Articles from April 2022

book cover of dark western landscape

E Cram Launches Book in May 31 Event

On May 31, 2022, E Cram (Communication Studies and GWSS) will launch their new book, Violent Inheritance: Sexuality, Land, and Energy in Making the North American West. Cram, who was the recipient of a Books Ends—Obermann/OVPR Book Completion Workshop award, recently published the book with the University of California Press. 

The book deepens the analysis of settler colonialism's endurance in the North American West and how infrastructures that ground sexual modernity are both reproduced and challenged by publics who have inherited them. Cram redefines sexual modernity through extractivism, wherein sexuality functions to extract value from life, including land, air, minerals, and bodies. Analyzing struggles over memory cultures through the region's land use controversies at the turn of and well into the twentieth century, Cram unpacks the consequences of western settlement and the energy regimes that fueled it. Transfusing queer eco-criticism with archival and ethnographic research, they reconstruct the linkages—"land lines"—between infrastructure, violence, sexuality, and energy, showing how racialized sexual knowledges cultivated settler colonial cultures of both innervation and enervation.
woman stands in doorway of old small white house

Scholar, Descendant, Collaborator: Jodi Skipper's new book explores slave dwelling project

The words "slavery" and "tourism" don’t seem like they belong anywhere near each other. But a growing number of Americans of all races are eager to better understand our country’s complicated history by visiting places where difficult and often darkly violent events occurred. Ensuring that we, the touring populace, receive complete stories when we arrive at these spaces, a network of historians, anthropologists, and community activists are working against time to save the material remnants of the lived experience of enslaved people.

Among them is Jodi Skipper, a University of Mississippi professor of anthropology and southern studies. For the past decade, she has used tools as an archaeologist, scholar, teacher, and community member to widen and deepen the shared narratives of historic sites in the U.S. south. She has shared these experiences in a new book, Behind the Big House: Reconciling Slavery, Race, and Heritage in the U.S. South, just published by the University of Iowa Press.
black and white photo of US soldiers swing dancing

Dancing During War: Kowal Explores WWII Photo Archives

“When we think about performance during World War Two, we think about USO shows and famous American performers like Bob Hope and Bette Davis,” says Rebekah Kowal, Spring 2022 Obermann Fellow-in-Residence. On the face of it, these performers were sent to overseas U.S. military camps to uplift soldiers’ spirits by providing a sense of home and “Americanness.” But there were many other forms of movement and performance that served other (rather overt) purposes, from displaying Western cultural dominance and exerting control over subjected people’s bodies to reintegrating the detained, creating a pathway to U.S. citizenship, and serving as a normalcy touchstone for the dancers.

Kowal (Dance, CLAS) is deep in research for a new book tentatively titled War Theatre: Dancing American Citizenship and Empire during World War II. After writing about the contribution of American modern dance to aesthetic and social change in the 1950s (How to Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America [Wesleyan UP, 2010]) and about globalism and the performance of international dance in the U.S. after WWII (Dancing the World Smaller: Staging Globalism in Mid-Century America [Oxford, 2019]), she figured her next project would move away from the WWII era. But one sleepless night—“one of those bizarre moments during COVID,” she recalls, she pulled up the National Archives’ online catalog and started typing interesting keywords.
close up of hebrew writing

Working Group Spotlight: Jewish Studies

This is part of a series highlighting recently formed Obermann Center Working Groups. Lisa Heineman (History), co-director of the Jewish Studies Working Group with Ari Ariel (History), shared her responses. Thank you, Lisa! If you are interested in starting an Obermann Working Group for 2022-23, the application deadline is April 12. 

Q. This is the first year of your Working Group. What led you to start it? 

A: Iowa is the only Big 10 school without a Jewish Studies program. Yet Jewish Studies is an incredibly dynamic field of study, with real contemporary relevance—and we have many terrific teachers and scholars of Jewish Studies on our campus. We were hearing from students, alumni, and parents who made clear there was a demand for the field. We decided it was time to get together and think about how to have a more meaningful presence on campus.

Q. What kinds of people and from what disciplines are participating in your Group? 

 A. We have faculty members from History, International Studies, German, GWSS, Classics, Religious Studies, English, Translation, the Maggid Writing Center…. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone! We have emeriti and graduate students with important areas of expertise, and we have community members who play significant roles in Jewish life beyond our campus.