News & Notes

Announcing the AMCS Postdoctoral Fellowship in Digital Cultures

posted by Jennifer Gallinat

November 14th, 2017

The Program in American Culture Studies (AMCS) at Washington University in St. Louis invites applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Digital Cultures, renewable annually for up to two years contingent upon satisfactory performance; expected start date is July 1, 2018. AMCS is an endowed program in Arts & Sciences that fosters cross-disciplinary intellectual exchange and transformative scholarship at the intersections of the humanities and social sciences. It offers an undergraduate major, a Ph.D. certificate program, a Master's program, and a wide array of collaborative research and teaching activities, seeking to build community among students of American culture from many fields.

We are particularly interested in applicants, academics and/or practitioners, whose research, teaching, and practice (1) have a strong theoretical awareness, but at the same time deeply engage ethnographic, material, and/or historical particulars; (2) center on an historically-informed study of digital cultures, broadly defined, especially as they pertain to media as a site of cultural production; (3) engage the digital transformation of media and the public sphere, as it pertains to the history of political economy and power, and matters of identity, membership, and exclusion. We prefer applicants who engage digital cultures as a subject of study, and not only as a research or presentation methodology.

Candidates must have received the Ph.D. since July 1, 2014, or be scheduled to defend the dissertation before July 1, 2018. The Fellow will receive a salary of $55,000 per year, plus benefits and a $3,000 annual research/travel stipend.

Applications are due by January 1, 2018. For more information and How to Apply, please visit the application information page.

The Future of Food Studies

posted by Brad Jones

November 3rd, 2017

The Future of Food Studies conference brought together more than 50 graduate scholars representing 17 disciplines, 31 different universities, and 9 countries for 2 days of intense dialogue and discussion. Participants came from as far away as Germany and India and from top universities such a Brown, Berkeley, and Harvard. Overall, the conference offered novel theories and methodologies for the study of food and planted the seeds of new subjects of inquiry.

1. What is food studies, and what are the range of approaches to the topic? How do you approach the topic?

Food saturates the human experience. It nourishes, tempts, and disgusts us. It brings us together around the table and it also divides us. Nothing is more universal, nothing more culturally-specific. For years, the study of food occupied only the margins of academia, always on the table but rarely the main course. In the past two decades, however, food studies has leaped into the mainstream. Food studies now boasts its own journals, professional associations, and undergraduate and graduate programs at institutions around the world. Scholars are problematizing local and global food systems, exploring the embodied experience of cooking and consuming food, and analyzing the ways that food produces and reproduces identity, to just scratch the surface. As an anthropologist, I'm particularly interested in the articulation of food production and consumption and the meanings individuals associate with it. For instance, I recently published an article on the reinvention of Lowcountry cuisine in the Carolinas, exploring the way that regional tastemakers are materially and discursively producing palatability and patrimony in the form of heirloom grains. The paper emphasizes that the process of elevating what was once a racialized and marginalized cuisine to gentrified James Beard award-worthy fare is riddled with accentuations and erasures, emphasizing the "tasty" aspects while eliding unsavory others.

2. What were your hopes and goals for the event?

The goal of the conference was to bring together graduate students, themselves the future of food of studies, to trace the contours of these questions the interdiscipline of food studies, now prominently implanted in the academic landscape, faces. For example, new initiants and seasoned scholars might wonder what the interdiscipline accomplished thus far? How will the field continue to evolve as it becomes increasingly institutionalized? What new theories, methodologies, and topics will scholars turn to next? In short, what is the future of food studies? Organized by the Graduate Association for Food Studies, an interdisciplinary academic community with the goal of connecting graduate students interested in food and promoting and encouraging their exceptional work, the conference also sought to build scholarly networks and plant the seeds of new collaborations.

3. How did you go about planning an event of this size and magnitude?

We started early, built a strong organizing team, and met (at times, annoyingly) often over Skype! I can't thank the planning committee enough and the support from some many departments across WashU. Building on the success of the inaugural Future of the Food studies conference at Harvard University in the Fall of 2015, we had a lot of the systems in place to streamline a successful event, but organizing a conference is a heck of a lot of work, especially when the conferences brings in so many people from throughout the country and world. However, the rewards are legion. The payoff of most academic labor is diffuse and delayed, but here it was extremely tangible: the new friendships, the chance to hear cutting edge scholarship, the exceptional conversations, the diverse fieldtrips, and the tremendous keynote lectures. It was also a great opportunity to highlight the exceptional work of students and faculty across Washington University, and further solidify our reputation as a national leader in the study of food and agriculture.

4. Now looking back, what were some highlights of the event for you?

The opportunity to bring prominent scholars Krishnendu Ray and Alison Hope Alkon to campus was a real treat. Their presentations were thought provoking and engaging and stoked a genuine hunger for pursuing further food studies scholarship. I was also extremely impressed with the quality of discussion following each panel. Nutritionists dialoguing with science and technology studies scholars, historians engaging with anthropologists, practitioners debating with theorists. This is where the important and intellectually-stimulating work happens. Conversation among peers from interdisciplinary backgrounds produced a willingness to ask questions freely and critique the "common sense" that might otherwise be taken for granted within the confines of home disciplines. That exchange and affability was also what made the opportunity to get out of the lecture hall and get our hands dirty at Good Life Growing urban farm was such a neat experience. Such interesting conversations to be had about social enterprise, agroecology, urban renewal, community development, and the work we could and should be doing as publically engaged scholars.

5. Anything else you'd like to share?

The conference would not have been possible without diverse institutional support and sponsorship. On behalf of the planning committee, I'd like to thank schools, programs, and departments across WashU: Anthropology, English, History, American Culture Studies, Environmental Studies, the Center for the Humanities, and Brown School of Social Work. Other support came from the American Studies program at Harvard and the Umbra Institute, a study abroad program in Italy with a strong emphasis on food studies. The biggest thank you, though, is owed to Association for the Study of Food and Society, the premier scholarly society for food studies. Their seed grant has made this conference possible, as well as iterations of it in the future. No other organization is more committed to seeing food studies flourish.

New AMCS Program Initiative in Sports & Society Launches Reading Group

posted by Noah Cohan

October 23rd, 2017

The American Culture Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis is pleased to announce the launch of a new Program Initiative in Sports & Society: Culture, Power, and Identity. As its name indicates, the Sports and Society Initiative will generate scholarship and pedagogical tools, venues, and activities focused on the intersections of athletics, identity, and social power.

The aim of AMCS Program Initiatives is to locate productive intersections in the research agendas of a critical mass of Americanist faculty and to facilitate collaborative work that has the potential to result in knowledge production in the form, for example, of published books and articles, lasting archives, and new team-taught courses. To that end, the Sports & Society Initiative will begin by launching a reading group. Open to faculty, graduate students, and sports industry practitioners from across the St. Louis region, the group will engage questions like: How do American sports impact broader discourses concerning politics, the economy, nationhood, and identity formation in the contemporary moment? What is the role that sports, teams, and athletes play in affecting public discourse on matters of gender, race, sexuality, inequality and justice? What are the public health consequences of sporting cultures and economies, and how are these problems affected by changing parameters of athletic participation, regulation, and spectatorship?

The group is intended to foster discovery and new modes of collaboration between those who study different aspects of sports culture from multiple fields but are not often in dialogue, including scholars in the humanities (e.g. social and cultural history, critical race and gender studies, literary criticism); social scientists whose work engages political economy, public health, and consumption; and scholars/practitioners in law, business, and medicine. Participants will meet 3 times per semester for sessions devoted to study of important scholarship on these subjects, including recent work by members of the reading group and invited guests.

Our first planning meeting will take place on November 3 at 3 p.m. in DUC 241. Light refreshments will be served. Interested in participating? Please contact the Sports and Society Initiative organizers, Noah Cohan ( or Pete Benson (, to learn more.

Peter Taylor Delivers University College Convocation Address

posted by Allen Schwab

October 5th, 2017

In baseball terms, Chancellor Wrighton was on target to term the August 23 University College Convocation, "the most important part of the Academic Year." Like Opening Day or Night, Convocation is the moment when everyone's record once more seems 0-0 and the year ahead is filled with new possibilities.

With that introduction, featured speaker University College American Culture Studies M.A. candidate Peter Taylor stepped into the proverbial batter's box.

Taylor represents the remarkable diversity of life experience among our AMCS M.A. candidates. A twenty year Air Force veteran, a former Marriott hotel executive, and following a brief stint as a gentleman farmer, Taylor returned to his native St. Louis to enroll in the University College Combined Bachelor's/Master's Degree Program, where he has excelled as a Dean's List and Honors student. Taylor brought varied experiences collected over a lifetime and a thirty-five year absence from St. Louis, to bear on his undergraduate History honor’s thesis, “The New Negro: Colored Soldiers of World War I, From the Combat Battlefields of France to the Urban Battlefield of St. Louis, Missouri." That work, which earned him both Latin Honors and University College distinction, studied returning African-American veterans to their St. Louis homes. Now a rising second-year in the American Culture Studies M.A. program, Peter has begun a culminating research project with advisor Dr. Allen Schwab that focuses on the impact the post-War arrival of these men had on their families and community. Taylor is no stranger to the pressure and bright lights of Opening Night, and it showed. His speech hit the pitch out of the park.

For his address, fueled by images and reports of the Charlottesville violence, Taylor provided an inspiring account of his encounters with racial bigotry focused by a conversation with his father.

In response to prejudice and mistreatment, Taylor's father urged him "never to stoop to another man's level, but bid them rise to yours," adding that a hunger to read, to acquire knowledge and education would provide insightful learning no bigot could erase. After military travel to forty-eight states and fifty nations, Taylor discovered how common bonds of humanity -- the search for safe shelter, for food, to care for one's children -- often transcend differences of race, nationality, gender, ethnicity, and local cultural norms. Armed with those memories and life lessons, having returned home to St. Louis, Taylor confessed he will approach graduation hearing the voice of his deceased father: "Well done, son; well done."

American Culture Studies Announces Director of Graduate Studies Transition

posted by Iver Bernstein

May 2th, 2016

Clarissa Hayward, Associate Professor of Political Science, steps down from her role as AMCS Director of Graduate Studies this spring, completing her three year term. In addition to her superb mentorship of an expanding group of Harvey Fellows/Graduate Certificate Students, Clarissa has provided crucial leadership in a variety of AMCS initiatives, courses, and activities--Modern Segregation (particularly as grant writer and investigator on the original Modern Segregation Workshops collaborative research grant, as well as reading group coordinator); the successful AMCS Graduate Intro to American Culture Studies "Democracy in America" course, which she taught in fall 2015; the Americanist Dinner Forum, which she convened; the postdoctoral fellowships in Inequality and Identity, and Family and Intimate Relations, to which she made key contributions at every level, from conceptualization, to selection and recruitment, to mentoring; Harvey Fellowship selection; and the AMCS Dissertation Writers' Workshop, which she created and ran. It is impossible to imagine AMCS's growth and intellectual leadership across the Humanities/Social Sciences divide over the last three years without Clarissa's rigorous approach to cross-disciplinary study and wide-ranging influence on the program. Thank you, Clarissa!

AMCS welcomes Peter Benson to the role of Director of Graduate Studies, beginning July 1!

Peter Benson is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology. His main research has been a study of the history and ethnography of tobacco agribusiness in North Carolina, focused on issues of race, labor, corporate power, anti-smoking politics, and the conservative cultural politics of white tobacco farmers amid the long southern strategy, rampant farm loss, and the globalization and industrialization of agriculture. This project culminated with Tobacco Capitalism: Growers, Migrant Workers, and the Changing Face of a Global Industry (Princeton UP, 2012), which was awarded the 2013 Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Prize for the Critical Study of North America from the Society for the Anthropology of North America as well as the 2012 James Mooney Award from the Southern Anthropological Society. Now researching paradoxes and complexities related to the "corporate social responsibility" campaigns of Big Tobacco and other industries, including American football, Benson's scholarship and teaching interests draw on medical anthropology and critical studies in global health and engage conversations in social theory and cultural studies. His goal has been to produce anthropological work that is richly informed by historical and archival research, critically attendant to political economy and biopolitics, and deeply appreciative of human experience as inspired by his fascination with existentialism and phenomenology. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University in 2007 and was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University in 2007-2008.

AMCS is excited to work with Pete in this new leadership role!

American Culture Studies announces the appointment of Jasmine Mahmoud as the new AMCS Postdoctoral Fellow in Inequality and Identity, beginning July 1st

posted by Iver Bernstein

April 26th, 2016

Jasmine Mahmoud will be receiving her Ph.D. from the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University in June. Her research and teaching interests center on aesthetics, race, and urbanism. Her dissertation "Avant-Garde Frontiers in the Austere City: Political Economies of Artistic Placemaking in the Post-Millennial United States" examines the trend of fringe, experimental theater practices taking place in fringe, urban "frontier" neighborhoods, and situates relationships among aesthetics, race, and neighborhood development and displacement in early 21st century New York, Chicago, and Seattle. Her research has been published in TDR: The Drama Review, Performance Research, and Women & Performance. She received her M.A. in Arts Politics from the Department of Art and Public Policy at New York University, and her B.A. in Government from Harvard University.

Please join us in welcoming Jasmine to Washington University and to the American Culture Studies intellectual community!

AMCS Announces the 2016 Lynne Cooper Harvey Writing Prize Winner

posted by Maire Murphy

April 21st, 2016

AMCS is delighted to announce the winner of the 2016 writing prize is rising senior and AMCS Harvey Scholar, Billie Mandelbaum. Her paper, To Contain and Secede: The Making of Missouri’s First All-Black City, was nominated by Professor Margaret Garb from her course, “Visualizing Segregation: A History of St. Louis, Chicago and New Orleans.” An independent prize committee selected Billie’s as the winner from among papers nominated in many different fields. This group represented strong work by the nominees, but Billie’s stood out for its excellence. Committee members were impressed with how she complicated the suburbanization narrative, brought together economic and visual analyses, and untangled the myriad factors leading to the creation of Missouri’s first all-black city.

Congratulations, Billie!

Paper Abstract

This paper examines the political, economic, and social forces that led to the formation of Kinloch, an inner-ring suburb five miles northwest of St. Louis and Missouri’s first all-black municipality. Using a range of primary source documents, including real estate advertisements printed in the St. Louis Argus, new articles published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and US Census records, I trace the early history of Kinloch, from its founding as an all-white streetcar suburb in the 1890s to its establishment as an all-black town surrounded by the white communities of Berkeley and Ferguson in 1937. Ultimately, I argue that the story of Kinloch is one of recurring discrimination and exploitation in which private business interests and eventually municipal law came to create a racially isolated suburb.

Congratulations to our AMCS Postdocs!

posted by Iver Bernstein

March 25th, 2016

American Culture Studies celebrates the accomplishments of its current postdocs, Douglas Flowe, AMCS Postdoctoral Fellow in Inequality and Identity, and Claire McKinney, AMCS Postdoctoral Fellow in Family and Intimate Relations!

In the final year of his Postdoctoral Fellowship with American Culture Studies Douglas Flowe completed research for his manuscript at various archives including the New York Public Library and State Archives in New York City. He also presented his research at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, organized a panel for the centennial conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and was an invited speaker in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Alexandrian Society lecture series. Douglas will be joining the History Department here at Washington University as an Assistant Professor in fall 2016.

Claire McKinney has spent her time at AMCS enjoying fruitful engagement with students and faculty from across the university through teaching and participation in numerous workshops and colloquia. With Cynthia Barounis, she organized a roundtable discussion on disability and intimacy as part of the American Intimacies program initiative of AMCS. She has also published two pieces, one on teaching disability in the humanities classroom and another on genetic selective abortion, while in residence. In fall 2016, Claire will begin as an Assistant Professor of Government and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at the College of William & Mary.

Director's Letter, Fall 2015: Welcome to amcs.wustl

posted by admin

September 1st, 2015

It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the long-anticipated launch of amcs.wustl, our new site for cross-disciplinary exchange and collaboration. Developed to support the many needs of the growing AMCS community, it is intended to house richly varied program content, including profiles of faculty research and teaching, podcasts, events and program archives, course-related digital resources (including projects by our undergraduate students and our Master’s Program candidates), and on-line exhibit curation and other content associated with Faculty Program Initiatives.

An especially noteworthy feature of amcs.wustl is its rich interface: the heightened integration of various forms of information, of textual and audio visual data, that encourages just the sort of cross-disciplinary connection and unscripted bridging the program seeks to cultivate more broadly. Above all, the site is intended to foster interactive learning and experimentation. We will build it out with your contributions!

amcs.wustl is the product of many hands. Over the course of a year, our fantastic digital team has designed the remarkable interface you see before you, and our key partner, Washington University Libraries, has helped us develop the site as a sustainable and flexible resource – one we envision as a living archive of projects past, present and future. We look forward to more of this fruitful collaboration!

In the meantime, we offer our deepest thanks to all the contributors listed below, and to many others who have shared with us their digital project ideas and ingenuity over the past fifteen- plus years. amcs.wustl reflects their thinking as well as our own, and will – we trust – provide occasion for us to continue to learn from one another in years to come!

Please share your ideas with us! We welcome project proposals and suggestions for new features, and will be seeking your contributions in specific areas as the year unfolds. In the meantime, especially in the next two weeks, we will continue to add content that includes your past contributions, including interviews, event video files, updated profiles, and projects from the archives.

Sincerely yours,
Heidi Kolk, Associate Director of AMCS (Acting Director, FL15)
Iver Bernstein, Director of AMCS
Dave Walsh, AMCS Instructional Technology Developer

Digital Projects Team: Amanda Ng, Kierstan Carter, Kenzie Chin, Kathleen Yang, and Arham Khan

We're grateful to Arts & Sciences Computing for years of technical and logistical support of our digital projects, and for assisting in a smooth transition to Olin's Technical Services; to Arts & Sciences Communications for guidance and encouragement in design and development; to the many students and staff who have made significant contributions to the development of this domain: our current admin team, Terri Behr, Máire Murphy and Jennifer Gallinat; former students and staff including Courtney Gray, Cord Luehrman, Morgan Brown, Kelsey Johnston, Katie Sadow, Brian Hamman, Joe Kolk, Sarah Smith-Frigerio, and Deb Jaegers. Particular thanks to Wayne Fields, founding director of AMCS, for creating the landscape amcs.wustl is built upon.