Former Fellows

2016 Danky Fellow: Mark Hauser

Mark Hauser is a PhD candidate in the History department at Carnegie Mellon University. He is interested in the development of the mass consumer economy in the early twentieth century. His dissertation, tentatively titled “All the Comforts of Hell: Doughboys and American Mass Culture in the First World War,” explores how the American military borrowed from the American consumer economy to develop entertainment and morale programs during World War I in an effort to improve soldiers’ quality of life.

Hauser’s dissertation examines the centralization of men and materials by the United States government, major corporations, and charities during World War I, which played a key role in disseminating and strengthening the grasp of mass culture on American society. The country drafted soldiers from both urban and rural communities, building its armed forces from across racial, ethnic, and class boundaries; while men served in training camps and trenches, thousands of women joined charitable organizations to support them. In order to maintain morale and keep soldiers away from vice, the military and charitable organizations began to incorporate mass-produced entertainment and consumer goods into their morale-building programs. Soldiers and the charity workers who encountered these new forms of mass-produced goods during their leisure time began to develop an identity as soldier-consumers, learning from their wartime experiences about the potential benefits (and drawbacks) of new forms of entertainment (for example movies and spectator sports), new ideas about how to spend leisure time (traveling for vacation), and new forms of personal care (safety razors).

Hauser will use the Wisconsin Historical Society’s extensive collection of training camp, frontline, and veterans’ newspapers as an important part of his research. Articles in these newspapers document the smaller units of the Army that The Stars and Stripes cannot capture in much detail because of its focus on the entire American military. These papers capture a variety of entertainments including card games and music the soldiers produced themselves, as well as the offerings of mass culture such has motion pictures, guided tourist activities at Leave Areas, and major sporting events such as the Inter-Allied Games. Although many of these newspaper collections consist of only a few issues, they outline both the personal and the mass entertainment programs that were a part of soldiers’ daily lives, reactions to that entertainment, and the lessons that veterans brought back to America with them. The Wisconsin Historical Society also contains several photographic collections relating to World War I that consist of hundreds of photographs demonstrating how individual soldier-consumers actually used mass culture, as well as a few collections of personal papers of the performers who traveled to Europe to entertain American soldiers. By examining these sources, Hauser hopes to demonstrate how the development of mass entertainment itself was a complex give and take between performer and audience, analogizing this experience in World War I to include entertainment producers and consumers more generally across the American economy.

2016 Danky Fellowship Honorable Mention: Cheryl Spinner

2015 Danky Fellow: Kera Lovell

Kera Lovell is a PhD Candidate in American Studies at Purdue University.  Her research focuses on how visual and material culture shape the relationship between activism and identity, particularly within the context of post-World War II urban protest.  Titled, “Radical Manifest Destiny: Urban Renewal, Colonialism, and Transnational American Identity in the Urban Spatial Politics of the Postwar Left,” her dissertation examines how activist groups used environmental and performance art, public green space, and food to anarchically reimagine urban space as political territory.

Her dissertation traces a unique tactic of civil resistance in which coalitions of activists permanently occupied vacant lots by converting those spaces into public parks, called “People’s Parks.”  Influenced by the civil disobedient tactics of labor strikes and civil rights movement sit-ins that challenged urban power structures by staking claim to public and private space, People’s Parks drew countercultural crowds and incited police violence by blending art installations with public performances of political theater and declaring newly-created green spaces “liberated” territories.  Having unearthed more than two-dozen People’s Parks, from their Northern California origins to Madison, WI, British Columbia, Denmark, and South Africa between 1969 and 1999, her dissertation analyzes the image and impact of these green spaces as sites for building and imagining cross-cultural coalitions across national borders.  In turn, differences in race, location, class, occupation, and nationality greatly impacted critical reception and regulation of these spaces.  Ultimately, by analyzing how activists equated urban power structures with global imperialism and insurgent place-making with radical historical preservation, she argues that People’s Parks became visual and rhetoric tools for constructing coalitional, transnational, and transhistorical narratives of urban space that united disparate activist groups.

Because the Midwest is home to a majority of activist-created People’s Parks, the Wisconsin Historical Society serves as an invaluable site for conducting research on social movements, print culture, and urban history in the region that comprise the core themes of her project. In particular, the museum holds essential resources that shed light on the importance of Madison’s own People’s Park to the city’s countercultural movement.  In addition, the museum’s collections of social action posters and newspapers will be consulted to analyze how activists constructed these green spaces as cross-cultural.

2014 Danky Fellow: Ashley Farmer

Ashley Farmer is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Clayman Institute of Gender Research at Stanford University. She received her Ph.D. in African American Studies from Harvard University in 2013. She is a historian of African American women’s intellectual history, and is preparing her manuscript, What You’ve Got is a Revolution: Black Women’s Movements for Black Power, for publication.

What You’ve Got is a Revolution is a study of African American women’s political and intellectual contributions to the black power movement. Through close examinations of the political speeches, pamphlets, and drawings of women in organizations like the Black Panther Party and the Congress of African People, she argues that African American women developed gender-specific political identity models that connected their gendered interests to black power ideology. Her book shows that print culture was a primary medium through which women radicals debated, contested, and transformed the meaning of black womanhood during the movement. Ultimately, she argues female black power radicals’ theorizing pushed the black power movement to promote gender equality to greater extent that has been previously appreciated.

The Danky Fellowship will help Ashley use a vast array of resources at the Wisconsin Historical Society related to black power and black radicalism. These include the papers of black power organizations including SoulBook, The Black Panther, and the The Inner City Voice. She will also make use of the Society’s extensive collections on Freedom Summer and the Congress of Racial Equality to support her work on the role of women in developing black power ideology and practice. These diverse holdings are indispensable to the project and will help make her manuscript a critical study of black power, print culture, and radicalism in America.

2013 Danky Fellow: Ian Blechschmidt

Ian Blechschmidt is a PhD candidate in the Rhetoric and Public Culture program at Northwestern University. His major interest is the social role of print, popular, and visual culture. His project, tentatively titled “Comix and the middle-class family: Underground comix as cultural resistance in Cold War America,” explores how underground comix were a response to the consolidation of middle-class domestic and family values and consensus ideology during the Cold War.

Part of the underground publishing scene that helped to fuel the countercultural revolution, underground comix gained a following in the late sixties and early seventies with their scathing critiques of American culture, their psychedelic style, and their depictions of sex, drugs, and outrageous violence. One of their favorite targets was domestic, suburban, “boosh-wah” family life. At a time when the American family was promoted as a “bulwark” against dangers such as communist expansion and nuclear proliferation (May), the comix responded with taboo-busting depictions of, among other things, sexually adventurous Disney-esque cartoon characters and incestuous nuclear families.

This project uses a multidisciplinary approach to investigate both the rhetoric of the comix themselves and the wider practices surrounding their production and reception. It seeks to understand how comix attempted to critique and unsettle dominant systems of cultural production, distribution, and taste and how these were an attempt to disrupt the mechanisms by which suburban, family-oriented domesticity was enforced as the definitive model of normality, respectability, and the “good life” in the Cold War USA.

Ian takes a particular interest in larger questions about how gender was being constructed through this model of normality and how the comix resisted such constructions. He is particularly interested in how comix attacked dominant ideals of masculinity and femininity, though rarely together, and rarely unproblematically.

The collection of comix and other underground prints and newspapers at the Wisconsin Historical Society presents valuable archival material for examining the ways that underground comix challenged mainstream ideologies during the Cold War. Such an examination is an opportunity to better understand how American family values have been contested through the production, distribution, and consumption of popular print culture.

2012 Danky Fellow: Sarita Alami

Sarita is PhD Candidate in the History department at Emory University. She is interested in the way print culture has affected the lives of prisoners and the development of institutional policy. Her dissertation, tentatively titled “Life Sentences: The Rise and Fall of Prison Journalism in the United States, 1912-1980,” explores the interpersonal, national, and legal conversations that have taken place within the nation’s penal publications.

Recent state and federal budget crises have reinvigorated conversations about mass incarceration in the United States. The sweeping expansion of the nation’s carceral system in the last thirty years has resulted in both a surge in the number of prisons and a redefinition of the prison experience. Scholars have detailed how changes in prison policy, along with overcrowding and the stigmatization of “convicts,” have corroded many of the small freedoms that prisoners have traditionally possessed and caused many inmates to surrender their sense of individuality, autonomy, and civic engagement.

Before the rise of mass incarceration in the late 1970s, many prisoners were afforded the freedom to write and publish newspapers. While their frequency and structure varied, the number of prison publications at any given time from 1912 to 1980 ranged from a dozen to well over a hundred. While most studies of twentieth century prisons have focused on laws and policy or on instances of riots and violence, this project examines prison periodicals, which were generally written by prisoners for prisoners. The product of a collective endeavor, these documents provide a novel method for tracing the history of institutional culture from the inside out.

The penal press is a remarkable example of the give and take that has characterized institutional life in the United States. Operating under circumstances that were heavily censored and highly constrained, inmate-journalists discussed national and international politics, engaged each other and the public, and reflected a dynamic, oppressive, and often-controversial penal culture. The Wisconsin Historical Society houses the most diverse collection of prison publications in the nation, including issues of 14 African American prison periodicals that arose during the Prisoner’s Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Examining the form and content of prison newspapers illuminates how inmates managed to create an increasingly vociferous penal press despite heavy institutional censorship.

2011 Danky Fellow: Josh Mound

The winner of the 2011 Danky Fellowship was Josh Mound. Josh is a PhD candidate in the departments of History and Sociology at the University of Michigan. His dissertation – tentatively titled “Inflated Hopes, Taxing Times: The Politics of Economic Crisis in the Long 1970s” – examines the contested economic politics surrounding the intertwined issues of taxes and inflation from the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s.

Recent “tea party” protesters and candidates have once again put the specter of high taxes and government-stoked inflation back onto the front pages of newspapers. Looking for a historical gloss on the phenomenon, many commentators have pointed to the “tax revolt” of the 1970s as the root of modern conservatism’s hold on tax politics. However, Josh’s research demonstrates that this history is misleading.

By the late 1960s, “squeezed” had become a keyword used by the press to describe both Americans’ psyches and pocketbooks. Polls showed that – even in an era marked by war, assassinations, and civil strife – rising taxes and prices dominated the concerns of all Americans across lines of race, class, and gender. Americans were angry not only at their own economic situations, but at what they saw as the system’s unfairness. As inflation pushed Americans into higher income tax brackets and spiked their property taxes, the era’s press provided a constant drumbeat of stories about millionaires, large corporations, and prominent politicians who escaped taxation altogether. Surveys soon showed that most Americans believed that the tax code was stacked against them, and many began to organize for tax reform and economic assistance at the local and national levels.

These grassroots groups produced publications with names like Tax Back Talk and People & Taxescharting their successes and failures. Now housed in the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society, such publications have provided Josh with an invaluable window into this forgotten movement. They demonstrate that activists with roots in the black freedom struggle, labor unions, consumer organizations, and other left-leaning groups not only pioneered the modern tax protest, but also organized around inflation-related issues like soaring utility and food prices.

With public opinion – and many prominent mainstream supporters – on their side, it seemed to many observers in the early-1970s that the decade’s economic issues would be a boon for the left. Josh’s dissertation seeks to solve the puzzle of how such auspicious beginnings for progressive economic politics at the beginning of the decade eventually culminated in what is now seen as a conservative triumph.

2010 Danky Fellow: William Sturkey

The winner of the 2010 Danky Fellowship was William Sturkey. William is currently a Visiting Instructor of History at the University of Southern Mississippi and a PhD candidate in History at Ohio State University where he studies modern African American History with a focus on the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. His dissertation defense will take place in July 2012. William’s research concentrates on the famous 1964 Freedom Summer campaign. His project, tentatively titled, “Just Give Us a Light,” is an extension of his Master’s thesis, which won the 2008 Glover Moore Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society. This dissertation will examine the Freedom Schools that were designed to supplement the inferior education previously available to black Mississippi youths.

Freedom Summer is the most widely documented campaign of the modern African American Civil Rights Movement. Freedom Schools themselves have received widespread attention and are currently duplicated by various organizations across the country. But most of this scholarship and interest focuses on the pedagogy and curriculum of Freedom Schools. However widely recognized, scholars have paid scant attention to the impact of the 1964 Freedom Schools on their actual students. Ironically, black Mississippians have often been left out of the Freedom Summer narrative. William Sturkey’s project will tell the stories of the young people who attended those 1964 Freedom Schools. It seeks to provide a long term analysis of the impact of Freedom Schools. Rather than gauge Freedom Summer within a Civil Rights-era vacuum, William’s dissertation will consider the entirety of the Freedom School project from execution to the present day.

William Sturkey will use the 2010 Danky Fellowship to travel to Madison to view the Wisconsin Historical Society’s massive Mississippi Civil Rights document collection. In 1966, the State Historical Society of Wisconsin began soliciting the papers of workers in civil rights and related projects to enhance its collection of social justice documents. Two University of Wisconsin alumni who had volunteered during Freedom Summer specifically sought papers from individuals involved in the Mississippi movement. Because of this effort, the Wisconsin Historical Society now houses one of the largest collections of Mississippi Civil Rights documents. These collections will prove invaluable to William’s research as they include numerous documents donated by former Freedom School teachers and activists. While in Madison, William will also participate in the Center for the History of Print Culture’s Colloquia series.

2009 Danky Fellow: Julia Guarneri

The winner of the 2009 Danky Fellowship was Julia Guarneri, for her project, “Urban Culture and Print Community in U.S. Newspapers, 1880-1930.” Julia is a doctoral candidate in history at Yale University, writing about mainstream daily newspapers between 1880 and 1930. Historians of journalism primarily have studied the political news of the day; Julia is instead studying the contents of the newspaper beyond the front page, such as the Sunday magazine, the women’s pages, sports articles, and advice columns. Her work looks at how newspapers created and then taught a new kind of urban culture to the millions of people moving to cities in this era.

At the Wisconsin Historical Society, Julia will research the newspaper industry of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and its impact on Wisconsin residents’ daily lives. She is especially interested in the way that syndicated content and chain newspapers brought nationally standardized content to Wisconsin readers. This kind of content often edged out locally-written articles in newspapers, homogenizing regional journalism and regional culture. But syndicated and chain news also expanded the type of material a small paper could afford to print. Syndicated science columns, opera reviews, or cricket match reports all likely broadened Milwaukee residents’ horizons and offered them a new level of connection to a culture beyond their own region. Milwaukee will make a valuable case study because it both imported news from Chicago and New York and exported news to smaller surrounding towns. The collection of daily newspapers, publishers’ manuscripts, and Wisconsin small-town papers at the WHS will help Julia to reconstruct this history.

Julia was raised in Oakland, California, and moved to the east coast to dance and study cultural history at Cornell University. She spent three years in the work world—at an Oakland deli, teaching English in South Korea, and working for the oral history project Storycorps in New York City. Her fields of study in graduate school are US social and cultural history since the Civil War, and East Asian history since 1750. She initiated and now runs an urban history working group for graduate students at Yale.

2008 Danky Fellow: Derek Seidman

Congratulations to Derek Seidman on being awarded the first Danky Fellowship! Derek received his Ph.D. from Brown University in May 2010. His dissertation was entitled: “The Unquiet Americans: GI Dissent during the Vietnam War.” He is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Brown University and is revising The Unquiet Americans into a book manuscript. While at Brown he learned about the then-recently formed Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). With his exposure to IVAW and his longstanding interest in the protest movements of the 1960s, he became fascinated with the antecedent to current troop antiwar activism: the Vietnam era GI and veterans’ movement.

Derek Seidman’s project, “The Unquiet Americans”, examines the history of Vietnam era GI dissent. Using a variety of original sources and oral histories, he looks at the issues that dissident troops rallied around, how they organized and articulated their grievances, the success and failures of their efforts, and the impact that troop dissent had on the military. From organizing around issues of civil liberties, anti-racism and protesting the military hierarchy and war policies, to forming GI coffeehouses and newspapers, Vietnam era soldiers and their allies built a widespread but decentralized movement that challenged conventional military policies and decorum and gave strategic leverage to the broader antiwar movement. Other forms of GI unrest and revolt– less overtly political, less organized, but more frequent– also took their toll on military morale and effectiveness. Derek’s project aims to illuminate this significant yet largely understudied story, to understand it on its own terms while also placing it in the larger context of postwar American history.

The Danky Fellowship will help Derek use the vast array of resources at the Wisconsin Historical Society relating to the topic of Vietnam era GI dissent. These include scores of underground antiwar newspapers published by GIs and their allies, collections of troop, civilian and legal organizations connected to the GI movement, and oral history collections. These sources, says Derek, are indispensable to his research and will allow him to tell the history of GI dissent during the Vietnam War with much greater detail, clarity and richness.