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Seth Garfield, Director GAR 1.104, Mailcode B7000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-3261

Series highlights New Works by advanced graduate students

Posted: September 23, 2011
New Work series coordinator Cameron Strang and workshop presenter Jesse Cromwell

New Work series coordinator Cameron Strang and workshop presenter Jesse Cromwell

The Institute for Historical Studies hosts a new series launched at the suggestion of History graduate student Cameron Strang, which aims to provide an institutional forum for both students and faculty to more formally provide feedback and encouragement to graduate students both inside and outside of our department. The New Work in Progress series builds on the collegiality of the history graduate student community at UT Austin and on the practices of intellectual community fostered by the IHS.

UT History graduate students pride themselves on how supportive they are of each other and of the work they produce. This collegial atmosphere and positive climate is created in seminars and during the years of reading, research, and dissertation writing. Institute Research Assistant Angela Smith notes that, “By and large, few of us feel like islands, isolated as the stormy seas of academic criticism threaten to wash us away.” In keeping with this spirit, Cameron was inspired to pioneer the expansion of the roles of graduate students in IHS by his experience speaking as an invited guest before the community of visiting fellows at the McNeil Center in Philadelphia while on a research trip there last year.

The New Work in Progress Series will highlight the papers of advanced graduate students from UT as well as visiting graduate researchers from other institutions. Three to five workshops will be held per semester. Following the model established by other IHS workshops, the New Work in Progress Series will be organized around discussions of pre-circulated papers addressed primarily by an expert responder followed by an open dialogue with the entire group. The student presenting his or her work will derive the benefit of a skilled analysis from a member of our faculty who is not his or her supervisor, as well as feedback and input from the broader community of history scholars at UT, including fellow students, faculty, and visiting IHS fellows. The attendees will benefit by being able to observe and participate in the collaborative process of academic work in our department.

During this inaugural semester, three New Work in Progress workshops will be held, featuring two of UT's senior graduate students, Jesse Cromwell and Amber Abbas, and one visiting graduate scholar from Yale University, Serena Sprungl.

On September 26th, Jesse Cromwell will address "the material culture of smuggled cacao, Venezuela's most profitable cash crop, and how Venezuelans adapted to the presence of commercial criminality in their daily lives." Jesse's commentator will be UT History's Dr. Susan Deans-Smith. Jesse is "very much looking forward to the thoughtful comments and suggestions of my colleagues as I bring this chapter to completion and work towards defending my dissertation this spring."

On October 10th, Serena Sprungl will present her paper "Ladies and Conquistadores: Gender, History, and the League of United Latin American Citizens during the Mid-Twentieth Century." Dr. Anne Martinez of UT History will provide an analysis of Serena's paper. Now in her fourth year of study at Yale, Serena's dissertation project, "Pan-American Politics and Mexican American Lives: Women, Children, and Family as the Building Blocks of a Better Texas, 1930s – 1950s," examines ethnic Mexican women’s activism and public cultures in the United States during the 1930s-1950s, seeking to highlight the gendered contours of debates among ethnic Mexican people about the meanings and implications of race, nation, and ethnic community.

On November 28th, Amber Abbas will examine the experiences of Muslims during and after the partition of India, in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Amber reports that "This chapter represents the way my work draws together archival and oral sources to fill out our understanding of what partition meant to the people who worked for it, how the idea fit into their worldview, and how its creation affected them." Amber will benefit from the comments of Dr. Kamran Ali from the UT Department of Anthropology. Amber is hoping "to use the experience of the workshop to think through how well my method is working, and also to sort through some ideas that have created conflict in my understanding of the events of the period. This history is characterized by a number of official 'lines' and underwritten by many more 'unofficial' ones. … I hope that the IHS workshop will push the work analytically and help me to address some of these complex narratives."

In future semesters, a call for papers will be issued for students who wish to have their projects featured in the New Work in Progress Series. The Series will continue to benefit graduate students with the type of constructive feedback and criticism that only an intensive workshop setting can provide, allowing them to draw on the expertise of faculty members and fellow students to make their projects as strong as possible. Our own graduate students will find a steady forum for supporting, assisting, and encouraging the work of their colleagues. The New Work in Progress Series provided by the Institute for Historical Studies will further foster the genuine atmosphere of cooperation and collaboration that makes UT History stand out as a congenial and uniquely productive member of the UT and broader historical communities.

For announcements of future workshops in the New Work in Progress Series, see the iHS website. Any questions about the Series can be directed to series Coordinator Cameron Strang.

Story by
Angela Smith, IHS Graduate Research Assistant
Cameron Strang, New Work in Progress Series Coordinator

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