American Studies Theses and Dissertations

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    Roger Williams Park: Providence, Rhode Island's Response to the American Urban Parks Movement, 1868-1892
    (1988) Barbeau, Laura Jo; Caughry, John; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, MD)
    As a result of industrialization and growth, early nineteenth century urbanites began to lose accessible natural environments. Concern among the middle classes and social elite gave birth to the Rural Cemetery Movement in 1831, which spurred the creation of New York's Central Park in 1858. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, it was the nation's first example of what became t he Urban Parks Movement. The movement embraced a new landscape aesthetic and philosophy focusing on man's relation to nature and the moral and social benefits of this relationship. Vital to this framework was a belief in the park's ability to improve the social behavior and artistic sensitivities of the lower and working classes. This case study examines how Providence, Rhode Island experienced the Urban Parks Movement from 1868 to 1892. During a three-phase process of implementation , conflict arose over issues of moral improvement, civic boosterism, and real estate speculation. After public debate concerning its location, Providence's first substantial public park, Roger Williams Park, was officially approved by the city government in 1872. Six years later the park was designed by Horace Cleveland in accordance with the landscape aesthetic of the Urban Parks Movement. Cleveland was an associate of Olmsted and one of the nation's few noteworthy nineteenth century landscape architects. This study has utilized primary sources such as mayoral correspondence , public addresses , annual reports, real estate deeds, and plot maps to trace Providence's park-making process. My study of Roger Williams Park concludes in 1892 with the completion of Cleveland's plan and the addition of three hundred acres to the park. This thesis shows how the development of an urban park is the product of particular social and cultural forces.
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    Marguerite Higgins: Journalist 1920-1966
    (1983) Keeshen, Kathleen Kearney; Lounsbury, Myron O.; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, MD)
    The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the journalistic c areer of Marguerite Higgins from 1940 to 1966, to analyze her notions of news and news writing and of the duties of a journalist, and to assess her contributions to the field of American journalism. Marguerite Higgins was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism for international reporting. Her award recognized her war correspondence from Korea, where she firmly established the acceptance of women covering the news from the battlefield. Higgins contributed to mid-twentieth century journalism in signficant ways: she wrote hundred of articles for newspapers and periodicals over the twenty-five years of her career. Her work ranged from cub reporting on the Vallejo (California) Times-Herald, to a twenty-one year career with the New York Herald Tribune, to the rank of syndicated columnist with the Newsday Syndicate in the early Sixties. A graduate of the University of California at Berke ley and of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1942, Higgins demonstrated that a woman could handle the professional demands and responsibilities of fast-paced and often danger-filled journalism. In addition to her front-page newspaper stories, Higgins described events of the times in scores of periodicals and in a number of books that include War in Korea: Report of a Woman Combat Correspondent (1951); News Is a Singular Thing (1955); Red Plush and Black Bread (1956); and Our Vietnam Nightmare (1965). In addition in 1962, she wrote a juvenile, Jessie Benton Fremont, and with Peter Lisagor, in 1963, described experiences of some State Department representatives in a collection called Overtime in Heaven: Tales of the Foreign Service.
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    Paradise Remixed: The Queer Politics of Tourism in Jamaica
    (2023) Abdullah-Smith, Hazim Karim; Mirabal, Nancy R; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Employing an interdisciplinary approach, “Paradise Remixed: The Queer Politics of Tourism in Jamaica” examines the dominant historical, literary and ideological narratives of tourism in Jamaica. At the same time, it examines the intersection of tourism and sexuality through an analysis of media representations of homophobia and queer Jamaican discussions of progress. Noting that tourism is a privileged form of mobility, this dissertation uses tourism to interrogate the array of historical and contemporary tensions of class, race, sexuality and how such tensions are negotiated through Black diasporic and queer Jamaican ways of knowing. This dissertation begins by tracing how the promotion of Jamaica as an ideal tourist destination, since the early 1900s, heavily shaped politics and culture on the island and abroad. Jamaica’s reputation as a tourist paradise was manufactured and depended on a continual rearticulation of what Jamaica is and who Jamaicans are. Drawing on a range of media archives from Jamaican newspapers to African American lifestyle publications, this dissertation argues that the success of Jamaica’s paradisical tourist image comes after difficult debates about how Jamaica should be represented. Interestingly, the successful touristic representations would greatly impact how African Americans would imagine Jamaica as a tourist destination. By the late 20th century, tourism again becomes a site of fracture and precarity. The calls to end homophobic music and a proposed boycott threatened Jamaica’s image as a welcoming paradise. The leaders of these campaigns, primarily North Americans, deployed a global strategy that brought attention to homophobia in Jamaica. However, these same leaders failed to amplify the nuanced voices of queer Jamaican activists who were progressively gaining visibility, strengthening their own organizations and articulating for themselves what it means to be queer and Jamaican. In recent years, some have even established their own tourism businesses. For example, initiatives like Connek create safe spaces for queer people, spark genuine transnational connections and transform perceptions of queer life in Jamaica. In centering queer Jamaican experiences, this dissertation highlights the nuanced voices, artistic expressions and activism of queer Jamaicans, and acknowledges the safe spaces they have and continue to create through tourism and beyond.
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    Counter-Capital: Black Power, The New Left, and the Struggle to Remake Washington, D.C. From Below, 1964-1994
    (2023) Kumfer, Timothy Daniel; Hanhardt, Christina B; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    "Counter-Capital: Black Power, the New Left, and the Struggle to Remake Washington, D.C. From Below, 1964-1994” traces how grassroots organizers in the nation’s capital fought for greater control over the city and its future between the War on Poverty and rise of neoliberal austerity, helping to shape its recent past and present. Comprising a set of linked case studies, it explores how a generation of activists forged in the crucibles of the Black freedom struggle and resistance to the Vietnam war responded locally to redevelopment schemes, planned inner-city freeways, nascent gentrification, and an exponential rise in homelessness from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. The campaigns they waged brought them into confrontation with federal administrators, legislators, mayors, and even the president. They also led to moments of collaboration with the state, altering the course of urban and social policy locally and nationally and contributing to the growth of community development and direct service approaches. Going beyond the boundaries of policymaking, the radicals it follows fostered emancipatory and participatory visions for the District and urban life more generally rooted in their movement ideals, ones which remain instructive even as they encountered obstacles to their full realization. Drawing on a diverse array of archival materials including organizational newsletters, meeting minutes, event flyers, campaign brochures, and correspondence; underground press and community papers alongside mainstream news outlets; documentary film and preserved footage; and oral histories and personal interviews, “Counter-Capital” contributes to debates in the fields of African American, social movement, and urban history. The project is further animated by and participates in discussions taking place across the correlating interdisciplinary fields of African American studies, American studies, and urban studies, bringing aspects of these fields that don’t always speak to one another into closer conversation. Laboring at these intersections, it shows how sustained attention to space—and specific places—can reframe the historiography of Black Power and the New Left and how centering activists and their campaigns expands the literature on Washington while troubling conventions in the composite portrait of late 20th C. US cities.
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    Lucy Stone: Speaking out for Equality
    (1995) Kerr, Andrea Moore; Diner, Hasia; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md)
    This dissertation attempts a cultural, political, and traditional biography of the abolitionist and feminist leader, Lucy Stone, (1818-1893). It also offers a major revision of nineteenth-century historians' treatment of the schism that occurred immediately after the Civil War in the woman suffrage movement. The issue that divided Stone from Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony was whether woman suffragists should work to prevent passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Stone led the majority of suffragists in supporting the enfranchisement of freedmen; Stanton and Anthony actively campaigned to defeat black suffrage. The schism that resulted lasted for more than twenty years. During this time, Stone forged the American Woman Suffrage Association into an effective, politically savvy lobbying machine. Its work and its methods formed the model for the organization that would eventually attain woman suffrage in 1920. The dissertation also focuses on Stone's private life, seeing in it both the extraordinary triumph of a singular "public" woman over the restrictions of her time and place, and the desperate personal struggle of the "private" woman, trying to balance marriage, motherhood, and career. Rising from humble, yeoman stock in western Massachusetts, Stone became internationally famous. From her pre-nuptial marriage agreement of 1855 to the unusual conditions of her will written as she lay dying in 1893, Stone attempted to thread her way through a legal, political, and social minefield.
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    (2022) Sessoms, Christina Simone; Williams-Forson, Psyche; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Out of 104,953 doctoral degrees earned by women within the United States in 2019-2020, Black women obtained 10,576 PhDs across the span of academic disciplines, equating to 11.1%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (2021). However, research has not done its due diligence of parsing through the data to understand the stories of the women who make up those 10,576 PhDs granted. This dissertation study explores the lived experiences of Black women who specifically transitioned from their undergraduate institutions into doctoral programs at predominately white institutions (PWIs) and how Black joy may be employed as a persistence mechanism toward degree completion. Because no literature exists to understand this community of doctoral students, this groundbreaking study begins with the question of what are the lived experiences of Black women who transition directly from their undergraduate to doctorate at PWIs? The dissertation continues to push further to then question how Black women in doctoral programs understand, experience, and sustain their joy and in what ways does joy inform persistence and resistance amongst these sista scholars. Utilizing Patricia Hill Collins’ (2000) Black Feminist Thought as a theoretical foundation and Black feminist-womanist storytelling as the chosen methodology, I argue that this specific transition is one that must be deeply explored because of unique components and that Black joy does, in fact, serve as a positive mechanism for persistence. Life stories were collected through two interlocking methods of semi-structured interviews and focus groups amongst 14 Black women spanning 12 different academic fields in PhD programs across the United States. By sharing life narratives of Black women in doctoral programs, in-depth insight is gathered concerning reasons for going to graduate school, academic and socialization transitions, three primary barriers to success - age being a salient identity, mental health challenges, and perceived & real pressure, and, lastly, understanding and experiencing joy through self, community, and work. Through this research project, Black women in doctoral programs created space to critique and disrupt the Ivory Tower while producing joy amongst each other.
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    (2022) Perez, Christopher J; Sies, Mary; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution is the impetus for asylum seekers to flee their home countries and seek protection elsewhere. Much of the scholarly literature and published legal cases correlate persecution with trauma and approach traumatic events of asylum seekers as always living with barriers or as a “victim.” Additionally, while there is extensive research and scholarly work on LGBTQ immigrants, there is little work specifically on LGBTQ asylum seekers, which suggests these stories matter and have value but often go unheard. Whose stories are told, heard, and valued with immigrants, and specifically asylum seekers? And, what are the risks or advantages of telling stories? For asylum seekers, making a credible case of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution places their trauma in an exchange of capital that advances neoliberal governmentality in the U.S. The nation-state benefits when resourceful “victims” of persecution ask for protection. Neoliberal governmentality can be traced to Michel Foucault’s notion of “biopower” where the body is viewed as a laboring machine, disciplining the body to optimize its capabilities and extort its forces. Biopower is literally having power over other bodies in “an explosion of numerous and diverse techniques for achieving the subjugations of bodies and the control of populations.” Although neoliberal governmentality is a necessary component in discussions of political asylum, its reductionist aim leaves little room for agency for asylum seekers or those with asylum status. How might political asylees use their identities and trauma to subvert neoliberal governmentality? I argue that LGBTQ asylum seekers use their own tactics and techniques in an “art” of self-determination or what I call queer resilience to navigate and negotiate systems and structures of power. While there is no doubt that trauma exists for asylum seekers, using trauma to categorize asylum seekers as lacking, weak, defective, or even victims is a reductionist approach in understanding asylum seekers’ identities and agency. Trauma is operational in how one negotiates structures and systems of power, different spaces, building networks, and obtaining resources. Trauma offers both a useful entry into the legal aspects of political asylum processes and also advances discussions of subjectivity and epistemology. Using narrative analysis, grounded theory, poststructuralist theory, and queer theory, this dissertation unpacks the creative agency of LGBTQ asylum seekers as they make sense of their lives, form their identities, navigate spaces, and negotiate systems of power to “queer” political asylum processes. More specifically, using interviews and examining published cases and other published archival materials, this dissertation details the story of a gay man from a Latin American country who successfully gained asylum in the U.S. and how his asylum process, his trauma, and his racial, gendered, and sexual identities contributed to his agency, which subverts political asylum and offers new ways to consider the operation of biopower, governmentality, and self-determination.
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    "Lovers on a Mission": Black Intimacies in Popular Culture and Digital Social Media Fandom
    (2022) Adams, Brienne Amaris; Lothian, Alexis; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Social media provides a way to study Black people’s relationship to the raced and gendered ways that they contend with their intimate lives with friends, family, and their romantic partners through studying their relationship to contemporary cultural productions. Digital Black fandoms constitute Black digital intimacies through affective fandom engagements on social media. Guiding this dissertation are two research questions: How do Black fans grapple with the intimate aspects of their friendships, family, and romantic lives by engaging their fandom objects on social media? How does social media provide a platform to build community through creating new discourse about the romantic and intimate lives of Black people? Utilizing theories from Black Studies, Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Fan Studies, and Digital Studies, this dissertation analyses web series, television, film, and music. Autoethnography, close reading, and participant observation guide the methods and methodologies for the dissertation. First, the fandom of the queer web series Between Women (2011-2017), which depicts Black lesbians in Atlanta and their romantic, friendship, and family relationships. Next, this dissertation chronicles the journey of the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (2011- 2013) to Insecure (2016-2021), which features two Black women best friends and their rollercoaster romantic relationships in Los Angeles. Finally, Beyoncé’s album Lemonade (2016), her husband JAY-Z’s album 4:44 (2017), and her sister Solange’s album A Seat at the Table (2016) as they each explore themes of racial injustice, love, and family. Through this process, “affirmative transformative” fandom demonstrates how digital Black fandom works of Black cultural productions affirm and transform the interior ways Black fans reflect on their interpersonal relationships. “Affirmative transformative” fandom is an amalgamation of traditional definitions of affirmative fandom, where fans affirm that they like a cultural production, and transformative fandom when fans create a new work inspired by their fandom object. The combination of “affirmative transformative” fandom intervenes in how Black fans affirm their fandom objects and themselves while simultaneously creating new fandom works and explaining the ways their interpersonal lives are transformed. The artists’ production and fans’ relationship to these cultural productions demonstrate that the quotidian aspects of the intimate are necessary to keep in conversation with other forms of resistance to self and world-make for themselves as an act of agential labor for and by Black fans.
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    (2021) Hufnagel, Ashley Marie; Padios, Jan; Hanhardt, Christina; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    In the spring of 1968, over six thousand poor people—black, chicano, white, Puerto Rican, and Native American from rural areas to urban centers—converged on Washington, D.C. to call attention to poverty and inequality in the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world. This six-week demonstration was part of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final and oft-forgotten Poor People’s Campaign. Fifty years later, thousands of people in over forty states have taken part in reviving this movement as the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (PPC 2018+), co-chaired by Bishop William Barber and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. From low-wage workers’ fight for $15/hour minimum wage in the South to the Apache struggle to protect sacred land from copper mining in Oak Flat, Arizona; from the battle to stop emergency managers from poisoning and privatizing water services in Michigan to the urgent demands to abolish the criminalization of black, immigrant, and poor communities, “Learn as We Lead” investigates how local and national organizers are utilizing the vehicle of the campaign to build a broad-based movement across lines of identity, geography, and issue, while centering the leadership of the poor. Drawing on participant observation within the campaign, interviews with over forty grassroots leaders from twenty-seven states, and archival research, this dissertation uncovers how movement practitioners are reproducing and reformulating a long history of multiracial and multi-issue class politics—from the welfare rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s to the National Union of the Homeless of the 1980s and 1990s, from the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC) of the early 2000s to the Moral Mondays and low-wage worker movements of recent years. In a time of deepening political, economic, environmental and health crisis, leaders with the PPC 2018+ offer critical insights on forging class consciousness and solidarity across difference.
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    (2021) Malone, Shoji Von; Williams Forson, Psyche A; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Church hats and other head adornments are a major component of Sunday morning worship for many Black Christian women. Wearing a hat, also known as a crown, is a part of the Sunday ritual and culture of Black churches. This dissertation, Rubies in Their Crowns: An Examination of African American Church Women and Head Fashion, explores the ways in which Black women’s clothing, especially head adornment, aid in revealing how they self-define, self-actualize, and perform self-awarenesss. I argue that Black church women have used and continue to use head adornment to express themselves socially, culturally, and politically. Through head adornment these women begin to create, define, and express Black womanhood differently throughout time. Methodologies in material culture studies, visual culture studies, cultural studies, and ethnography using intersectionality are employed to conduct close readings of primary sources—images, newspaper articles, catalogues, and church manuals. Additionally, I conducted life history interviews with eleven hat-wearing Black church women. These participants from the Mid-Atlantic to the Midwest, illuminate the ways that head adornments tell stories of access, creativity, and entrepreneurship. In revealing Black women’s role as cultural producers their words also unveil how their hats become decorated crowns.
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    Sunday Morning Matters: The Production of Gendered Subjects in White Evangelical Life
    (2021) Michael, Kelsey Sherrod; Wong, Janelle; Padios, Jan; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    As evangelical Christian demographics in the United States have increasingly diversified, pundits and scholars have sought to understand the persistent political power of white American evangelicals. This interdisciplinary dissertation argues that a key mechanism of the political formation of white evangelical Christians has been hiding in plain sight: The weekly church worship service in predominantly white congregations has provided remarkable continuity as a means of political formation for churchgoers, particularly through worship rituals indebted to ideologies of gender and race. Drawing on Black feminist thought, phenomenology, and the anthropology of religion, I describe the white evangelical church worship service as an axis of “haunting” across time and space, where patriarchal relations of power built on racialized discourses of manhood and womanhood continue to shape the everyday lives of churchgoing women. I rely on textual analysis of evangelical digital culture and original ethnographic fieldwork, including interviews, with churchgoing women in the southern U.S. to uncover how women’s experiences in church structure their consciousness in dimensions of their lives not often considered inherently “religious”—work and labor, sex and marriage, performance and material culture, and the knowledge and discipline of the self. In clarifying this phenomenological process by which churchgoing women become gendered and therefore political subjects, the project identifies the significance of the white evangelical church worship service to white evangelical subject formation and the implication of white supremacy in this process. More broadly, the dissertation calls for a reappraisal of the importance of religious ritual to the construction of identity and difference in and through white American Christianity.
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    Becoming Your Labor: Identity, Production, and the "Affects of Labor"
    (2021) Benitez, Molly; Hanhardt, Christina; Padios, Jan; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    “Becoming Your Labor: Identity, Production, and the’ Affects of Labor’,” analyzes the role work plays in our lives by focusing on how Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer (LGBTQ+) trades workers navigate their identity in the workplace and beyond. This project draws on autoethnographic and ethnographic research with LGBTQ+ identified trades workers over a span of six years plus select historical evidence. Bringing together feminist and queer of color critique, affect theory, and theories of work, this dissertation considers what I call the ‘affects of labor’ – the visceral and active consequences of our working environments that metabolize through our bodies and produce our identities, relationships, and communities. “Becoming Your Labor” focuses on the experiences of LGBTQ trades workers in the Pacific Northwest. While focusing on LGBTQ+ and QTBIPoC trades workers, this research emphasizes how the experiences and lessons of a precise group of workers has much to teach us about larger systems of power shape labor, identity, and community. Individual chapters address how workplace culture is created through history, affects, and bodies; how workers implement various strategies for survival; and how these strategies have consequences for workers, their families, and communities. Chapter one delves into the racist and patriarchal foundation of the trades and the culture of abuse, violence, and toxic masculinity, these foundations have fostered. Here I define the ‘affects of labor.’ In chapter 2 my co-creators speak about how they navigate the affects of their labor at work, specifically harassment, bullying, and fear, and the strategies they enact such as ‘wearing a mask,’ changing their physical appearance, and trying to hang with ‘the boys.’ Chapter three addresses what happens when the “affects of labor” that come home with us. In this chapter trades workers describe how their work has had impacts on their home lives due to depression, violence, and addiction. Chapter four pivots from a focus on the “negative” ‘affects of labor’ to their liberatory potential centering on the experiences of workers employed at Repair Revolution, an LGBTQ+ owned and operated automotive repair shop. The project makes two critical interventions: it traces an alternate genealogy for affect theory through feminist and women of color critique; and it offers the ‘affects of labor’ as a new framework to think through how affects do more than stick to, move, or push, but actually produce and reproduce bodies and identities. In an era in which discussions of workplace power and culture have entered the mainstream – from the “Me Too” movement to the popular claim that the problem of police violence rests on “a few bad apples” – this dissertation aims to offer new understandings of the consequences of work and urges us to think more critically about the dialectical process in which workers, their families, and communities are produced by labor.
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    Black Gay and Bisexual Men, Internet Access, Memory, and Visual Culture
    (2021) Jiles, Robert De Von; Bruce, La Marr J; Farman, Jason; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Drawing from the fields of visual culture, black queer studies, black feminist theory, internet studies, and affect theory, “Black Gay and Bisexual Men, Internet Access, Memory, and Visual Culture” focuses on black gay and bisexual men who have internet access to create, view, and circulate visual representations about their own experiences and how they challenge, subvert, and reify negative and one-dimensional representations about their lived experiences. The cultural objects analyzed in the dissertation include two episodes from playwright and screenwriter Donja R. Love’s independent scripted web series Modern Day Black Gay and Darius Clark Monroe’s short film Slow. Both cultural objects were released for online viewing and can be accessed for free. As Black queer visual culture, Slow and MDBG trouble a racial and heteronormative visual field that renders black gay and bisexual men as excess. Tapping into affects such as desire, intimacy, love and pleasure, Love and Monroe use memory in the cultural objects to create visual images from the excess. In turn, the cultural objects stimulate black gay and bisexual viewers’ memories, and activate affective encounters occur Slow and MDBG use visual images to interrogate and reinscribe notions about black sexuality, black masculinity, black family and community, black love, same-sex romance, and black religion. This dissertation investigates the relationship between artists, the art objects, and the viewers and look for meaning in their creation, representation and interpretations of gay online hookup culture, gender and sexual stereotypes, and conservative homophobic Christian beliefs and practices. In addition to a textual analysis of the cultural objects, methods in the dissertation include interviews, self-ethnography, several small group screenings of the cultural objects by black gay and bisexual male participants, and group discussions following the screenings about the participants' interpretations of the material and how their experiences relate to the cultural texts.
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    "Unfit for Family Life": How Regimes of Accumulation, Sexuality, and Antiblackness Have Built (and Rebuilt) West Baltimore
    (2020) Choflet, Robert Thomas; Sies, Mary Corbin; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    “'Unfit for Family Life': How Regimes of Accumulation, Sexuality, and Antiblackness Built (and Rebuilt) West Baltimore,” is an historical study of West Baltimore housing transformation in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. Derived from in-depth oral histories conducted over a number of years with fifty-three Baltimore residents who have lived in (or currently live in) public housing, this project drew from resident reflections and rigorous archival work, in order to investigate the demolition campaigns that reduced Baltimore's public housing stock by almost half and the privatization campaigns that have rebuilt these once public spaces. Policy makers, housing reformers, planners, and real estate interests constructed a shared cultural politics that imagined black women as imperiled actors, public housing as destabilizing to black family life, and demolition and privatization as a necessary, even moral, intervention. This process ignored black women's organizing efforts and specific political demands, while isolating them from one another and disrupting established political coalitions. In spite of this, oral histories reveal continued efforts by residents to organize for democratic redistribution of housing resources.
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    Revisiting the Reservation: The Lumbee Community of East Baltimore
    (2020) Minner, Ashley Colleen; Williams Forson, Psyche; Pearson, Barry L; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    “Revisiting the Reservation” is an analysis of the relationship between Baltimore’s Lumbee Indian community and the neighborhood where the community settled following the second World War. It is an inquiry into the roles of memory and place in the formation of identity. Vestiges of the Lumbee tribal homeland in North Carolina have become part of the built environment in East Baltimore as a result of the presence of Lumbee people. Tangible aspects of East Baltimore now also exist in the Lumbee tribal homeland. Lumbee people of East Baltimore are the living embodiment of both places. Over time, the community’s connection to the neighborhood has changed due to a complex set of factors ranging from Urban Renewal to upward mobility. This dissertation asks how the community’s identity has been affected. American Indian identity, constructed through a colonial lens, necessarily diminishes over time due to changing connections. The Baltimore Lumbee community illustrates that identity is actually an additive, adaptive process; heritage is living and culture continually evolves. This dissertation utilizes an interdisciplinary framework synthesized from the fields of American Indian Studies and Public Folklore to consider questions of heritage using a decolonial lens. The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina is introduced via the tribal homeland and the social and economic conditions that prompted a mass migration to East Baltimore. East Baltimore is introduced via an abbreviated chronicle of the presence of American Indian people and other racial and ethnic groups leading up to the presence of Lumbee. Drawing primarily on oral history interviews and archival research, experiences of Lumbee arriving to Baltimore in the postwar years are highlighted, as are the safe havens they adopted, established and stewarded to exist freely and in community with one another away from “home.” The research process to map Baltimore’s former “reservation” and develop a walking tour to commemorate its sites is detailed as a project of reclamation of history, space, and belonging. An analysis of the expressive culture of subsequent generations of Baltimore Lumbee, including fashion, material possessions, food, and speech, reveals that memory and place play significant roles in the formation of identity. As connection to place changes over time, memory of place within identity prevails. Communities must share memory to understand how to engage in a future.
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    Troublesome Properties: Race, Disability, and Slavery's Haunting of the Still Image
    (2019) Mobley, Izetta Autumn; Corbin Sies, Mary; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Troublesome Properties: Race, Disability, and Slavery’s Haunting of the Still Image interrogates race, disability, slavery, and the visual, arguing for a reorientation of disability studies toward a comprehensive analysis of how Atlantic slavery structured the West’s conceptualization of the abled body. Slavery haunts the aesthetic impulses, discursive engagements, and visual formations that construct both disability and race. Slavery and disability have been historically mutually constitutive, establishing a network of power relations that define how the United States understands citizenship, sovereignty of the body, capital, labor, and bodily integrity. Troublesome Properties’ intervention places photography – specifically nineteenth-century daguerreotypes, cartes de visites, and portraiture –in conversation with race, disability and slavery, inviting a critical look at the social resonance of photographic production. This interdisciplinary project is deeply invested in the nineteenth century and critically considers how visual imagery establishes concepts of disabled and abled bodies. The visual and material analysis of visual culture and photography links my discussion of disability to racially marked bodies, explicitly illustrating how slavery haunts how we see and tie Blackness to disability. The illustrations, photographs, medical records, biographies, and ephemera of conjoined African American twins Millie and Christine McKoy serve as evidence of the troubled definitions of consent, care, property, and exploitation inherent in enslavement, disability, and display. Octavia Butler’s 1979 speculative novel, Kindred, anchors my discussion of the impact of disability on Black disabled women. Black scholars, artists, and historians have consistently employed photography as a visual tool to assert the humanity of Black people. The photographic suite Dorian Gray by Yinka Shonibare, a series that makes overt the parallels between disability and colonialism, are placed in conversation with W.E. B. Du Bois’ American Negro exhibit, demonstrating how race, disability, and the visual construct notions of which bodies matter, when, where, and why. In Troublesome Properties, I argue that we must approach visual production, material culture, and disability studies with the intention to reclaim the marked, raced, gendered, and disabled Black body, using slavery and an optimistic pessimism to construct a complex genealogy for disability studies.
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    Zero-Sum Game: GamerGate and the Networked Discourse of Hate
    (2019) Meyer, Joseph Bernard; Farman, Jason; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Zero-Sum Game utilizes GamerGate – a 2014 harassment campaign against prominent women in the video game industry – to develop a close reading of networked publics in order to understand how power manifests and is enacted online. I combine Actor Network Theory and Critical Technocultural Discourse Analysis to first map and archive GamerGate’s participants, targets, platforms, and media followed by platform-specific feminist readings of discourse occurring across the map. Each chapter focuses on how hate and harassment transform (and are magnified) across platforms, an analysis that is further refracted through multidisciplinary, theoretical frameworks. These frameworks are 1) the gamer technicity that subsumed overt white supremacist heteropatriarchy into developing neoliberal individualism that replaces embodied identity with identity through consumption, 2) the ecology of social media and the interaction of platforms that amplify and transform digital expressive media, 3) a phenomenology of information exploring the mediation of lived experience via networked publics that challenges dominant ideology while also providing the tools for the denial of alternative subjectivities and the construction of alternative information networks, and 4) a consumer choice model of online harassment that builds on the previous three theories to provide consumption of an “apolitical” identity that allows for the abdication of responsibility for the actions of hate groups and harassment they have allied themselves with. I argue that the driving force behind GamerGate is the reactionary impulse by those who benefit from structures of power to the challenges posed by broadcast experiences and identities unfiltered by hegemonic processes of traditional media structures. GamerGate thus signifies the violent reaction by those in power to the loss of control faced in the digital age as discursive constructions of identity are challenged across platforms.
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    Trans Space As Cultural Landscape--Transgender Women of Color in Washington, D.C.
    (2019) Anthony, A S; Parks, Sheri; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Transgender civil rights and public displays of trans visibility have come to the fore of the American imagination. To date, however, little work has thoroughly examined Black and Latinx trans women’s central role as experts in LGBT community-caregiving practices. As a result, scholarship and popular culture concerned with “the transgender tipping point” (Time May 29, 2014) generally endorse a narrative that characterizes transgender women of color primarily as celebrities, victims of transphobic violence, or historic figures of the LGBT liberation movement, if they are mentioned at all, making their everyday lives marginal or non-existent at a time when their presence in popular culture is exploding. Without an adequate fieldwork model, we undervalue the everyday lives and landscapes of transgender women of color in the United States, ultimately leading to a two-dimensional conceptualization of identity categories such as race, gender, and sexuality. Trans Space as Cultural Landscape—Transgender Women of Color in Washington, D.C, remedies this gap by creating and applying Bodies in spaces—the trans cultural landscape analysis fieldwork model. The trans model extends the work of Americanist Jeremey Korr (2002) to reimagine the study of trans space, place, and gender transition. It is divided into the following components: detailed site description, aesthetics, language and material culture, and community research. At the heart of Trans Space is an ethnographic study of Casa Ruby, a bilingual social service nonprofit in Washington, D.C. ( The trans model allows me to addresses the queer and trans problematics of my particular site: addiction, prostitution, and homelessness. The model then expands to examine the work of trans celebrities such as Laverne Cox in order to trace the circuitous paths of daily transition and sisterhood. The evolution of the following inquiry guides my commitment to cross-discipline methodologies and community involvement. Space stages the expansive possibilities of gender transition. In extending gender transition narratives to functions that do not apply to space, how do we know a trans space when we see it? And what do these spatial transitions and pop culture representations tell us about an American investment in identity and its tipping points?
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    Collossus of Rutgers: The Visual and Print Media Legacy of Paul Leroy Robeson
    (2019) walsh, shane bolles; Williams-Forson, Psyche; Corbin- Sies, Mary; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    One of the most celebrated African American figures known worldwide, Paul Leroy Robeson was primarily erased from history books for almost a decade after he began speaking out about injustices stemming from the second Red Scare. Fewer still know of his formative years and early influences. This erasure can only be counteracted with targeted scholarship. As a project of reclamation, this American Studies dissertation joins scholarship in other fields that aim to restore Paul Robeson to his proper place in history with the hope of prompting a new wave of research on the subject. The youth and early career of Robeson is the targeted era (before his matriculation at the University of London in 1934) of this work. The central question around which this dissertation is organized is this: Through a close examination of the role that the skin and masculinity of Paul Robeson played in his early life and career, how can we come to understand the ways that the resulting gaze was imposed on his body, and how did Robeson himself cultivate the gaze of his own public image and cultural representation as a performance icon and “race man,” launching him on his way to becoming an advocate for rights of black people worldwide? To engage this research question, the methodologies of textual critical discourse analysis, Mora Beauchamp- Byrd's exhibition categorization and methodology, and Frederick Douglass's lectures on visual theories are utilized. All of these have directly assisted in the interpolation of the printed and photographic legacy of Robeson. Given the early career focus of this dissertation, archival materials from the following institutions provided the primary sources for this work: the Rutgers University libraries Special Collection and Archives, Temple University's Charles L. Blockson Afro-American collection, and the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York. With Robeson as an example of a multi-talented black cultural icon, textual discourse analysis demonstrates how to construct specific views of the social world that Paul Robeson inhabited in the early phase of his public life and how his career developments were portrayed in both the Black American and majority print media outlets of the era.
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    Encounters with the Goddess: An Ethnographic Study of the Emergence of Feminine Forms of Consciousness
    (1994) Damron, Bonnie Lucille; Caughey, John; American Studies; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md)
    This dissertation examines one aspect of how new cultural meanings have developed among some contemporary American women. This particular development concerns a shift in their meaning system away from male-centered symbols towards a meaning system that includes and even emphasizes feminine symbolic forms. From an outsider's point of view, the contemporary "goddess movement" might be seen as a fad, but what does it mean from an insider's perspective? This dissertation presents an ethnographic exploration in depth from the insider's point of view, into the lives of eight women for whom goddess symbols have become an integral part of their meaning systems, their consciousness, and their social worlds. This study explores the emergence of goddess forms in the experience of these informants. It examines what images appear in their consciousness, how they interpret these patterns, and how their interpretations of these patterns affect their daily lives within their social worlds. The theoretical framework consists of two components. The first is the field work component based on ethnographic research methods such as ethnographic interviews, life history research, and self-ethnography from the journals and other writings of informants. The second component is the theoretical framework woven from three distinct disciplines. They are cultural anthropology, the study of myth as it pertains to goddess imagery, and Jungian psychology. Interpretive methods from these three fields assist in describing the process through which these informants have developed new forms of consciousness that derive from goddess mythology and goddess imagery. This research shows how participation in the study of dreams and goddess mythology helped informants reconstruct key elements in their meaning systems from a woman-centered perspective. It also reveals how informants made lifestyle choices in order to cultivate and pursue their relationships to goddess images and other forms of feminine consciousness, and how they have accomplished an integration of inner images with outer dimensions of their social worlds.