Thursday, November 15, 2012

Congratulations Sarah Ramirez!

Congratulations to American Studies Senior Sarah Ramirez just received this week's top writing award at USA TODAY College!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sarah Ramirez writes another article for USA Today College

Don't miss the latest publication from American Studies student Sarah Ramirez in USA Today College!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sarah Ramirez writes for USA Today College

Congratulations to Fordham American Studies student Sarah Ramirez whose story about presidential coverage overshadowing Senate and House races was just published in USA Today College!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Professor Beaudoin in America Magazine

Professor Beaudoin of the GSRRE writes in America Magazine about permitting the term "queer" to be used at Fordham.

Oneka LaBennett on HuffPost Live

Watch Oneka LaBennett speak on HuffPost Live about Black pastors' views on marriage equality.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Message from the Director

Welcome back, American Studies majors and minors!

I am delighted to have been elected to direct Fordham’s American Studies Program and want to thank the American Studies affiliated faculty and the executive committee for this honor.

As those familiar with the American Studies Program know, I am stepping into a position previously held by Dr. Glenn Hendler, who is moving on to chair the English Department. Dr. Hendler’s passion for and devotion to American Studies was remarkable. Under his leadership our students were challenged to analyze American history and experience in order to gain a complex understanding of the United States.  Dr. Hendler worked tirelessly to ensure that majors and minors developed into rigorous interdisciplinary researchers. Glenn Hendler’s contributions are too numerous to list here. He advised all American Studies majors and minors, taught the Junior Seminar, and oversaw the Senior Thesis Symposium and the American Studies blog. Beyond Fordham, he co-chaired the Columbia University American Studies Seminar and acted as book review editor for American Quarterly.  All of this work fostered Fordham American Studies into a vital and nationally recognized program.

I plan to sustain Dr. Hendler’s efforts, continuing to raise the regional and national prominence of Fordham’s American Studies Program. I come to this position as an Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and an anthropologist. My interdisciplinary training incorporates theories and methodologies from anthropology, women’s studies, history, cultural studies and American studies in order to pursue a nuanced understanding of American society. I have co-taught Fordham’s Senior Seminar in American Studies twice (“Race and Youth Culture,” 2009; “Food and Globalization,” 2011).  For both courses I worked closely with thesis writers and with Dr. Hendler, advising students and helping to coordinate a symposium of thesis presentations. I found American Studies students to be extremely bright, motivated and intellectually curious. I relished lengthy conversations with the students about methodology, the possibilities of ethnographic fieldwork, the scope of American Studies, and their plans for future study.

Under my direction, American Studies students can expect a rigorous, supportive, and dynamic program that will prepare them to engage with the world beyond Fordham. I will draw on years of experience, developed in part through my work as Research Director of the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP), to continue the University’s mission of studying and serving New York City communities.  We will collaborate with other departments and interdisciplinary programs including African and African American Studies, English, Women’s Studies, History, Latin American and Latino Studies, and Anthropology and Sociology. We will also support interdisciplinary graduate work in American Studies in a number of ways including co-sponsoring the New York Metro American Studies Association (NYMASA) symposium,  “Academia 2.0: Navigating Academic Careers Today,” on September 8, 2012 at the Lincoln Center campus.

This year’s Approaches to American Studies is being taught by none other than Dr. Hendler.  Dr. Maria Farland and Dr. Steven Stoll are expertly leading the Senior Seminar under the rubric of “Country and City.”  Our Graduate Assistant, Will Fenton, will be instrumental in keeping everything running smoothly.

I invite American Studies majors and minors, and those interested in learning more about the Program to visit me in FMH 405D. Stop by and chat! Contribute a post to the American Studies blog! I look forward to many wonderful conversations and to all of the exciting work I know Fordham’s American Studies students and faculty will develop this year and in the years to come.

Dr. Oneka LaBennett
Director, American Studies
Associate Professor, African and African American Studies

Tina Maschi in Huffington Post

Fordham Graduate School of Social Service Professor, Tina Maschi, writing about aging prisoners in Huffington Post.

Susan Greenfield in PBS.ORG

Professor Susan Greenfield of Fordham's English department discusses Representative Todd Akin's remarks in the Opinion section of PBS.ORG.

Oneka LaBennett in Ms. Magazine

American Studies Director, Oneka LaBennett, writing about Gabby Douglas and African American hair practices in Ms. Magazine.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kirsten Swinth on the Huffington Post!

Professor Kirsten Swinth--of Fordham's History department, and former director of the American Studies Program--writing on the Huffington Post about Equal Pay Day, the day on which women's annual earnings catch up with what men made in the previous year. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What is OWS up to?

This past fall's lively conversation about Occupy Wall Street has faded away, as the movement itself has moved off the front pages of the newspaper. But its activists haven't been idle, certainly. Here's a link to an informative and interesting piece about what they've been up to and what they're going to do next.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chocolate chip cookies

Twenty years ago today, Hillary Clinton made a remark on the campaign trail defending her decision to be a working woman: "I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession." Kirsten Swinth--professor of History and American studies at Fordham--marks that anniversary in an op-ed on Click here to read it...and then come back to the Fordham American Studies blog to comment on it!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

David Graeber's Thoughts on an Occupation

Yesterday I finally had the chance to hear David Graeber speak. The author of Debt: The First 5,000 Years, Graeber is credited with being one of the architects of the consensus decision making at the heart of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I had hoped his talk at Bertell Ollman's Friday afternoon seminar would focus on Debt, as I'd been hankering for some sort of in-person Cliff Notes for the hefty volume that arrived, appropriately enough, under the Christmas tree two months back.

Instead Graeber focused on the rise of Occupy Wall Street, a decision that did not disappoint.  His talk revolved around the question of why this movement has caught the attention of the media and the imagination of the nation when other social movements of the past thirty years were largely ignored.

In answer to this question, he offered a series of possibilities: of course there is the advent of social media and the indignation that follows the immediate webcasts of police brutality. And there is the internationalization of the mass media, so that the earliest reports of OWS were carried by Al Jazeera, and in the Dutch, German, British and Japanese media, leaving the usually conservative American media compelled to cover the movement simply by force of peer pressure. A member of the seminar-sized audience reminded the group that the September 17th events had nearly perfect timing, coming as they did after the infuriating summer of 2011 where the U.S. Congress frittered away the possibility of a jobs bill while debating the increase in the debt ceiling and daring the financial industry to lower the government's credit rating (thereby, of course, dramatically increasing the debt due to increased interest rates.) Americans could not have been more disgusted with their representatives in that moment of rising unemployment rates and congressional stonewalling. The people were primed for someone, somewhere, to fight back against the forces of financialization and congressional intransigence.

But the most provocative idea from Graeber's freewheeling talk stemmed from his analysis of the content on the We Are the 99 Percent tumblr blog, where photos and text tell the stories of hundreds of indebted and unemployed, under-employed, or minimum-wage Americans who share a photograph of themselves with a note detailing their dire economic circumstances. Graeber observed that the preponderance of people posting on this site are women, and that among the men who have posted, most are either in the traditional helping professions of teaching or healthcare, or they are war veterans (our version of caring, mission-driven work for working class men). 

He went on to argue that the indignation that the Occupy movement tapped in to comes from a sense of moral outrage that goes something like this: I've followed the rules, I've done everything the society expects of me (worked hard, studied hard, gone to college, shouldered student and mortgage debt), and now, having entered into some caring profession, I have been rendered so indebted that I cannot even take care of my own family. Meanwhile, the folks on Wall Street have plundered and pilfered the economy, and we've been bailing them out.

The depth of this moral outrage, Graeber asserted, stems from a desire to pursue meaningful work that is thwarted by a system that punishes altruism and rewards greed and swindling.

Graeber continued with his analysis, extending it to the culture industry: For the most part, only the wealthy can afford to take up meaningful work, whether caring or creative.  The price of entry for a job in the arts, or the media, or most of the creative professions is a couple of years working as an unpaid intern — living on nothing in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Anyone without parents wealthy enough to support such a career launch is priced out of creative work—shut out of these fields.  This, he argued, explains the resentment of Americans toward what can be easily cast as a privileged intelligentsia in the media, the universities, and elsewhere.

Photo David Shankbone, October 6, 2011, New York City.
Used under a CC BY 2.0 Attribution License.

Graeber's talk led me to wonder whether the rise of OWS might be seen, at least in part, as a crisis in the work of care.  Traditionally care had been the unpaid work of women in the home, and to a great extent, it continues to be.  But the move of women into the professional labor force created a gap (this becomes a "second shift" for women who can't afford to buy themselves out of the work of care, but represents a market opportunity for entrepreneurs who find ways to sell in-home care services to those who can afford it.) This shift in how care is provided has created an underclass of low-paid nannies, nursing home staff, and in-home healthcare aids, and, at the same time, has priced most of us out of being able to afford care for ourselves and our families. This situation, in turn, creates a market for new financial instruments such as long-term care insurance. The work of care — the intergenerational debt we owe each other — becomes another site where financiers can step in and capture a percentage.

In Self-Help, Inc: Makeover Culture in American Life, I argued that the self-improvement industry's success is driven by American anxiety about remaining employed or employable, and married or marriageable.  I argued that self-help practices are a form of immaterial labor, where individuals are urged to work on themselves to secure themselves against individual obsolescence and that readers of self-help literature find themselves in a cycle of belaboring themselves in order to remain economically viable. But when work on the self, whether through self-improvement regimens, or through the more traditional respected avenues of higher education, leads only to further immiseration, one has to wonder how long it will be before so many belabored selves seek a new occupation.

(This post was originally published on Micki McGee's blog at

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Professor Saul Cornell on originalism and popular constitutionalism.

Saul Cornell--affiliated faculty in American Studies and the Paul and Diane Guenther chair of American history at Fordham--has been writing critically about "Originalism" in constitutional interpretation. The Fordham American Studies blog has called attention to his work before. Recently his writing on this topic--notably this article on New Originalism and popular constitutionalism--has been generating a bit of buzz in the blogosphere, notably in The Faculty Lounge (a blog about law, culture and academia), where he's referred to as "the ever-thoughtful Saul Cornell" and on The Originalism Blog.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why is there no Wikipedia today?

If you try to go to Wikipedia, or dozens of the most popular sites out there, you're going to find them blacked out today (Wednesday, January 18, 2012). If you don't know why--and you don't know what SOPA or PIPA mean--you should find out. Many are saying that these bills in the Senate and House would, if passed, put an end to what's left of the free and open Internet, and even open the door to censorship. Find out more at, or