Thursday, October 20, 2016

10/26 Panel: Who Gets to Vote? And Who Votes? Francis Fox Piven, Ari Berman & Zachary Roth on Voter Suppression

Join the American Studies program for a wide-ranging conversation on two of the most critical issues in American political life: Who gets to vote? And then, who does vote?

Wednesday, October 26th: On Voter Participation and Voter Suppression" — a conversation with Francis Fox Piven, Ari Berman, and Zachary Roth

7:00-9:00pm | Fordham University, Lincoln Center, Lowenstein Hall, 12th Floor Corrigan Lounge, 113 W. 60th Street, New York, NY 10023 | Admission is free. Open to the public.

Who gets to vote? And then, who does vote? These two questions are fundamental to any democracy. But given the shape of the 2016 presidential election cycle, and the Supreme Court's 2013 decision to roll back many provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the question of voter franchise takes on renewed importance this year.

Fordham's American Studies Program will host a public discussion with nationally-recognized experts on voter suppression and voter participation in the United States.

Ari Berman, author of the Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America (2015), a history of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and a fellow at The Nation Institute.

Francis Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center, is the author of twelve volumes, including the groundbreaking Why Americans Don't Vote (1988) and Why Americans Still Don't Vote (2002), and Suppressing the Black Vote (2009).

Zachary Roth, author of The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy (2016), is a reporter for MSNBC and a widely published journalist.

Moderator: Christopher Dietrich, Associate Professor of History and American Studies, is also a 2016 Nancy Weiss Malkiel Junior Faculty Fellows at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Please note: Thanks to the generosity of our speakers, a limited number of complimentary copies of their recent books will be available.

The American Studies CAMPAIGN 2016 series is made possible by the generous support of the Associate Vice President/Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Dean of Fordham College Rose Hill; and the co-sponsorship support of the Center for Race, Law and Justice; the McGannon Communication Research Center; Latin American and Latino/a Studies Institute; the Department of Communication and Media Studies; and the Department of African and African-American Studies.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Collaboration and Community at the Futures of American Studies Institute

— a report from the 2016 Futures of American Studies Institute (FASI) at Dartmouth College by Callie Gallo, GSAS-American Studies Summer Institute Fellowship Winner, 2016

The Futures of American Studies Institute
is an annual program at Dartmouth College
The 2016 Futures of American Studies Institute (FASI) at Dartmouth College welcomed scholars and graduate students from around the world for a week of programming featuring up-and-coming research in the field. As a fourth-year PhD candidate in the English Department at Fordham, I arrived in Hanover, New Hampshire on a warm and sunny day in June ready to learn about the latest areas of study, meet a cohort of unique professionals, and develop my own research project.

Less than a week later, I walked away from FASI with a new appreciation for the diverse and cutting-edge work of new and established scholars, including program directors Donald Pease (Dartmouth University) and Elizabeth Maddock Dillon (Northeastern University), as well as my peers. It was a great privilege to receive the GSAS-American Studies Summer Institute Fellowship and be given the opportunity to represent Fordham at such an innovative and prestigious event.

One of the unique features of FASI is the collegiality and collaboration between the featured speakers and attendees. Graduate students, junior faculty, adjuncts, writers with book projects, and senior faculty were all encouraged to share, debate, and exchange ideas in Q&A sessions, workshops, and on our down-time. All of the individuals who ran the Institute, as well as my session leader Winfried Fluck of Freie Universität in Berlin, encouraged me to network with scholars and talk about our projects in a friendly and supportive environment. We met in daily seminars where we became acquainted with other works in progress, gave feedback, and discussed the content of the daily plenary presentations. By fostering a collegial atmosphere, FASI gives scholars at all levels a way to learn from each other and exchange ideas that simply doesn’t happen at a typical conference.

This year, each plenary session at FASI was organized around a “Question Worth Asking” in the field that engages with issues or topics that American Studies scholars are or should be talking about right now. Some of these questions included “Why (not) surface reading now?,” “Afro-pessimism? Afro-optimism?,” “Affirmative biopolitics?,” and “How has digitization changed the archive of American Studies?” In addition to lively Q&A’s after each presentation, attendees also exchanged reactions and questions on twitter using the hashtag #FASI16.

Each plenary had a distinct focal point, but all sought to attend to re-think current critical and theoretical approaches. Yet as the event took place shortly after the mass shooting tragedy in Orlando at Pulse nightclub, and in the wake of a year marked by a series of high-profile police shootings of African Americans, many were eager to incorporate more discussion of those events and how to address them meaningfully through scholarship.

Callie's seminar group included, from left: Tim Salzer,
Katrina Kelly, Isil Özcan, Winfried Flick, Stephen Pasqualina,
Callie Gallo, Jesse Raber, Silke Schmidt, Sally Anderson
Boström, Greg Chase, and Joe Varghese Yeldho.
Eric Lott (CUNY Graduate Center) and Sandy Alexander (MIT) displayed some of the ways American Studies scholars are analyzing racial violence in their presentations on responses to racial divisions in popular culture and through black protest. Soyica Diggs Colbert (Georgetown University) and Hortense Spillers (Vanderbilt University) also gave stirring talks about the artistic practices of African American women and the possibilities for optimism amidst racial strife.

Two of my favorite presentations were delivered by Patricia Stuelke (Dartmouth College) and Annie McClanahan (University of California, Irvine), who responded to the question “Was … a neo-liberal fantasy?”. Stuelke looked at the “antiblack acoustics” of the US occupation of Panama and analyzed the military’s selected playlist of 90s pop and rock (e.g. “Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee” by Tom Petty, and “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley) that blared through General Noriega’s abandoned Presidential Palace.

In contrast, McClanahan examined endless economic growth as a neo-liberal fantasy that rejects the prospect of long-term stagnation, even as economists from the eighteenth century onward have predicted its onset. They both gave eye-opening and accessible presentations that resonated because of their unique case studies.

Being surrounded with such innovative and thought-provoking work at FASI gave me new perspectives from which I can approach my dissertation and find ways to be in conversation with scholars in my field. Additionally, the Institute professionalized me by pushing me to network and engage with scholars and to make connections with fellow graduate students. I left Dartmouth College feeling reinvigorated and excited about my research. Given the immersive and collaborative environment I found myself in at FASI, it’s easy to see why any scholar would jump at the opportunity to return time and time again.

Editor's Note: Callie Gallo was a recipient of the 2016 GSAS-American Studies Summer Institute Fellowship which provides support for Fordham graduate students to attend American Studies summer institutes both in the U.S. and abroad. For information on this the 2017 GSAS-American Studies Summer Fellowship, contact with "2016 GSAS-American Studies Summer Institute Fellowship" in the subject line!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

”Man Enough?" – Scholar-Activist Jackson Katz to Speak Th•9/29•7pm on masculinity and the 2016 Presidential Campaigns

Internationally-recognized gender scholar and activist Jackson Katz to speak at Fordham (9/29, 7-9pm) on masculinity and the 2016 Presidential Election!

Please join American Studies for the kick-off event of our CAMPAIGN 2016 public programming series: "Man Enough? Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity" - a multimedia presentation by award-winning scholar-activist Jackson Katz.

In this richly illustrated talk — just days after the historic first debate of the 2016 general election campaign — Jackson Katz will explore the role that white male identity politics are playing in the race to elect potentially the first woman president of the United States.
Thursday, September 29, 7-9:00 P.M. (doors open at 6:30)
Fordham University Law School, Room 3-02
150 W 62 Street, NYC (Broadway/Columbus; A, C, D, B or 1 train to Columbus Circle) Free and open to the public.
Jackson Katz, Ph.D., is an educator, author, filmmaker and cultural theorist who is internationally renowned for his pioneering scholarship and activism on issues of gender and violence. He is co-founder of the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program; creator of the award-winning educational documentaries Tough Guise and Tough Guise 2; and author of The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help, and Man Enough? Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Politics of Presidential Masculinity. He lectures widely in the U.S. and around the world on violence, media and masculinities.

This event is the kick-off event of the American Studies Fall CAMPAIGN 2016 Speaker Series. Stay tuned for news of our upcoming programming.

Sponsored by the American Studies Program, with the McGannon Communication Research Center and the Department of Communications and Media Studies,  Fordham University.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fall 2015 Senior Symposium and Annual Celebration

Join us for the American Studies Senior Thesis Symposium on Friday, December 11, 11-4pm with a celebration and holiday party at 4pm.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

2014 Senior Thesis Symposium & Holiday Party

Please join us for the 2014 American Studies Senior Thesis Symposium & Holiday Party. The symposium panels run from 11-4pm and the party commences at 4pm. All are welcome!

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Report from the 2014 Dartmouth “Futures of American Studies Institute”

By Christy Pottroff

The 2014 Futures of American Studies Institute at Dartmouth College was an intense, exhausting, and transformative week-long experience featuring twenty-seven plenaries by distinguished American Studies scholars. While the Institute benefited my scholarship, my academic networks, and my morale, in this post I want to focus on how one of the plenary lectures – CUNY Graduate Center Professor Duncan Faherty’s “’Revolution, molasses, spirits, and sugar’: Isaac Mitchell, Narrative Temporality and the Haitian Revolution,” transformed the way I understand my own work.

Professor Faherty, author of Remodeling the Nation: the Architecture of American Identity, 1776-1858, began his plenary remarks by calling to mind Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant” that was then on display in Brooklyn.

"A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby" by Kara Walker
Walker’s exhibition, Faherty noted, allows us to view simultaneous temporalities in the same space. If you’ve made the trip to Williamsburg to see the monumental sculptures, you can attest to this: the sugar figures recall the history of slave labor in the Caribbean and the soon-to-be-demolished factory stands as the once leading sugar refinery in the United States. While viewers take pictures with their phones the sugar babies’ bodies sweat molasses and break under their own weight. All at once the immense temporary exhibition speaks to race, slavery, womanhood, sexuality, commodity, consumption, labor, and economics from the late 18th century to the present moment.  Faherty observed how the exhibition forces viewers to confront the historical roots and routes of global economic production. The exhibition’s global economic subject matter and textured temporalities, he asserted, have an unexpected resonance with the early American novel.

Faherty’s lecture focused on these unexpected resonances by looking at the aesthetic practices of a neglected swatch of novels written in the United States between 1800-1820, among them Isaac Mitchell’s The Asylum (1811). Like Kara Walker’s installation, these early 19th-century novels address slavery, revolution, and the global market with temporal moves that collapse, skip, and echo traditional narrative structure.  Faherty demonstrated how these temporal shifts are related to a contemporary preoccupation with revolution. References to the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and other insurrections fold into one another; in doing so, the novels suggest that these revolutions—what might seem like geographically and temporally disparate events—all arose from the same revolutionary energy. By bringing past histories of revolution together, these early novelists sought to arouse revolutionary action against present injustices. These early 19th-century novels are unfamiliar and, frankly, weird for twenty-first century readers—they are messy and disjointed, with unbelievable plots and geographically expansive settings. Duncan’s lecture suggested ways to “read” these novels and absolutely convinced me that the period deserves more consideration. It was an exciting talk, and it will shape my current research in two ways.

First, Duncan’s explanation of the novels’ aesthetic practices is directly relevant to texts that fall within the scope of my dissertation. As Duncan has shown, the recent attention to what Thomas Allen (2008) has called “America’s manifold temporal cultures” gives us the tools to read these texts. I won’t dismiss Anne Royall’s The Tennessean (1827) for its countless imprisonments, fast-forwards, flashbacks, mistaken identities, and unexpected reunions (one with a long-lost horse!). Instead, I will consider what these strange moments might say about an evolving and revolutionary national identity.

Perhaps even more energizing than Duncan’s model for reading was the scope of his lecture. By making a comparison between Kara Walker’s 2014 exhibition and novels from 1800-1820, he shows why the humanistic study of materials from the early nineteenth century matters. These peculiar novels were not merely distractions from reality in the early national period, and current scholarly engagement with them is not simply an act of isolated nostalgia. Instead, attentive and close reading of these texts—much like “reading” Kara Walker’s exhibition—can be central to understanding our reality. Early national novels speak to the complex history of race, revolution, and global exchange, factors that are relevant to contemporary national politics. Following Duncan Faherty’s example, I hope that my own work will succeed in drawing connections between historical texts and current events without sacrificing the complexities or specificities of either.

Editor’s Note: Christy Pottroff, a Fordham English Doctoral Candidate, attended the Summer 2014 Dartmouth Futures of American Studies Institute on a Fellowship awarded by the Fordham American Studies Program and GSAS. This is the second of two posts from Fordham participants in the Dartmouth Futures Institute and is part of our new online initiative to foster dialogues on and in American Studies.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Selfhood and Society in the 21st Century: A Report from the 2014 Dartmouth “Futures of American Studies Institute”

By Julia Cosacchi

Individuality and community are themes that lie at the heart of the field of American Studies. The 2014 Dartmouth Futures of American Studies offered many opportunities to reflect on how the emergence of social media and data-based decision-making affect the relationship between the individual and the community.

My academic interests involve community formation and identity, and one of my favorite aspects of the Institute was a distinctly 21st century experience of community: following the Twitter conversation generated by the hashtag #FASI14. Tweets throughout the plenaries distilled the presenters’ main ideas and posed questions that generated discussion in the Q&A period after each talk. Tweets in between sessions fostered professional and intellectual networking, highlighting the particular strain of humor shared among a hundred-plus American Studies scholars. Since the conclusion of the Institute, I’ve been considering the two communities generated over the course of the week—the live community and the virtual community—and so in this blog post I’d like to write about some of the approaches to contemporary issues of selfhood, representation, and community in a hyperconnected, data-driven world presented by speakers at the Institute.

Annie McClanahan presents
"Credit, Debt, and Social Personhood" /
Image courtesy The Futures of American
Studies Institute, Dartmouth University
University of Wisconsin Professor Annie McClanahan’s talk struck at the crossroads of the digital and the “real” world: she examined creative projects that critique our data-driven world and reclaim the possibility of self-representation despite the weight of the external and qualitative stereotypes imposed upon us. Cornell English Professor Michael Cobb’s talk addressed the problem of how to go about interpreting these new, digital modes of representation while preserving old modes of connection and relationship.

McClanahan’s talk “Credit, Debt, and Social Personhood” resonated in particular with the Institute’s graduate student majority—people who are all too familiar with the ways that contemporary culture judges individuals on the basis of their credit scores rather than their characters. Taking as her starting point the commercials from FreeScore [dot] com that “personify” healthy credit scores as robust, young, white men (and an unhealthy credit score as a balding, paunchy, masked, though still caucasian male), McClanahan traced the history of credit scoring and juxtaposed it with transformations in narrative representations of character in contemporary novels. Early methods of credit scoring relied on moral characteristics (is this person reliable, honest, trustworthy?) until the quantitative revolution in the late 1970s ushered in an interest in demonstrated behaviors (has this person made monthly payments regularly?). This shift led to the practice of using empirical data and mathematical algorithms to predict human behavior—in this case, the likelihood of an individual defaulting on their loans.

McClanahan likened this shift in credit scoring methods to shifting modes of narrative characterization in contemporary novels, drawing a helpful analogy to frame her reading of passages from Gary Shteyngart’s novel Super Sad True Love Story (2010): old modes of credit scoring : realist novels : : new modes of credit scoring : contemporary novels. In the second half of her talk, McClanahan focused on contemporary artistic representations of debt such as Mathew Timmons’ print-performance-art work CREDIT (2009), “a book the author himself lacks the cash or credit to buy,” and Cassie Thornton’s art that visualizes and debt as a material object (for example, as a giant rock treated like a beloved pet, as in “How I Feel” [2012]).

Similar ideas about individuality in tension with digital and quantitative representation also appeared in Cobb’s presentation, “Your Love Life in Ruins,” which was a hybrid of academic lecture and performance art. Cobb assessed the state of desire in the twenty-first century’s “new mediated landscape”: a landscape that fosters the narcissistic impulses of the millennial generation. Cobb observed that digital media—Facebook, Tinder, Twitter—distance the objects of our desire even as they increase our intimacy with data-based representations of selfhood via painstakingly curated profiles and posts. In response, he proposed a new, slower-paced mode of interaction with these fragmentary self-representations. Cobb’s talk focused on the ways that an awareness of fragments, which make sense only when considered or imagined as parts of a larger whole, can help us to recalibrate our engagement with the swirling vortices of new media in today’s hyper-connected age. Advocating for the “interval of the statue,” Cobb suggested that instead of swiping and refreshing our screens and devices, we take time to pause in contemplation and reflection, allowing ourselves to more deeply engage with and more fully understand the whole that is only represented and implied by selected fragments.

In this new, digital age, the ways that we represent ourselves and others are changing and concerns about representation are taking on new meanings. One of my takeaways from the Futures Institute--and from #FASI14--is that representation and community formation are deep concerns of American Studies at every level and in every era. As McClanahan and Cobb both suggested in their talks, communities evolve in response to shifting modes of representation, and it is our task as scholars to level a critical eye at these changes if we are to bring our collective understanding up to speed.

Editor’s Note: Julia Cosacchi, a Fordham English Doctoral Candidate, attended the Summer 2014 Dartmouth Futures of American Studies Institute on a Fellowship awarded by the Fordham American Studies Program and GSAS. This is the first of two posts from Fordham participants in the Dartmouth Futures Institute and is part of our new online initiative to foster dialogues on and in American Studies.