Americanist Symposium: 12 June 2017, University of Kent

The University of Kent is holding a day-long Americanist Symposium for all researchers interested in discussing effective methods and methodologies for approaching the histories and cultures of the United States. Taking place on Monday 12th June, 2017 in Darwin College, Lecture Theatre 3 the symposium has been co-organised by the University’s Centre for American Studies and the Schools of English and History.

The event will be organized around a series of research presentations and skill-share sessions that will promote dialogue between disciplines on effective research techniques. Presenters will be discussing, among other things, literary analysis, translation, interdisciplinary methodologies, visual analysis, Native American culture, and historical analysis.

  • Confirmed Keynote Speakers:
    Monica Manolescu, University of Strasbourg
    Emma Long, University of East Anglia

For further information about this event, please contact

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Dr John Wills publishes on Disney Culture

Senior Lecturer in American History, John Wills, has published a new book as part of the Rutgers University Press series, Quick Takes: Movies and Popular Culture.

Entitled Disney Culture, Dr Wills’ book explores how over the past century, Disney has grown from a small American animation studio into a multipronged global media giant. Today, the company’s annual revenue exceeds the GDP of over 100 countries, and its portfolio has grown to include Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ABC, and ESPN. With a company so diversified, is it still possible to identify a coherent Disney vision or message?

Disney Culture proposes that there is still a unifying Disney ethos, one that can be traced back to the corporate philosophy that Walt Disney himself developed back in the 1920s. Yet, as cultural historian John Wills demonstrates, Disney’s values have also adapted to changing social climates. At the same time, the world of Disney has profoundly shaped how Americans view the world.

Wills offers a nuanced take on the corporate ideologies running through animated and live-action Disney movies from Frozen to Fantasia, from Mary Poppins to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But Disney Culture encompasses much more than just movies as it explores the intersections between Disney’s business practices and its cultural mythmaking.  Welcome to “the Disney Way.”

About the author

John Wills is a senior lecturer in American history and the director of American Studies at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. He is the author of Conservation Fallout: Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon, California and U.S. Environmental History: Inviting Doomsday.

Reviews of ‘Disney Culture’
Wills makes a strong contribution to both the fields of media studies as well as Disney scholarship with this concise, well written and thoroughly engaging overview of how the cultural, artistic, and economic factors surrounding the Disney corporation intersect.”

Blair Davis, author of Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page
“Disney Culture is a notable addition to the growing critical work on Disney and its cultural significance. Wills skillfully dissects the Disney ethos and even challenges the multimedia giant to ‘mean something beyond merchandise’ in the twenty-first century.”

Janet Wasko, author of Understanding Disney: The Manufacture of Fantasy

For more information about Disney Culture, please see the publisher’s website :


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Research Seminar: The Dream for a new (Disney) World

The Centre for American Studies welcomes visiting academic, Konstantinos Karatzas (University of Zaragoza, Spain) to give a paper on Tuesday 4 April, 12-2pm in Cornwallis North-West, Seminar Room 9.

Entitled, ‘The Dream for a New (Disney) World; The idea, the plans and the creation of the Orlando, Florida Walt Disney Resort’ Konstantinos will focus on the first stages of the creation of Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The lecture will chronicle and describe the selection process of the site, purchases of land and the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District that encompasses the property. The lecture will analyse the tax assessor’s plats that used to identify and evaluate alternative World’s sites and also present feasibility studies, news releases and the early stages of the advertising campaign of the ‘New Disney World’.

Konstantinos D. Karatzas is a PhD Candidate at the Department of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, specializing in African American history. His work focuses on the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma Race War, the Civil Rights Movement, the interpretation of violence and race in the United States along with the examination of collective memory. During the summer of 2017, Konstantinos was a visiting research scholar at the Universities of South Florida, Florida-Gainesville and Central Florida where he explored the modern history of Florida.

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Research Seminar: Zombyism and the Post-human Global Imaginary

The Centre for American Studies welcomes Dr Adriana Neagu (Babes-Bolyai University, Romania) to give a research paper on Wednesday 5 April, 4-6pm in Keynes Lecture Theatre 2.

Entitled, ‘Zombyism and the Post-human Global Imaginary’ the paper examines post-humanist representations in Anglo-American film productions from a perspective informed by global and hypermodern cultural theory. It is an enquiry into aspects of dystopian sensibility in global cinema seen as manifest in the prolific zombie genre of the post-apocalyptic strand. It is premised on the assumption that global society is endemically one marred by a catastrophic horizon of expectation, whose most congenial form of expression is dystopia, a genre on the rise worldwide, especially productive in Anglo-American cinematic practice. Drawing on global cultural theory, I seek to bring the zombie dominant to bear on what I construe as globality’s post-apocalyptic imagination.

Adriana Neagu is Associate Professor of Anglo-American Studies at Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Department of Applied Modern Languages. She is the author of two reference works in postmodern critical theory and of numerous literary and cultural theory articles. Her teaching areas are diverse, combining translation, interpretation, and cultural studies disciplines. Her main specialism is in the poetics of modernism and postmodernism, postcolonial theory and the literatures of identity, and translation theory and practice. At present her research centres on global theory and multiculturalism in post 9/11 context.

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Documentary screening: C.L.R. James (Fri 3 March 2017)

The Centre for American Studies warmly invites you to a screening and discussion of a new documentary film about C. L. R. James: Every Cook Can Govern: The Life, Impact and Work of C. L. R. James.

The screening takes place on Friday, 3rd March from 1-4pm in Grimond Building, Lecture Theatre 3, University of Kent, Canterbury Campus. The film is approximately 2 hours long, and will be followed by a discussion with an invited speaker, Dr Nicole King (Reading University, author of CLR James and Creolization: Circles of Influence).

All are welcome at this free event. Watch the official documentary trailer to find out more.

The film: The ideas and works of Trinidad-born Marxist revolutionary and writer C.L.R. James come to life as exclusive never-before-seen footage of the man himself is interwoven with testimony from those who knew him along with leading scholars providing astute contextual and political analysis of his life and works. The result is a historical tour-de-force which grapples with James’ thoughts on culture, cricket and society and above all his politics, in particular his outspoken opposition to: colonialism, abolitionist myths, the Second World War and Stalinism and his belief in the capacity of us all to change the world.

Nicole King: Nicole King is a Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Reading and a leading expert on the work of C. L. R. James. She is the author of CLR James and Creolization: Circles of Influence (University of Mississippi Press, 2001), a study that calls attention to James’ internationalism as an articulation of creolization in multiple registers-spatial, temporal and cultural. She has also published research articles and book chapters on authors and topics such as Zadie Smith, Ida B. Wells, Earl Lovelace, gender, migration, identity and pedagogy. Her current research examines representations of American blackness.


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PhD Scholarships: January application deadlines

The Centre for American Studies invites applications for PhD Scholarships to commence in September 2017. These include a share of 75 AHRC scholarships offered by CHASE, the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England, and a University of Kent Vice-Chancellor’s Research Scholarship. All PhD applications received before the advertised deadlines will automatically be considered for the scholarships – please see information on how to apply.

Since its foundation in 1973, The Centre for American Studies has developed a strong research culture that matches the commitment of the University of Kent to interdisciplinary study, as well as the mandate of American Studies to explore the US experience in innovative, ground-breaking ways.

We actively welcome PhD proposals which fit within our four interdisciplinary areas of research:

  • Space and Environment
  • Migration, Borders and the Transnational
  • Race, Gender, Indigeneity
  • Cultural Forms, Cultural Politics

University of Kent Vice-Chancellor’s Research Scholarship

Qualification type:PhD
Location: Kent
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £14,296 scholarship at the current 2016/17 rate, plus Home-rate tuition fee.
Hours: Full-time
Closes: 30 January 2017

Administered under the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) Scheme. The current 2016/17 rate for the scholarship is £14,296 plus Home-rate tuition fee. (Please note: this means that if you are an overseas student and you apply for a Vice Chancellor Research Scholarship you will have to fund the difference between Overseas and Home/EU fees.)
Scholarship rates and fees for 2017/18 are expected to be announced in March 2017.
Successful applicants will normally meet all of the following criteria unless both the research proposal and references are exceptional:

Candidates must hold a good Honours degree (First or 2i) or a Master’s degree at merit or distinction in a relevant subject or equivalent.
The scholarship competition is open to all new postgraduate research applicants.
Current Kent research students are not eligible for this scholarship.
UK, EU and overseas fee paying students are invited to apply. Please note that overseas students must have the appropriate documentation to evidence eligibility to work in the

UK Application requirements:

  • Personal data/curriculum vitae
  • Personal Statement
  • English proficiency certificate
  • Research Proposal
  • Transcript of records
  • References

AHRC PhD scholarship offered by CHASE

Qualification type: PhD
Location: Kent
Funding for: UK Students, EU students* (*fees only award)
Funding amount: For 2016/17, the funding consisted of a Fee Waiver at the Home/EU rate plus a maintenance stipend of £14,296 per year.
Hours: Full-time
Closes: 11 January 2017

The Centre for American Studies invites applications for an AHRC PhD scholarship offered by CHASE, the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England. CHASE AHRC studentships are open to UK and EU students who meet the residency requirements set out in the RCUK Conditions of Research Council Training Grants.
For eligibility criteria for full awards please refer to the UK Council for International Student Affairs website.

Students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award. To be eligible for a fees-only award, a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU, in the same way as UK students must be ordinarily resident in the UK.
At the current time, EU students are eligible for support from CHASE. Applicants from EU countries will be notified immediately of any change in status as a result of UK government policy.





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Why the U.S. is not a ‘Nation of Immigrants’

Taking place on Tuesday 6th December at 6pm in Keynes College, Lecture Theatre 6 this year’s Bolt Lecture will be given by Professor Maria Lauret of the University of Sussex.

Whereas in 1915 Theodore Roosevelt could proclaim with great conviction that there was no room in the United States for hyphenated (‘ethnic’) Americans, today it is common for Americans to identify precisely as people whose roots lay elsewhere and who are proud of their ethnic heritage. And whilst in recent years undocumented immigration is perceived to have reached crisis point, the US continues to project itself as a ‘nation of immigrants.’ These reversals and contradictions in American political discourse deserve further scrutiny. In an historical survey that moves from the Americanization movement of a hundred years ago to via John F. Kennedy’s Cold War immigration policy to the birth of multiculturalism in the 1970s and the War on Terror today, a change from the inculcation of ethnic shame to the proclamation of ethnic pride is charted, revealing both the long-term and paradoxical effects of Americanization as a programme of social engineering and the ideological work that the “nation of immigrants” concept continues to perform for American national identity today.

The Bolt Lecture is held in memory of Christine Bolt, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Kent, and her late husband Ian Bolt, who generously funded the University’s Christine and Ian Bolt Scholarships.

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U.S. Election Result: Round Table Discussion

President Trump or President Clinton? After arguably the most divisive, unpleasant, polarised and simply extraordinary presidential contest in a century, four experts on American politics meet to discuss who won and why, and where we go from here.

Join the debate on Thursday 10 November at 5.30pm in the Templeman Library Lecture Theatre. Dr Andrew Wroe, Lecturer in American Politics at the University of Kent will chair a discussion panel consisting of:

Professor Rob Singh, Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London; Professor Iwan Morgan, Professor of U.S. Studies, University College London and    Dr George Conyne, Lecturer in American History, University of Kent.

This is an open event and all students, University of Kent staff and members of the public are warmly welcome. Attendance is free, but we would ask you to register in advance at our Eventbrite page.

Image copyright: Cage Skidmore/ Wikimedia Commons

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AHRC Research Grant Award for Lecturers in American Studies and English

Dr Sara Lyons and Dr Michael Collins, of the University of Kent’s School of English, have been awarded a £240,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a project entitled Literary Culture, Meritocracy and the Assessment of Intelligence in Britain and America, 1880 – 1920.

The project investigates how British and American novelists understood, represented, and problematised the concept of human intelligence between 1880 and 1920. These forty years saw intense scientific debates about the mechanisms underlying biological heredity as well as the establishment of mass compulsory education systems in both Britain and America. The convergence of these developments galvanised a new drive to establish the fundamentally innate and measureable nature of mental ability. The rise of intelligence testing and the associated concept of IQ was highly controversial, but it nonetheless achieved a considerable scientific and cultural legitimacy in both countries, and encouraged a tendency to conceptualise intelligence in statistical terms, as a phenomenon that distributes itself predictably around a norm in a population.

This project compares how British and American novelists used the bildungsroman form — the novel of education and personal development — to grapple with the implications of the new drive to render intelligence an objectively knowable phenomenon. What did it mean, and how did it feel, to be classified as being above, below, or of average intelligence, at a moment when such judgments began to lay claim to scientific authority? To what extent did novelists in the period endorse or contest the IQ model of intelligence, and what alternative ideas about the evaluation of intelligence can be discovered in the bildungsroman, a form with roots in Romantic theories of education? What is the relationship between new efforts to conceive of intelligence as a testable and unitary entity in the brain and the shift toward more experimental modes of literary representation in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries?

The project will also enquire into how shifting ideas about the nature of mental ability affected the discourses of literary criticism and conceptions of authorial identity in the period of transition from the nineteenth-century realist novel to the experiments of modernism. What impact did the rise of the notion of IQ have upon modern ideas of talent, creativity, and aesthetic value?

Finally, the project will explore how literary culture in this period can both clarify and enrich our contemporary debates about competitive examinations, meritocracy, and genetic determinism.

The grant will allow Drs. Lyons and Collins to appoint a post-doctoral researcher, conduct public-engagement events, conferences, and work towards the publication of a monograph on the topic.

Dr Sara Lyons is a Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Kent; Dr Michael Collins is a Lecturer in American Literature and Deputy Director of the Centre for American Studies at the University of Kent.



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Canada’s Treatment of Indigenous People: Film and Q&A

The Centre for American Studies welcomes Canadian film maker and lecturer, Tasha Hubbard on Monday 11 July (1-3pm in GLT3) for a screening of her documentary Two Worlds Colliding.

Hubbard’s 2005 documentary chronicles the story of Darrell Night, an Indigenous man who was dumped by two police officers in a barren field on the outskirts of Saskatoon in January 2000, during -20° C temperatures. He found shelter at a nearby power station and survived the ordeal, but he was stunned to hear that the frozen body of another Indigenous man was discovered in the same area. Days later, another victim, also Indigenous, was found.

This film is an inquiry into what came to be known as Saskatoon’s infamous ‘freezing deaths’ and the schism between a fearful, mistrustful Indigenous community and a police force that must come to terms with a shocking secret.

Following the screening, Tasha Hubbard will discuss how Patrick Wolfe’s “logic of elimination” plays out in the prairie city of Saskatoon. North American settler colonialism is predicated on the disappearance of Indigenous peoples, both historical and on-going. The destruction of the buffalo allowed Canadian forefathers to use a starvation policy to clear Indigenous peoples from the land, specifically in the prairies. Despite being confined to reservations throughout the early part of the 20th century and forced into assimilative and abusive residential schools, Indigenous people continued to fight to exist. When some of these oppressive laws were eventually lifted, Indigenous peoples migrated to urban centres like Saskatoon in the 1960s and 70s to find work and pursue education. Settler colonialism adapted with new tactics, such as police taking Indigenous peoples to the outskirts of the city, often in the depths of winter.

The film Two Worlds Colliding (2005) chronicles the discovery of this practice in Saskatoon through interviews with the police themselves, the families left behind, and a lone witness. Also related to the notion of disappearance are the 1700 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. While activists and communities have called for action by governments and police forces, their cries were met with willful deafness until this past year.

Hubbard’s earlier short film 7 Minutes (recent recipient of Best Short Non-Fiction at the Golden Sheaf Awards) shows the atmosphere of potential harm that young Indigenous women on the prairies must live with on a daily basis.


Tasha Hubbard is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Saskatchewan. She teaches indigenous literatures, as well as classes in first-year English as part of the Aboriginal Student Achievement Program. Her current film and academic work focuses on Indigenous creative representation of the Buffalo and on recovering historic Indigenous stories. She is an award-winning documentary filmmaker; her solo writing/directing project Two Worlds Colliding (2004) won a Canada Award at the Geminis and a Golden Sheaf Award and she recently released the animated short film Buffalo Calling, 2013.

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