American Studies' faculty have authored a number of critically acclaimed books in recent years. Here is a sampling of their work.
Amber Jamilla Musser, associate professor of American Studies, reimagines black and brown sensuality to develop new modes of knowledge production. Sensual Excess works against the framing of black and brown bodies as sexualized, objectified and abject, focusing on unpacking the relationships between racialized sexuality and consumption to interrogate foundational concepts in psychoanalytic theory, critical race studies, feminism and queer theory.
Melani McAlister, professor of American studies and international affairs, offers a daring new perspective on conservative Christianity by focusing on the world outside American borders. In a narrative covering 50 years of evangelical history, she upends much of what we know—or think we know—about American evangelicals. Her case studies examine, for example, how Christian leaders have fought to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa while also supporting harsh repression of LGBTQ communities.
Jamie Cohen-Cole chronicles the development of a rational, creative and autonomous self and demonstrates how the self became a defining feature of Cold War culture. Cohen-Cole presents an explanation of how policy makers and social critics used the idea of open-minded human nature to advance centrist politics from 1945 to 1965.
Gayle Wald, professor of English and American Studies, examines the first African American black variety television program, "Soul!," which was influential in expressing the diversity of black popular culture, thought and politics, as well as helping to create the notion of black community.
Elisabeth Anker, associate professor of American Studies and political science, argues that American politics is often influenced by melodrama narratives from cinema and literature. This book focuses on the role of melodrama in the news media and presidential speeches after 9/11.
Associate Professor of American Studies Teresa Anne Murphy outlines the development of women's history from the late eighteenth century to the time of the Civil War. Murphy examines literature that promoted domestic citizenship, and how these historical writers set the stage for a more progressive women's rights campaign. Murphy demonstrates that citizenship is at the heart of women's history and, consequently, that women's history is the history of nations.
Associate Professor of American Studies Elaine Peña's study examines three spaces considered sacred to the Virgin of Guadalupe—at Tepeyac in Mexico City, at its replica in Des Plaines, Illinois, and at a sidewalk shrine constructed by Mexican nationals in Chicago. Weaving together on-the-ground observations with insights drawn from performance studies, Peña demonstrates how devotees’ rituals develop, sustain and legitimize these sacred spaces.
Associate Professor of American Studies Chad Heap charts the development of the cultural practice of slumming in Jazz-Age America. Heap argues that slumming not only created spaces where affluent whites could cross preconceived racial and sexual boundaries but also contributed significantly to a new 20th-century social order—one that was structured primarily around a polarized white/black racial axis and a hetero/homo sexual binary.
Gayle Wald delivers the first biography of trailblazing performer Rosetta Tharpe. An African American guitar virtuoso, Tharpe influenced scores of popular musicians, from Elvis Presley and Little Richard to Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt. Wald explores the career of the ambitious performer whose music defied categorization, incorporating blues, gospel, folk, rock-and-roll and electric. Wald was interviewed on Fox8 Cleveland about her book.