Tuesday, February 19, 2013
February 19, 2013: AmericanStudiers to Watch, Part Two
[One of my ongoing resolutions is to attend more conferences—for lots of reasons, but especially to connect with my fellow scholars. This week, I’ll be briefly highlighting some impressive AmericanStudiers I’ve recently had the chance to meet and see in action, both at November’s American Studies Association conference and at January’s Modern Language Association one. Would love to hear your suggestions for other AmericanStudiers to watch, and will compile the ongoing list for the weekend post!]
On three scholars whose very distinct interests and projects demonstrate that childhood studies is anything but child’s play.
The second panel I attended at ASA was on race and childhood in American history and culture, and featured three diverse but all equally compelling and significant focal points:
1) Mary Niall Mitchell, an Associate Professor of History a the University of New Orleans, presented on the complex and amazing American story at the heart of her new book project, currently titled The Real Ida May: Race, Fiction, and Daguerrotypes in a Story of Antislavery. It’s hard to do justice to the many sides and layers to the story of Mary Botts, the “white slave girl” who captured the attention of abolitionists, authors, and many others in antebellum Boston and America—but I’ll be very excited to read Mary’s engagement with them all!
2) Lara Saguisag, a graduate student in Childhood Studies at Rutgers and also a published children’s book author in her own right, spoke on the complex, cross-cultural, and very American trend of racial “crossdressing” in turn of the 20th century “kid strips” such as the Katzenjammer Kids, Buster Brown, and Little Nemo in Slumberland. Her readings of the individual strips were wonderfully nuanced, but she also connected this trend to many other cultural and social contexts, making for an appropriately interdisciplinary AmericanStudies approach and topic for sure.
3) Philip Nel, Professor of English at Kansas State and one of the leading experts on children’s and young adult literature, gave a talk on a project that he has just begun, focusing on the practice of “whitewashing” in the marketing and cover art of children’s and young adult literature.The trend has ties to numerous complex issues, including publishing and audience, commercialization, and racial stereotyping and discrimination, and his project promises to develop these connections and add to our understanding of the social and cultural roles played by these far-from-insignificant genres.
I can’t wait to see where these scholars take these compelling and vital American projects!
Next scholars tomorrow,
PS. Responses to these projects and scholars? Other AmericanStudiers you’d highlight?