Visualising America: The Student Experience in the United States

KJ photoTo lauch our online photo exhibition of images from your year (or semester) abroad, Dr Karen Jones writes:

A key part of the American Studies programme at Kent has been the study abroad experience.  Many of our graduates will undoubtedly look back fondly on their time spent abroad – getting to grips with staying in a different country, navigating Thanksgiving Holiday, Independence Day, Spring Break and the esoteric rituals of the sorority and the sports field , not to mention the subtle rules of beer pong.  And, of course, the work…with its grade point averages, mid-term papers and pop quizzes.

These days, the UKC student can go to the United States (and, indeed, Canada, Europe or Latin America) as part of their American Studies degree for either a year or a term. Study abroad remains an integral part of the student experience and a fabulous way of examining American Studies ‘in action’ on its home turf.

Since 2005, the Centre for American Studies has run a successful study abroad photography competition for students spending time in the United States. Each year, all entries have been shown in gallery space at the University of Kent and prizes awarded for the best images at a special reception hosted by the Centre. Each of the winning photographs are shown here – providing a worthy testament to the vitality and diversity of the student experience in the USA as well as offering up a stunning visual compendium on the ‘United States’ as a visual subject (which turns out, all told, to be pretty photogenic).

In this 50th anniversary year of the University of Kent, and to celebrate our inaugural alumni newsletter, we would very much like to take the opportunity to invite all American Studies graduates to submit their own snaps of their study abroad experiences in the United States – digital or old-school prints (probably not slides!) equally welcome.  All will be displayed in the second edition of the newsletter.

Dr Karen Jones, Senior Lecturer in American and Environmental History


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Remembering Professor Christine Bolt

Christine Bolt, who died in 2004, was one of the founding members of the Board of Studies in History (now the School of History) and a leading figure in the Centre for American Studies at the University of Kent. She came to Kent in 1966, along with the second intake of students, as Lecturer in American History; she was only one of two women members of the Board at that point in time, and in her later years at Kent, when she rose to senior administrative positions, Christine did much to promote the interests and welfare of the university’s female staff.

Christine’s chief interest in her early years at Kent was in American social history, especially of the nineteenth-century, and more particularly in slavery and the antislavery movement: her doctoral dissertation for the University of London on ‘British Attitudes to Reconstruction in the United States, 1863-1877’ was reworked for her first book, The Anti-Slavery Movement and Reconstruction: A Study in Anglo-American Co-operation, 1833-1877.  This was followed by Victorian Attitudes to Race (1971) where her concerns had moved on to anthropological, ethnological, and pseudo-scientific constructions of race theory.   A general history of the United States, aimed primarily at English undergraduate readers, A History of the USA followed in 1974.

In the 1980s Christine’s interests turned increasingly towards the history of the Native American, particularly US government policy towards Indian removals, notably the strategies of assimilation, and their social, economic and demographic consequences.  The results of her research appeared as American Indian Policy and American Reform (1987).  Almost indefatigable, Christine attentions now turned her attention to the women’s movements in both the United States and Britain: a comparative study, The Women’s Movements in the United States and Britain from the 1790s to the 1920s was published in 1993, and a ‘companion’ volume that helpfully and expeditiously reviews the scholarship, Feminist Ferment: “The Woman Question” in the USA and England, 1870-1940 appeared in 1995.  A further amplification of this theme was Sisterhood Questioned?: Race, Class, and Internationalism in the American and British Women’s Movements, 1880s-1970s  published in 2004.

Whilst distinguishing herself as both a scholar and a teacher, Christine was also Chair of the Board of Studies in History (now School of History), Director of the Centre for American Studies. Sub-Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, and from 1988 until 1991, Pro-Vice Chancellor, thus becoming the first woman to hold a senior administrative position at the University of Kent.  Her contribution to the development and growth of American Studies at Kent was immense.  She took over the Directorship of the Centre at the point at which the programme was expanding, both in student numbers and in its undergraduate course provision. And, of course, she brought to American Studies the prestige that naturally arose from her ‘visibility’ as a scholar. American Studies at Kent during her tenure as Director was a four-year degree only, the third year being spent at an institution in the United States and Christine was responsible for negotiating the expansion of Kent’s student exchange arrangements. In those the Directorship of the Centre carried little in the way of reduced teaching or administrative responsibilities and Christine was unflagging in her commitment to her students, her subject, and the professional well-being of her colleagues.

Dr. Henry Claridge


Dr Emma Long, now working as a Lecturer in American History at the University of East Anglia boasts an illustrious Kent pedigree. She was an undergraduate in American Studies (1995-1999), a postgraduate student (2001-9), and, most recently, an associate lecturer and student support officer (2009-2012).  As holder of the first Bolt scholarship (2005-6) for her PhD, entitled ‘“Drawing the Line”: Religion, Education, and the Establishment Clause, 1947-1997,’ Emma looks back at her time at Kent and particularly the value of the Bolt scholarship

“I was lucky to get to meet both Christine and Ian Bolt.  I met them at different times at under different circumstances, but both played a role in the career I have today. I met Professor Bolt (she was not Christine to her students) as a first year American Studies student taking her classes on the American Revolution and on 1960s America.  I remember a slightly intimidating but nevertheless encouraging teacher who wrote kinder comments on my essays than I might do if I was marking them now (I still have them so I’ve been able to check).  Professor Bolt also supervised my second year dissertation on Native American removal in the mid-19th Century and, again, I remember the support and encouragement as well as the attempts to break me of bad writing habits (some more successful than others!).

I met Ian Bolt some time after I returned to Kent as a PhD student.  He had just launched the Bolt Scholarship in memory of Professor Bolt and I had applied.  He was on the interview panel and I remember his warmth, his enthusiasm and his interest.  I met him twice after that, once before I left for the US to make use of the scholarship I was awarded, and again shortly after I returned.  On both occasions he was interested to hear what I was planning and what I was working on and I regret that he did not have the opportunity to see the finished thesis.

The Bolt Scholarship made all the difference to my research, and I will be forever grateful for being the inaugural recipient.  It allowed me to spend six months at the Library of Congress in Washington DC, wading through the private papers of former Supreme Court Justices, giving me access to newspaper and journal material I could not have obtained in the UK, and ensuring speedy access to books that I would have had to wait weeks for through interlibrary loans.  My thesis had a depth and detail it simply would not have had without the opportunity that the Bolt Scholarship provided.  Equally importantly, the scholarship gave me time: time away from teaching, time away from work, time to immerse myself in my research; an opportunity I cannot imagine happening again.

Christine Bolt helped to make me a better student; Ian Bolt, through his generous scholarship, gave me the opportunity to expand my research opportunities. Both helped me on my path into academia and I will always be grateful.”

Dr Emma Long, Lecturer in American History, University of East Anglia


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Announcing the 2015 Bolt Lecture (22 Jan, 6pm)

The University of Kent welcomes Professor Clive Webb, Professor of Modern American History at the University of Sussex, to deliver this year’s Bolt Lecture. Entitled ‘British Reaction to the Kennedy Assassination’, this public lecture will take place on Thursday, 22nd January 2015 in Lecture Theatre 3, The Grimond Building at the University of Kent.

A wine reception will follow the lecture – all are welcome.

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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Ethnography and American Culture in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 1870-1920

The University of Kent is hosting a one-day symposium on 19th May 2014, entitled ‘Ethnography and American Culture in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 1870-1920’.

A Fair BreezeThe symposium is being organised by Dr Michael J. Collins (University of Kent) and it will include Plenary Lectures by Professors Nancy Bentley (University of Pennsylvania)and Brad Evans (Rutgers, New Jersey). It will attempt to unite literary studies and print culture with intellectual history, anthropology, the history of science and visual culture studies in order to explore how mainstream media related to emergent social-scientific disciplines in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era United States.

To register for Ethnography and American Culture in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, 1870-1920 click here.

Full Programme

  • 8.45 –  9.00 Registration
  • 9.00 – 9.15 Welcome and Opening Remarks
  • 9.15 – 10.45 Keynote Lecture: ‘Turning Data Into Metaphor: DuBois, Kinship, and Ethnographic Souls’ – Nancy Bentley (University of Pennsylvania)
  • 10.45 -11.00 Coffee
  • 11- 12.30 Panel 1: Documenting Difference and The Making of American Modernity

“Cultural Encounters in The Southwest: George Wharton James and the American Indian” – Martin Padget, (Aberystwyth University)

“At Home With…”Celebrity Interviewing as Ethnography in the Gilded Age” – Rebecca Roach (New College, Oxford)

“Harlem’s Magician: Charles S. Johnson and the Ironies of Urban Race Relations from Riot to Renaissance” – Cheryl Hudson (Vanderbilt University)

  • 12.30 – 1.30: Buffet Lunch
  • 1.30 – 2.45 Panel 2: Memorialisation and Material Culture – Ethnography on Display

“Ethnography and the Progressive Era: The ‘Memorial’ to the American Indian” – Danielle A. Fleming (University of Glasgow)

“To Amuse as Well as to Instruct: The Display of Humans at America’s Western World’s Fairs, 1894-1914” – Emily Trafford (University of Liverpool)

  • 2.45 – 3.15 Coffee
  • 3.15 – 4.45 Panel 3: Performance and Parody in the Ethnographic Imagination

“The Three R’s of Show Biz – Gags, Singing and a Time Step! The Marx Brothers Go to School” – Rick DesRochers (Long Island University)

“Black Ice: Blackface, Plantation Songs and the Myth of Old Dixie During Polar Exploration” – Tomek Mossakowski (King’s College, London)

  • 4.45 – 6.30 Drinks and Canapes
  • 6.30 – Film Screening and Q&A

Screening of ‘In the Land of the Headhunters’ with Introduction and Q&A by Brad Evans (Gulbenkian Cinema)

Film bill boardBased on recent archival research, in 2008 a collaborative team led by Aaron Glass (now at the Bard Graduate Center), Brad Evans (Rutgers), and Andrea Sanborn (of the U’mista Cultural Centre in BC) oversaw a new restoration of the film that returned the film’s original title, title cards, long-missing footage, color tinting, initial publicity graphics, and original musical score—now thought to be the earliest extant original feature-length film score in America.

Sponsored by The School of English, Centre for American Studies, and Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.

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‘Idle No More’ activist’s talk at Kent

This coming Friday, February 7th, Professor Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair (University of Manitoba) will be giving a talk about his involvement with the Idle No More movement in Canada, both as an activist, and as a writer and academic. The talk will take place from 1pm in Rutherford Lecture Theatre 2 and will be followed by a broader discussion about arts and activism.INM_notext

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair is Anishinaabe (St. Peter’s/Little Peguis) and an Assistant Professor at the University of Manitoba. He is a regular commentator on Indigenous issues on CTV, CBC, and APTN, and his written work can be found in the pages of The Exile Edition of Native Canadian Fiction and Drama, newspapers like The Guardian, and online with CBC Books: Canada Writes. Niigaan is the co-editor of the award-winning Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings from the Land of Water (Highwater Press, 2011) and Centering Anishinaabeg Studies: Understanding the World Through Stories (Michigan State University Press, 2013), and is the Editorial Director of The Debwe Series with Portage and Main Press.


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Historian at the Movies: Saving Mr Banks reviewed

As featured on the BBC’s History website, Dr John Wills, a senior lecturer in American history at the University of Kent, reviews Saving Mr. Banks – a biographical drama about PL Travers, the Australian creator of children’s literary classic Mary Poppins. Click here to read the full article.


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