2021 American Studies Newsletter
Message from the Chair
Dear American Studies Alumni,
At our graduation celebration for American Studies students in the spring, I shared one of my favorite quotes: “Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.” These are Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks’s wise words, ones I first encountered three decades ago in an unforgettable Black literature course I took as a college sophomore.
Her counsel captures one important department response to the ongoing uncertainties, anxieties, and suffering — the whirlwind — of our pandemic present: blooming. Inspiring teaching and learning, a prize-winning senior research paper, coveted postdoctoral fellowships, new faculty books, a COVID oral history project, keynote addresses, media appearances, mentoring, service, and thriving alumni.
Thank you for helping to make our department and community bloom!
Archival Project Tells GW’s COVID Story
American Studies Professor Melani McAlister and a team of students collected interviews with the GW community to create a historical archive of pandemic experiences. Dr. McAlister and her student research assistants preserved personal accounts of how faculty, students, alumni and staff experienced the public health crisis, collecting stories of fears and frustrations as well as moments of resilience and even joy. Their project was featured in CCAS Spotlight.
New Books From Our Faculty
We are pleased to announce the recent publication of books by two of our associate professors. Associate Professor of American Studies and Political Science Elisabeth Anker wrote Ugly Freedoms, and Associate Professor of American Studies Thomas Guglielmo authored Divisions: A New History of Racism and Resistance in America's World War II Military.
In Ugly Freedoms (Duke University Press, 2022), Dr. Anker reckons with the complex legacy of freedom offered by liberal American democracy, outlining how the emphasis of individual liberty has always been entangled with white supremacy, settler colonialism, climate destruction, economic exploitation, and patriarchy. These “ugly freedoms” legitimate the right to exploit and subjugate others. At the same time, Dr. Anker locates an unexpected second type of ugly freedom in practices and situations often dismissed as demeaning, offensive, gross and ineffectual but that provide sources of emancipatory potential. She analyzes both types of ugly freedom at work in a number of texts and locations, from political theory, art, and film to food, toxic dumps, and multispecies interactions.
Whether examining how Kara Walker’s sugar sculpture “A Subtlety, Or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” reveals the importance of sugar plantations to liberal thought or how the impoverished neighborhoods in The Wire blunt neoliberalism’s violence, Dr. Anker shifts our perspective of freedom by contesting its idealized expressions and expanding the visions for what freedom can look like, who can exercise it and how to build a world free from domination.
In Divisions: A New History of Racism and Resistance in America's World War II Military, Dr. Guglielmo challenges the conventional wisdom that America's World War II military was a unifying force of unalloyed good. Instead, drawing together more than a decade of extensive research, Dr. Guglielmo argues that the military built not one color line, but a complex tangle of them. Taken together, they represented a sprawling structure of white supremacy. Freedom struggles arose in response, democratizing portions of the wartime military and setting the stage for postwar desegregation and the subsequent civil rights movements.
But the costs of the military's color lines were devastating. They impeded America's war effort. They undermined the nation's rhetoric of the Four Freedoms. They further naturalized the concept of race. They deepened many whites' investments in white supremacy. And they further fractured the American people. Offering a dramatic story of America's World War II military and of the postwar world it helped to fashion, Dr. Guglielmo fundamentally reshapes our understanding of the war and of mid-twentieth-century America.
Alumni Class Notes
- Grace Bautista, BA ’21, was quoted by The Chronicle of Higher Education in the article “What Asian American Student Activists Want.”
- Raven Burnett, BA ’11, is in her third year of law school at Louisiana State University. Previously, she worked at Moody's Investors Service as an associate analyst.
- Elizabeth Cavanaugh, BA ’08, graduated from the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education in May 2021 with her Master of Education with a concentration in enrollment management and policy.
- Cary Cheifetz, BA ’76,was elected secretary of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization that provides help to families and children negatively impacted by the breakup of their family unit.
- Mara Cherkasky, MA ’85, co-founded both the historical research firm Prologue DC and the digital public history project Mapping Segregation in Washington, D.C., in 2014.
- Thomas Dolan, PhD ’21, won a Fulbright U.S. Scholar award to join the History Department at American University Cairo. In addition to teaching, he will use this time to deepen his research in regional archives in preparation for two future book projects.
- Jacqueline Drayer, BA ’15, MA ’18, founded Mulberry History Advisors, a historic preservation consulting firm specializing in national and local register nominations.
- Judith Frankel, BA ’68, worked in Baltimore for a non-profit raising awareness of diminishing habitat for non-migratory birds. She had a private practice specializing in Probate Law. She resides in Miami.
- Dennis Gale, PhD ’82, is a professor emeritus at Rutgers University and recently completed 10 years of teaching at Stanford University. His latest book is The Misunderstood History of Gentrification (Temple University Press, 2021).
- Loren Ghiglione, PhD ’76, received the American Political Science Association’s 2021 Carey McWilliams Award, which honors major journalistic contributions to society’s understanding of politics. In his new book, Genus Americanus: Hitting the Road in Search of America’s Identity, he writes about his 14,000-mile trip across 28 states in search of America’s identity, as well as his own. He was profiled in CCAS Spotlight.
- Cassandra Good, BA ’04, MA ’05, received a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar grant to complete her book, First Family: George Washington's Heirs and the Making of America.
- Abby Grayson, BA ’99, is in her 14th year as a licensed professional counselor, and her ninth year running her own practice.
- Paul Kaplan, MA ’79, is a healthcare editor, working in the pharmaceutical space for the past five years. In his native Philadelphia, he is involved with local civic, political and faith-based organizations.
- Robert Kapsch, MS ’74, MA ’78, has published six books since retiring, including most recently, Building Washington (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018). He and his wife recently settled on an historic farm in Poolesville, Md.
- Paul Kendrick, BA ’05, MPA ’07, co authored alongside his father, Stephen Kendrick, their book Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life and Win the 1960 Election. Since publication in January 2021, Paul and his father have been honored at the reaction the book is getting from Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, and President Obama among others.
- Kat Kirkman, BA ’21, resides in D.C. and is currently pursuing a master's degree in film and media production from American University.
- Chase Kleber, BA ’21, won the 2021 Julian Clement Chase Award for his essay “Sundays in the Park” on Meridian Hill/Malcolm X Park.
- Michael La Place, BA ’85, MA ’89, is the planning director for Princeton, N.J. He recently enjoyed returning to D.C. for the GW Bicentennial celebration weekend.
- Joseph Malherek, MA ’09, PhD ’15, will publish his first book, Free-Market Socialists: European Émigrés Who Made Capitalist Culture in America, 1918-1968, with Central European University Press in 2022.
- Makiko Monden, BA ’77, BA ’81, currently resides in Tokyo, Japan.
- Emily Packer, BA ’08, is the founder of Coldharbour Tiles, a company which manufactures wall and floor tiles from recycled plastic waste.
- Vyta Pivo, Cert ’20, PhD ’21, was named to the University of Michigan Society of Fellows.
- William Rickenbacher, BA ’69, retired from the University of Michigan's Undergraduate Library after 40 years as a manager. He currently lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., and enjoys being in nature as much as possible.
- Torrey Sanders, BA ’17, is leading an effort to protect, preserve and promote the histories of Black Charlestonians.
- Lara Sherris, BA ’21, now lives in New York City working in fashion PR.
- Jason Steinhauer, BA ’02, has a new book, History, Disrupted: How Social Media and the World Wide Web Have Changed the Past, available for pre-order, to be released in December. The book examines how algorithms and social media have shaped what we know about the past.
- David Tevelin, BA ’70, JD ’74, wrote a series of historical novels focusing on crimes in D.C. after a career working for the Department of Justice and serving as the first executive director of the State Justice Institute.
- Yusuke Torii, PhD ’07, teaches at Setsunan University in Osaka, Japan.
- Ariel Waldman, BA ’19, MA ’20, works as a visitor experience specialist at the National Museum of the United States Army in Fort Belvoir, Va.
- Laura Warman, BA ’11, recently won a Lambda Literary Award for her novella Wh*re Foods. She also founded the Warman School, offering classes online in Brooklyn, N.Y., on topics such as death, depression and erotics.
The Department of American Studies mourns the loss of alumna Betsy Wiley, PhD ’05, who passed away on March 29. Betsy entered our doctoral program in 1997, eventually writing a dissertation titled: “Playing the Yankee: Visitors, Natives and the State of Maine in the First Half of the Twentieth Century." She was a predoctoral fellow in residence at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. After graduating, Betsy went on to work as a researcher for Frank Goodyear at the Smithsonian and helped write Zaida Ben-Yusuf: New York Portrait Photographer (2008). A lifelong educator, Betsy returned to teaching in 2011, as an instructor at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Maine. Those who knew Betsy remember her as down-to-earth and warm, a gifted art historian and student of New England culture. The GW American Studies community will miss her deeply.
- Elisabeth Anker spoke to Aljazeera English about President Biden’s speech.
- James Deutsch authored the article, “Are You a Friend of Dorothy? Folk Speech of the LGBTQ Community," for Smithsonian Magazine.
- Vanessa Northington Gamble was quoted by Smithsonian Magazine in the article, “How the Politics of Race Played Out During the 1793 Yellow Fever Epidemic.” President Biden also nominated her to the National Council on the Humanities.
- Chad Heap was quoted by The Boston Globe in the article, “Dreaming of a Federal Writers’ Project 2.0.”
- Melani McAlister published "Analyzing Actants" in a special issue of Diplomatic History on COVID's impact on scholarship in the June 2021 issue.
- Suleiman Osman’s book was quoted by Vox in the article, “What we talk about when we talk about gentrification.”
- Elaine Peña's new book, ¡Viva George! Celebrating Washington's Birthday at the U.S.-Mexico Border, won the Jim Parish Award for Documentation Publication of Local/Regional History from the Webb County Heritage Foundation.
- Gayle Wald spoke to Connecticut Public Radio’s “The Colin McEnroe Show” in the segment, “The Poet Laureate Of Rock 'N' Roll At 80.” She was also quoted by The Washington Post in the article, “Blues singer ‘Big Mama’ Thornton had a hit with ‘Hound Dog.’ Then Elvis came along.”