Tuesday, December 20, 2016
December 20, 2016: Wishes for the AmericanStudies Elves: EmergingUS
[Each of the last few years, I’ve made a number of holiday wishes to the AmericanStudies Elves, things I’d love to see happen in the coming year. As you might have always known, the Elves are really all of us—so let’s work to make these and other great things happen in 2017! I’d love to hear your wishes, and causes or individuals or projects I can support as well, in comments!]
On the latest important and inspiring initiative from a crucial 21st century voice.
I dedicated one of my AmericanStudies wishes four years ago to José Antonio Vargas and his (at the time) new Define American project. As that last hyperlink reflects, Define American is still ongoing and growing, and I would repeat everything I said in that post for sure (but won’t, and just will ask you to check it out and to support Define American if you have the chance).
But of course Vargas has continued to do new and just as impressive work in the years since, a list that would include the MTV documentary White People I mentioned in yesterday’s post and the project on which I want to focus today: #EmergingUS. Emerging is partly a complement to Define American, another space in which to, as the site’s subtitle notes, share stories and voices that are “exploring race, immigration and the emerging American identity.” But as its About page highlights, the site’s emphasis on “emerging” is also explicitly framed as a response to and contrast with the mainstream media: that’s true both in terms of content (“the public space where we tell our stories — the news media — isn’t keeping up. And, too often, when these stories are told, they lack the necessary nuance and context”) and form (“since video is the emerging currency of digital publishing, #EmergingUS stories are told primarily through short, documentary-style videos, complemented by essays, graphics, and other original content”).
My simplest wish for #EmergingUS would be that it get as many readers as possible, including I hope all you fellow AmericanStudiers. So I’ll mostly leave this short and sweet enough that you can head back over there and check out some of the many great pieces! But I’ll add one more layer to the wish: that sometime, in the not too distant future, a site like Vargas’ will be just as (if not more) frequently described as part of the “mainstream media” as, to name one of this election season’s most frustrating players, CNN). While of course it’d be possible instead to do away entirely with the concept of the mainstream, I don’t have a problem with the idea that some media voices are particularly central to our cultural conversations—but I do have a significant problem with what and who comprise those voices in late 2016. So, AmericanStudies Elves, by this time next year I’d love for #EmergingUS to be part of a new and, yes, emerging mainstream.
Next wish tomorrow,
PS. What do you think? Wishes or causes you’d share?