Rahima Schwenkbeck

Rahima Schwenkbeck entered the PhD. Program in Fall 2011. A native of Niagara Falls, her interests include utopian studies, the history of US business, advertising and the privatization of space, although she has written on a range of topics from body modification, radioactive landscapes, Juggalos to Googie architecture. She has presented at a variety of conferences, including the PCA/ACA, PAMLA, the Women's Studies Association, and the Forum for Interdisciplinary Studies; served as the Editorial Assistant at the American Quarterly; earned the Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year distinction at CSU-Fullerton; and was recently awarded travel grants from the Center for Communal Studies and the James and Sylvia Thayer Fellowship. Her work is featured in several upcoming volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Populism in America, We Are What We Sell: How Advertising Shapes American Life and Southern Historian. She is a Writing in the Disciplines (WID) TA and has served in that role for classes such as WWII History and Memory, Nation Building on the US-Mexico Border, and Science, Politics and Society in Modern America. Her dissertation examines the economic models of five twentieth century, utopian communities in the US in order to establish new ways of analyzing businesses.
Before attending GW, Rahima earned an MA in American Studies from California State University-Fullerton, and an MA from the University of Minnesota in Liberal Studies, with a concentration in American History and Communications. Her undergraduate work was in Entrepreneurial Management, Marketing and Jewish Studies, also completed at the University of Minnesota. In addition to academia, Rahima is interested in photography, clearance bins, road trips, urban spelunking and the eternal search for the perfect Halloween costume. She welcomes any questions, costume ideas or discussions on utopian economics. 

Current Research

Jeffrey C. Kasch Foundation Research Trip:

This summer, I conducted research at two archives for my dissertation, “Doing Business in Utopia: Entrepreneurship in Communal Societies, 1967-80.” I also attended the Economy & Society Summer School program in Cork, Ireland. Attending the Economy & Society program was especially helpful in terms of career development, and allowed me the honor of meeting the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.

My research led me to the University of North Carolina archives, as they have an extensive collection on Soul City, a new community project initially funded under the Nixon Administration as a part of the Black Capitalism initiative. Soul City is one of the three communities I am examining as part of my dissertation, which examines entrepreneurship emerging from utopian societies during the Long Seventies. In the UNC archives, I broadened my search to include not just their extensive files on Soul City, but also holdings of various government officials and media outlets in the area. I wanted to see how others responded to the development of Soul City in their region, as well as to double check some of the information Soul City self-reported.

My archival research overall was quite successful. I found an array of information: public access shows that were likely not intended to be as humorous as they were, files of angry rantings from elected officials and their constituents, moving letters of heartfelt support, Western Union telegrams, a letter from Jesse Jackson, great dissertations (someone does read them!), photographs of naturists, very 70s marketing brochures, IRS audit findings, and sad notices of bankruptcy. One of my favorite findings this summer was at UNC where I came across a set of VHS tapes of Floyd McKissick reminiscence on the progress and/or demise (depending on one’s perspective) of Soul City. After reading about him for so many years, it was exciting to see McKissick reflect on Soul City. It was not only helpful to my research; it felt like meeting an old friend. Needless to say, I absolutely love diving into the archive. Thanks to the generosity of the Kasch Foundation, I was not only able to enjoy productive archival visits, but I also had the opportunity to share my research abroad.