To celebrate American Independence Day, we caught up with Dr Stephen Mawdsley and Dr Sam Hitchmough, Co-Directors of the Faculty of Arts’ American Studies Research Group, to find out more about the Group, its activities, successes and plans for the future.
What is the American Studies Research Group?
The American Studies Research Group is an interdisciplinary collaborative partnership based in the Faculty of Arts, which brings together PGRs and academic staff members from History, English, Creative Writing, History of Art, Music, and Liberal Arts, as well as researchers from other allied programmes, including Geography, SPAIS, and Education.
What are the key objectives of the American Studies Research Group?
Our group has a broad and inclusive programme of events and activities designed to strengthen local research culture. We nurture not only existing staff, but the next generation of researchers by supporting the graduate student experience through colloquia, workshops, and funding initiatives. Our group not only draws on well-established academic communities and programmes, but also contributes to a range of national and global networks. We maintain a shared research agenda around a set of core themes: Race, Gender, Protest, Health and Medicine, and Decolonisation. These themes encourage and maximise opportunities for collaboration, impact, and grant capture, working together in creative ways, and alignment with university goals.
What successes have the American Studies Research Group had?
We had an extremely productive first year. Our group is helping to make Bristol an important player in academic publishing, postgraduate recruitment, grant capture, and impact on topics related to America. Our members have fostered American Studies networks and collaborative initiatives, attracted external funding from the British Association for American Studies, established an external partnership with a local museum, the American Museum in Bath, held a series of stimulating speaker sessions, and organized training sessions for our graduate students.
Could you tell us a little more about your partnership with the American Museum?
Last autumn two members of the American Studies Research Group were invited to join a new consultation group. A small group of experts in Native American history, American literature, museology and decolonisation, were invited to join museum staff and consider how to rethink and reframe the permanent exhibitions as well as engage with planning for future exhibitions. This work has included editing existing museum literature, text accompanying artefacts and rooms, layout, and website material and commentary.
What plans do the American Studies Research Group have for the next 12 months?
We have a dynamic set of plans for next year. In addition to continuing our regular initiatives, some of our members will continue to work closely with the American Museum in Bath as part of the consultation group reconsidering current and future exhibits. We are excited to grow our membership – please do get in touch if you’d like to join or have ideas that you’d like us to engage with.
What research have members of the American Studies Research Group recently produced?
Some of our most recent research outputs include: Lorenzo Costaguta, Workers of All Colors Unite: Race and the Origins of American Socialism (2023); Victoria Coules and Michael J. Benton, “The curious case of Central Park’s dinosaurs: The destruction of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ Paleozoic Museum revisited,” Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association (2023); Thomas M. Larkin, “The Global American Civil War and Anglo-American Relations in China’s Treaty Ports,” The Historical Journal (2022).
The American Studies Research Group launched in 2022 with the aim of making Bristol a leader in all aspects of study related to America and its history. To find out more about the American Studies Research Group and to get involved, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.