I can’t always get students to read my feedback, so this year I decided to try something different and include students in the process. I had students peer review their first paper. Afterwards I gave them a brief overview of my main feedback comments so they could go ahead and know up front the range of possible comments.
Then, I had them work in groups to “GIF” my feedback. Each group had about 10 minutes to use an app or site to create a GIF that centered one of my main comments I normally write on papers. They were encouraged to take creative liberties to make it funny, thinking about what GIF they might want to see when receiving this feedback. Here are some of their results as well as some I added while grading throughout the semester. I’m always looking for more GIFS, so if you try this with your class, please tweet your results! If you tag me @keralovell, I’ll happily retweet!
I am an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Utah’s Asia Campus in Incheon, South Korea where I teach courses on US history and global citizenship. I am currently working on my book project, titled The People’s Park: Work, the Body, and the Built Environment in Radical Postwar Placemaking. In the fall of 2017 I defended my dissertation to complete my Ph.D. in American Studies at Purdue University. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Agnes Scott College in 2009 and Master of Arts degree in American Studies from Purdue University in 2011. I specialize in twentieth-century U.S. social and cultural history, and my research and teaching focus on identity in American visual and material culture.
I have taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses across five universities. Since the fall of 2018, I have worked at the University of Utah as an Assistant Professor of History. While at the Asia Campus (Korea) my teaching focuses on US history, US women’s history, and US social justice movements, at the Salt Lake Campus (online) I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in public history. Between 2016 and 2018 I taught six American Studies courses (graduate and undergraduate) in the University of Hawai’i system at UH Manoa and Honolulu Community College.
For the 2016-2017 academic year, I was awarded a Purdue Research Foundation Fellowship to complete my dissertation titled, Radical Manifest Destiny: Mapping Power in Urban Space in the Age of Protest, 1968-1988. My dissertation examines the urban realm as a contested territory in the late twentieth century. This project traces a transnational movement of activist coalitions that illegally occupied, created, or reclaimed green space as a method of protest in the late-Cold War era. While my dissertation is organized around 3 distinct case studies, the book project takes a more thematic approach, comparing the ways in which parks across the United States centered food culture, work and performance, art and architecture, as well as horticulture and environmental design. Taken together, these collaborative design elements became mediums for communicating ideas about inclusion and conflict at a moment of crisis in American democracy.
Between 2015 and 2016, I spent more than 100 days in archives conducting archival research as part of my dissertation – across more than 15 repositories in 7 states. This research has received numerous awards, grants, and fellowships, including being awarded a 2016 Semi-Finalist for a special-themed Fulbright, the National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship.
On this website you’ll find my research interests and current projects, links to my blogs, academic and professional networking sites, and social media accounts (see left). Additionally you can follow my interdisciplinary research and community engagement by following me on social media. I look forward to hearing from you!
As an expansion of my dissertation, my book project titled, The People’s Park: Work, the Body, and the Environment in Radical Postwar Placemaking, traces the transnational People’s Park movement of insurgent park creation as a method of protest against urban renewal.
Having conducted archival research across seven states, this work breaks ground by documenting more than four dozen People’s Parks created after one of the first in Berkeley, CA in 1968. Utilizing a wide range of archival collections, oral history interviews, and spatial analysis, I argue that as practices of experimental community-based urban design, insurgent place-making initiatives—such as the illegal takeover of vacant lots and the anarchist creation of free public green spaces called “People’s Parks”—at times, facilitated cross-cultural coalitions that transcended ethnic, racial, and national borders.
Linking these spaces together, my project analyzes how these parks were designed and built by coalitions, and ultimately regulated by police and bureaucracies. I argue that this medium of protest attracted diverse groups of activists, urban design professionals, and urban residents who used the basic components of these parks—landscape architecture, public art, and shared food consumption—to create a diverse community of resistance across ethnic distinctions and national borders.
The process of design and construction of People’s Parks served as a form of empowerment, a medium for memorialization, and a tool for coalition-building. By blurring the lines between public and private property ownership, People’s Parks became politically playful techniques for individuals and groups to draw attention to disempowerment and reclaim full access to American citizenship.
Historiography on postwar urban protest and cross-cultural environmental organizing is rich, yet no historical scholarship traces the significance of socialized urban green space as a method of postwar protest. Conventional narratives of post-World War II activism have largely ignored tactical urban environmental place-making as a method of civil disobedience, and, in doing so, have neglected to analyze how issues over power in urban space shaped the meanings and methods of protest from the late-1960s to late-1980s. Nestled within scholarship on utopian communalism, cross-cultural political organizing, and urban planning lies the undocumented history of public protest advocating for bottom-up or “community-based” urban design.
Despite the proliferation of guerrilla gardening, the tactical creation and reclamation of urban green space remains highly political. Ultimately, by gaining insight into how urban green space emerged as a medium for activist identity formation and self-making across borders of identity politics and political movement boundaries, we can better understand how access to and power over urban green space remains a cross-cultural power struggle within contemporary cities.
In the fall of 2018 I began a faculty position as Assistant Professor at the University of Utah’s Asia Campus in Incheon, South Korea, where I teach courses on US history and global citizenship. My courses focus on using independent research and experiential learning to personalize the classroom, with the goal of making learning not only engaging but transformative.
I have taught undergraduate and graduate courses across three states and three countries. In 2015 I taught two self-designed courses on American body politics and transnational American youth histories in Purdue University’s American Studies program. In 2016 I taught two graduate-level courses – one an advanced writing course advising MA thesis projects in Ball State University’s Master of Urban Design program, and another an advanced seminar on American Studies in the School of Architecture at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa. From 2016 to 2018 I taught American Studies courses in the University of Hawai’i system as well as global studies courses online in the Department of Humanities and Interdisciplinary Studies at Southern New Hampshire University.
Across the board, my discussion-driven courses emphasize critical analysis and evidence-based argumentation, and reinforce the importance of strengthening arguments using multiple forms of communication. In the words of Mrs. Traci Jones, my ninth-grade English teacher, “Repetition equals importance.” I believe that practice – through writing, speaking, reading, discussing, arguing, teaching, and learning – is the key to sustainable success. In particular, my courses thrive on group exercises that center discussions of disempowerment and resistance in cross-cultural, transnational US histories.
For the most up-to-date list of grants and fellowships I have been awarded, see my list of Scholarships, Fellowships, and Awards. Additionally, you can read Press on these awards as well as how my work has reached broader academic and public audiences.
Most recently I was awarded Special Recognition by the Graham Foundation for the 2017 Carter Manny Award in architectural history. In 2016, I was awarded by the University of Illinois, Chicago’s Richard Daley Library a Short-Term Travel Fellowship – offering funding to spend the month of August, 2016 in the archives. Read my brief mid-month research report and see photographs of my findings here.
Thanks to the Hoover Institution, the University of Illinois, Chicago, Michigan Tech University, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the Wisconsin Historical Society, and Purdue University for awarding me with archival research grants.
I’m in the throes of organizing a course for the American Studies program at Purdue on food studies – a class exploring the connections between food, identity, and place. Today’s visual inspirations are maps I’ve found trying to embed certain recipes within US regions and cities. What could you add to these maps? How would your map of US food culture differ?
For me, these are missing a fundamental food from my youth: pecans. I was raised in Leesburg, Georgia – a city with mostly suburbs that were rapidly created after nearby Albany was integrated to meet the demands of white flight in the 1960s.
My family moved there after our home (and thousands of others) were flooded during Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994, fueling new housing development in the largely rural Leesburg. When we moved to Leesburg, our middle-of-nowhere suburb was surrounded by pecan orchards. Miles and miles of pecan trees about 20 feet tall, in rigidly aligned rows as far as you could see.
But this landscape changed in the 10 years I lived there from about 1995 to 2005. Food culture shifted – nuts became more expensive and too caloric and fatty for mid-1990s diet fads. The price of land spiked – the push for new housing developments made pecan orchards prime candidates for new suburbs.
When I left for college, few pecan farms remained. Identical houses were built equidistant every 3-4 trees. “Who would want to live in such a maniacal grid?” I thought from our largely wooded suburb (woods that would be demolished to build more houses in the coming decades).
Needless to say, I would add pecans and walnuts to Georgia on my map. When I was young, I could find them raw in snack bowls on my grandma’s dinner table, sprinkled atop the sweet potato souffle on Thanksgiving, and forming the crunchy crust of a pecan pie…not to mention, right outside the kitchen window.
Panels at conferences often feel like a hastily assembled mishmash of different things, like a fruit salad made by Mr. Magoo. Scholars who do not know each other and know less about each other’s research work together over email to try to slap together panel proposals that seem just plausible enough to pass muster with weary conference organizers, who have papers to grade, toddlers with runny noses, and annoying emails from students to answer. (In my best John Oliver voice: If the reading is listed next to the class date on the syllabus, you read it BEFORE CLASS on that day Jeremy!)
But occasionally you get to see a panel where all the papers interlock in meaningful and intellectually intelligible ways. In just this fashion, the session “The Unplanned City: Occupation and Creative Reuse” at last week’s SACRPH conference in Los Angeles offered an invigorating and rich perspective on different approaches…
The central thread through all of my research is my analysis of the relationship between identity and citizenship — or how we know who we are and how that who we are is regulated. In my dissertation I research how postwar activists understood this relationship as rooted in practices of police violence and urban renewal and histories of colonialism.
Two undergraduate courses I’ve taught in American Studies focus on this relationship between identity and citizenship. My spring 2015 course “Blood, Bones, and Brains” examined twentieth century US history through the lens of the body, and focused on how the body became a canvas for self-definition and regulation. My summer 2015 online course “Youth Cultures” used Tumblr to facilitate discussion about how American youth identity is continually constructed as both youthfully beautiful and immaturely undeveloped.
Additionally, I’ve conducted research on the high school women’s liberation movement between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. My paper, “Girls Are Equal Too: Education, Body Politics, and the Making of Teenage Feminism,” published in the academic journal Gender Issues, analyzes how teenage girls began to articulate how their age shaped their unique experience with sexual discrimination. Another version of the article was published in Black Perspectives, the online journal of the African American Intellectual Historical Society.
In particular, in this paper I focus on how teenage girls articulated feminism through their own perspectives and bodies. Letters and essays written by teenage girls during this time demonstrate how girls saw feminism as a tool to challenge gender role socialization and build a supportive and collaborative community of girl activists within this revolutionary context. Ultimately, by challenging age divisions between the adult-dominated face of the Second Wave and the girl-focused Third Wave, this paper uses the voices of teenage girls to shed light on an earlier movement of “girl power” that has yet to be excavated.
As an extension of my dissertation research, my project proposal for the 2015-2016 National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fulbright, awarded semi-finalist, focuses on the relationship between space and power. The project, titled “Grass/Roots,” compares and maps spatial and environmental power by analyzing how people occupy, reclaim, and create public green spaces in South Africa, New Zealand, and the UK. The project combines ethnographic interviews, site and event documentations, weekly self-produced informational graphics, and a cumulative cultural atlas illuminating connections among my case studies and their intertwined colonial histories.
In 2014 I was awarded a $10,000 exploratory research grant to study transnational American food studies at the World Expo in Milan Italy in May of 2015. As part of this grant I worked with Dr. Simone Cinotto at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, before organizing a symposium with him as keynote at Purdue University in October of 2015. The symposium, called “Global Food: Local Perspectives,” offers an investigative look into how food production and consumption is transnational — even in West Lafayette, Indiana. Since then, I have integrated food studies into my dissertation and teaching.