Discussions about, toward,
around, and alongside the
New England American Studies
Association's Fall 2011 Conference.
See the schedule at the bottom of
the page, and please add your voice
and perspective to the mix!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sample post (from NEASA Council member Jonathan Silverman)

Welcome to the NEASA conference blog. We're doing a little experiment here to see if we can begin conversations that will culminate at our conference in November. Each week a different panel will present on their subject (or anything American Studies related).

I'm going to be the host of sorts with participation with others from the NEASA council, a group with wide subject and disciplinary interests, also helping me. In the spirit of collaboration and "you first," I'll begin with a little post that models what we hope to be
doing here.

In graduate school, we used to play a game: song or paper topic. Someone would name a subject--"Captain Crunch" comes to mind--and we would figure out whether it would better be explored as a song or paper topic. Almost everything ended up as a paper topic, because in our department at least, and I think, American Studies scholars generally and graduate students in particular often have an openness to exploration, a curiosity about the how and why of everyday culture matters.

It’s with this spirit that I’m approaching my current project on class and architecture at racetracks. As a reporter that covered horse racing from both a social and sports perspective, I saw that racetracks both small and large, prominent and obscure, included class divisions in their architecture, and that they included a type of class play. My paper here focuses on one part of racetrack culture, the type of influence that British traditions have on American ones, and how racetrack goers in the United States, and track owners, use these traditions as a vehicle for their own class performances.

I focus here on the fancy hats women sometimes wear—and tracks often sell. These fancy hats are a type of fashion architecture that exists idiosyncratically almost exclusively at racetracks. What do they mean? How do we contextualize them? Those are the types of questions I’m asking in this paper and in a longer work as well.

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