," will use trial transcripts and editorial ephemera (magazines, newspapers, etc.) to investigate the problem of legal consciousness and national subjectivity among white Southerners during and after the Reconstruction. Specifically, he will read these materials through the prisms of legal, literary and performance theory in order to trace the relationship between the feeling of "lost" citizenship and the ability to reclaim it through specific instances of speech and violent gesture.


AMS Graduate Students Salon
 
Friday, April 9, 2010
McCosh 40
12:00-1:20
 
Sofya Aptekar, Sociology
Sofya Aptekar's dissertation, "Immigrant Naturalization and Nation-Building in North America," is an empirical examination of tensions in the social construction of nationhood at the critical juncture of citizenship acquisition by foreigners.  Sofya's study of nation-building in the United States and Canada uses a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches that overlap with other disciplinary traditions.  Sofya's work explores both the perspectives of the state actors and the immigrants themselves and the meanings they attached to becoming members of the polity.
 
J. Michelle Coghlan, English
Michelle Coghlan's dissertation,"Revolution’s Afterlife: the Paris Commune in American Cultural Memory," traces the Commune’s uncanny persistence in the U.S. literary and cultural imaginary into the Modernist period, unearthing the ways Americans represented and consumed the spectacle—and the specter—of the Commune and its fiery aftermath across a variety of literary forms and mass-cultural mediums. With the support of a Summer Research Prize, she conducted research on her fourth chapter in the S.Guy Endore papers and the Socialist and Labor Movement Pamphlets collection at UCLA's Special Collections.
 
Jamie Sherman, Anthropology
Jamie Sherman's dissertation, "The Color of Muscle: Play, Performance, and Everyday Realities in a Brooklyn Body Building Gym," looks at the way everyday practices of self-improvement and self-transformation articulate, address, and engage dominant ideological tensions in contemporary American society.  Looking narrowly at social relations and bodily practices at a Brooklyn bodybuilding gym, this project asks what kinds of moral worlds are constructed through the disciplining of self and body and how these serve to address the particular challenges of social inequality in America's urban centers.