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.
I approach the topic of space as a visual and material culture – an active medium for constructing a spectrum of intersecting identities. On my blog VisualizingSpace.com I share my thoughts, favorite sites, and ongoing projects connecting spatiality and visuality.
As a digital humanities component of my first book project, I am in the process of using GIS to map census data onto my maps of activist-created public green spaces. These parks existed within a constellation of postwar Left political territories as well as major urban renewal projects. Now in the process of pursuing external funding through NSF for this geo-spatial research, visualizing this information will help us understand why these anarchist sites emerged where they did that will provide further insight into the relationship between activist identities and place-making.
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.