I am trained as a cultural historian with a focus on the twentieth-century US, and I teach in both the History Department and the American Studies Program. My research explores the history of cultural categories and concepts like race, place, rebellion, authenticity, and conceiving of yourself as an outsider that we use to order and think about our world. My classes are organized around teaching students to interpret the past by analyzing visual sources like photographs and films and audio sources like rock songs and radio programs as well as more traditional historical sources including letters and newspapers. I try to show students how the study of history reveals dimensions of our shared humanity on longer visible in the present that can help us understand what will be gained and what will be lost as we make our future.
I joined the college fellows because I love exposing new college students to the wonders and the challenges of thinking and conducting research in a serious community of scholars. My courses for first year students will focus on the intersection of aesthetics and difference by looking at the history of an old practice in the US South with a new name, “creative placemaking.” We will explore how the aesthetic practices of artists, artisans, writers, musicians, and documentary makers have both created and challenged romantic ideas about Southern peoples and places. We will also explore how art and other forms of creative expression have shaped actual southern places, from Delta towns and Appalachian villages to El Neuvo Atlanta, newly hip downtown Richmond, and indie culture stronghold Athens.