Faculty News

Dara Orenstein: On Winning the Kluge Fellowship

On September 1st, I’ll pack-up my binders and move three miles away, for a yearlong fellowship at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.  By all accounts, the Kluge fellowship is a wonderful opportunity.  One benefit is that I’ll become acquainted with a diverse group of scholars, and we’ll discuss our research at weekly lunches and monthly colloquia.  Another perk is that I’ll hold special privileges at the world’s largest library, and I’ll be able to request books to be delivered straight to my cubicle, all from my laptop.  Click, select, presto!  What’s more, according to alumnus Kip Kosek (Kluge ‘07), I’ll be allowed to hoard as many items as I want, for as long as I want.  I’ll need to proceed with caution, in other words, and not only in terms of the potential for endless reading.  I’ll also want to consider my neighbors: cubicles can support only so many pages, as Kip himself experienced from the wrong side of a teetering partition. (Read more)


Gayle Wald discusses her book, It's Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television (Duke University Press, 2015) here:


Libby Anker’s book Orgies of Feeling: Melodrama and the Politics of Freedom, will be released by Duke University Press this summer. She has also written articles for her next book, tentatively titled Ugly Freedoms, that are forthcoming in the journals Theory and Event, Political Research Quarterly and Social Research, and in the edited book Everything is Connected: The Politics of HBO’s The Wire

This past year,  Anker has been  chair of the governing committee for the Association of Political Theory, and joined the editorial team of Contemporary Political Theory as an associate editor. Next year, she will be on leave as a faculty fellow in the Honors Program, and is looking forward to developing the course Democracy and Power in A Global Era.


In addition to having his first book published (an excellent review of the book can be found here), Jamie Cohen-Cole was able to spend some time at the Rockefeller Archive Center conducting research on the Social Science Research Council and its support of interdisciplinary exchanges between psychology and linguistics in the 1950s and 1960s.


Jim Deutsch (part-time faculty member and 1991 PhD graduate of the program) taught two American Studies courses this year: a graduate seminar on Folklore and Popular Culture during the spring semester and an online class on American Cinema of the 1960s during the summer. He continues to work at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and curated a program for the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on “China: Tradition and the Art of Living.” During the past twelve months, he has published articles on homelessness, Hungarian heritage, the jackalope, Nicholas Ray, The Searchers and Lincoln Steffens; and has presented papers at conferences of the American Folklore Society, American Studies Association, Eastern American Studies Association, European Association for American Studies, Gypsy Lore Society, International Association for Media and History, Organization of American Historians and Society for Cinema and Media Studies.


This past summer, Kip Kosek published an article on “kneel-ins,” dramatic civil rights protests at Southern churches (“Just a Bunch of Agitators,” Religion and American Culture, Summer 2013). In November, he traveled to UC-Irvine to chair a panel on the Religious Left at the U.S. Intellectual History conference, managing also to find a nice lunch spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean. His current work on 1930s agrarians and decentralists found receptive audiences at the American Academy of Religion meeting in Baltimore and at a conference on American religion and politics sponsored by the Danforth Center at Washington University in St. Louis.

In the fall, Kosek taught a new freshman seminar entitled “Homemade American Religions.” Along with reading and writing assignments, students traveled to three important religious sites in the D.C. area. First, the class got a tour of the Visitor’s Center adjacent to the Washington, D.C., Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (pictured above). Next, students visited Saint’s Paradise Cafeteria, a soul food restaurant run by the United House of Prayer for All People. The last trip was to the L. Ron Hubbard House Museum maintained in Dupont Circle by the Church of Scientology. In all these explorations, students sought to understand how new religions shaped, and were shaped by, their historical and cultural circumstances.


In addition to having her first book published, Jennifer Nash is honored to report that the Black Students Union at GW chose her as “Faculty of the Year.” She also had an article published in Social Text, titled “Institutionalizing the Margins.”


During her first year in the department, Dara Orenstein taught graduate and undergraduate seminars on the practice of American Studies, the concept of work, the history and theory of temporality and the significance of zombies. Outside the classroom, she presented at four conferences: at the ASA on a panel about D.C.; in Barcelona at a workshop on port cities; at NYU at a conference on capitalism and empire in the Americas; and in Paris at a conference on neoliberal urbanism.  She also saw the publication of an issue of the Radical History Review that she co-edited with Aaron Carico on the "Fictions of Finance" (the cover of which features a photograph from the late Allan Sekula).


Elaine Peña is having a stellar year. Supported by an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), she was able to conduct fieldwork in Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (Mexico). That research benefits her second book project—Festive Security: Negotiating Bi-National Relations on the U.S.-Mexico Border. Peña also saw the publication of her article “More than a dead American hero: Washington, the Improved Order of Red Men, and the Limits of Civil Religion,” which appeared in American Literary History (26.1) and put the finishing touches on “Cristo de la Ascensión/Cristo de los Inmigrantes: Sacred Spatiality and Civic Engagement in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico,”  which is forthcoming in the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Material Religion, edited by Manuel A. Vásquez and Vasudha Narayanan. Peña was also able to present her research nationally and internationally at the Biennial Conference on Religion and American Culture sponsored by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture/Indiana University-Purdue University; the Borders, Walls and Security conference organized by the Raoul Dandurand Chair of Strategic and Diplomatic Studies at the Université du Québec
à Montréal (Canada); and the Border Studies: Interdisciplinary Perspectives Workshop organized by the Centro di Studi Africani in Sardegna and the Università degli Studi di Cagliari (Italy). 


Gayle Wald recently turned in the manuscript of her book "It's Been Beautiful": Soul! and Black Power Television, to Duke University Press. The book, featuring 38 photographs by Chester Higgins, will appear in the first quarter of 2015. At the 2014 EMP Pop Music Conference in Seattle, Gayle presented on “Labelle and Black Feminist Musical Self-Fashioning in the 1970s.”