Tag Archives: Guest Post

Chris Iverson on the "Acceptance in German Literary and Visual Culture" Conference at the University of Washington

 A guest post by Draperite Chris Iverson, 
recipient of one of Draper’s recent travel grants
Over May 11th and 12th, 2012, I attended The University of Washington’s Graduate Student Conference 2012, Acceptance in German Literary and Visual Culture, in Seattle, Washington and presented my paper, “Rubble Films on the German and International Screens.” The experience was amazing, as it was my first time presenting at a conference, and the panels covered a broad range of time periods and genres of German and international cultural products. The range of the conference proved impressive, with the notion of “acceptance” arising in many different forms, from the acceptance of a single writer or thinker into the German canon to the notion of the perception of Germany itself from without.

Notes from Draper’s Recent MA Thesis Workshop

Draper student, Chris Iverson, took some detailed notes at Draper’s recent MA Thesis Workshop that he was kind enough to share. We hope they will be helpful to many of you.

You’ll see that both Steve and Theresa, who led the workshop, mention that Draper has a collection of award-winning and -nominated theses. It’s true! We do! If you haven’t heard of or seen it yet, please feel free to come take a look. The theses are housed in rm 107 and are available to browse during office hours (M-F, 9-5). You can read them at Draper or check a couple out for a week or so. As Steve and Theresa point out, this can be a great resource when it comes to writing/formulating your own thesis.

If anyone has additional notes from this workshop that they’d be willing to share, we’d love to post them to the listserv in addition to Chris’s excellent overview, below.

Please email notes to draper.program@nyu.edu.


Draper Thesis Workshop 2/24/12

·Draper has a collection of award-winning and -nominated theses to read.

oThis might help with format.

·A thesis topic should relate to where you’ve been and/or where you are going.

oDraw on previous research or design the thesis to help in future work.

·Three starting points might help when considering a topic:


oData/types of sources


Steve Moga’s Talking Points

·Pick something that motivates you.

oIf your topic does not interest you, this will be painful.

·Write all the way through.

oDo not collect data and wait to write. You may forget some context or lose steam.

·Be in communication with your advisor.

·Think about the thesis in the simplest possible way (elevator speech). It helps to think about a title to keep on track.

·In the planning stages, it helps to set a deadline and work backwards. This is a way to get an vision of what the finished thesis should look like and break it up into more doable parts.

Theresa MacPhail’s Talking Points

·Writing is thinking.

oFreewriting is a valuable parctice when “stuck.”

oIdea mapping gives the material a physical dimension.

·Reverse outlining can help organize

oTaking a written passage and notating the margins can help find the stucture hidden in a written text. This allows for organizing at a basic level .

·Do not start at the beginning!

oThe thesis or topic may not become clear until the bulk of the paper is written and organized.

·Look at other papers and “steal” the format.

oLike, for example, see Draper’s collection of award-winning and -nominated theses.

·Have a friend or other educated reader take a look at the text to make sure that it does what you want it to do. If another intelligent reader cannot follow the logic, then it may not be organized properly.

·Write a one-sentence thesis statement to help simplify the idea that will make the core of the argument.

·Don’t be afraid to “kill your babies.” In other words, you may have to delete blocks of great text if they prove tangential and do not return to your topic.

oA way to make this less painful is to cut and paste “outtakes” into another file so thay are not lost forever. They may even prove helpful for a future project.

Alumna Hilarie Ashton on the CAAS Conference in Ottawa

Draper alumna Hilarie Ashton (January 2011) attended the annual conference of the Canadian Association of American Studies in Ottawa last weekend where she presented a paper. She wrote about her experience at the conference, which you can read belo. Congrats, Hilarie!

This weekend, I attended the annual conference of the Canadian Association of American Studies (CAAS) in Ottawa, Ontario. The conference, sponsored by Carleton University’s Centre for Research in American Studies, took as its theme the aesthetics of renewal, an idea that caught and kept my attention from the abstract submission stage through the conference itself. I came away from the plenaries and sessions more interested than ever in the place of American Studies on the world stage and the intersections and interactions that it can have with other disciplines (in particular national, ethnic, and cultural studies).

The paper I presented is entitled “The Doppelganger Artist: Reuse and/or Originality in Postmodernity and Popular Music.” Based on the interesting ways in which it fit with the other papers on the panel, I’m planning to expand it for publication. My basic argument is that the phenomenon I’m calling the “entertainment doppelganger,” or artist who creates a persona or a work by adopting elements of another artist’s persona or work, is especially affected by the postmodern era (or whatever might be developing in its place). I argued that these doppelgangers’ almost plagiarism, while nothing new, historically, is abetted by our era’s free flowing Internet, new media, Twitterpated atmosphere (one of which, it must be said, I am a rather ardent fan). The panel that featured my paper was on remixed music, and there was so much synergy between my paper and the one that preceded it, on Girl Talk and other mashup artists, that I couldn’t help but refer to it during my presentation.

Other highlights: a panel entitled “What Do Things Want” that combined papers on kitsch and flea market culture; the politics of photography (subjects including vinyl records and a typed reproduction of On The Road); and the intersections between fashion and (Judeo-Christian) religion. I also highly enjoyed two of the several keynotes: one by Drs. Linda and Michael Hutcheon (she, University Professor in the Department of English and the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto, and he, Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto) on opera, and one by Anthony Stewart, a professor of English at Dalhousie University, on the New Black American in Colson Whitehead and in the lyrics of the band Fishbone.

Breaking Down “Breaking Boundaries”

by Michelle Matthews (Silver School of Social Work) and Katie Koumatos (Draper Program)

A week ago, we (Michelle and Katie) attended the 13th Annual Women’s History Conference at Sarah Lawrence College together. Entitled, “Breaking Boundaries: Body Politics and the Dynamics of Difference,” the conference incorporated scholastic voices from a variety of very different but interconnected disciplines, including a strong presence from the disabled community, the fat activist community and scholars studying the specific experiences and needs of African American women. We both had a really wonderful time and wanted to share our experiences with you.

The conference was scheduled to begin Friday evening with a keynote address by Marilyn Wann, author of Fat?So! and fat-activist extraordinaire. When we arrived, Marilyn was already there, inviting people to step on her Yay! Scale. An excellent example of the way that Fat Activists are creatively subversive, the Yay! Scale is a scale in which the numbers have been removed and replaced by compliments. Repurposed for the task to creating body self-esteem, this scale weights you and then gives you compliment. While the Yay! Scale told Katie that she was “the definition of Cute”, Michelle was reportedly “Fine, bordering on Perfect.”*

Marilyn’s keynote address was a basic introduction to the arguments behind the Fat Acceptance and the Health at Every Size (HAES) movements. She led the group in an analysis of the cultural associations of the fat/thin binary and challenged the common misconceptions about fat bodies. This ended up being a very useful exercise as people who were well versed in the culturally constructed ideas around race and gender were able to see how many of the same associations – dirty, ugly, messy, lazy, dangerous – as are used to oppress other marginalized groups are used to oppress fat people .

I (Katie) felt that one of the most salient points that Marilyn made revolved around the money that we spend on dieting in this country. Despite the fact that scientific studies have consistently shown that diets fail 95% of the time, last year Americans still spent over $59,700,000,000 trying to lose weight. Putting this into perspective, that is enough money to build a house for every single homeless person in this country and still have more than twenty billion dollars left over.

Wann offered valuable knowledge, but it was her engaging demeanor and happy dances that turned what could have been a cold lecture of facts and frustration into an enjoyable shared learning environment. Ending on a fat mad lib and a song, Marilyn’s keynote was engaging, informative and fun.

The evening continued with some dinner and a night of spoken word poetry. Maria James-Thiaw, Lara Frater, Tatiana McKinney and other poets all contributed to the event. By holding it in the Slonim Living Room, an intimate and safe space was created for personal and political expression.

Saturday began with a plenary panel that included presentations by Kathleen LeBesco, Susan Schwiek and Zoe Spencer. While the presentations by LeBesco and Schwiek were compelling and informative, we both felt that it was Spencer’s work, entitled “The Sexualized Body Politics of African American Women: From Enslavement to Hip Hop,” that really engaged and challenged the audience.

In my (Michelle) opinion, Spencer’s presentation was the highlight of the day. Not only did I love the fact that she is a fellow social worker, but her work was truly gripping. Several times she pointed out the race bias of the audience in a challenging but non-judgmental way. Her lecture was organized around the historic stereotypes of African American women and included categories like the Jezebel, the Mammy, the Sapphire and the Welfare Mom.

In the beginning of her lecture, she carefully presented the true horror of African American women’s slavery. Working to help the audience fully grasp the extent of their oppression, Spencer reiterated that these women had been treated like animals. They were raped, used to breed more slaves, and denied the chance to be mothers to their children. It was clear that she felt the need to impress upon us the intensity of this trauma and how her community is still feeling the effects of it. She moved through history, discussing the changing stereotypes of African American women and how their sexuality has continued to be controlled, manipulated and adjusted to fit the needs of the dominant culture. It was towards the end of the lecture that she interrupted herself to tell the mostly white audience that their lack of personal interaction with the African-American community probably left them with skewed views of African-American women. “You don’t go over to our houses for dinner. You don’t invite us to your house for dinner. For many of you, your ideas of African American women come from these constructed stereotypes.”

I (Katie) was particularly impressed with Spencer’s courage in challenging the notion of liberal safe spaces and her decision to present her work in a style that differed from the traditional academic model. Her lecture was equally filled with intense scholastic research and casual stories, random thoughts and personal interjections as she visibly negotiated how to best share this information with our particular audience. After the presentation, I (Michelle) sought her out to thank her for her lecture and talk with her more about teaching difference within the field of social work. We came to the conclusion that teaching difference and politeness are really incompatible, as it takes the uncomfortable experiences of being confronted with your privilege to allow students the chance to learn their biases and better understand “ethnocultural issues.” Spencer didn’t shy away from creating this same uncomfortable space with the audience and we both greatly respected her fierce candor.

The conference broke up into a series of smaller sessions, intermingled with a lunch break and some more hands-on activities. While the smaller presentations were engaging, it was truly these two larger lectures that captured our attention. We both networked a great deal, meeting scholars from other institutions and establishing the beginning of what could be very beneficial collaborative projects.

That first night, Marilyn Wann said, “If we can’t be at home in our own bodies, where are we supposed to go?” This beautifully sums up the entirety of the conference. As women, we must fight to regain psychological and physical ownership of our bodies above all else. If we are undermined in the control we have over how we conceive of our own flesh, everything else that we do in the world is weakened.

Katie Koumatos is a first year student in the Draper Program. She is trained in psychological anthropology and uses a multi-media approach to study the burgeoning fat activist movement. Michelle Matthews is a first-year master’s student in the Silver School of Social Work, where she focuses her practice on health and women’s issues. She founded the Size Diversity Coalition of Social Workers and blogs as the Fat Social Worker. Katie and Michelle are both fat activist who first met on a list-serve created to support the writing of the Fat Studies Reader. They met in person two months ago when Katie arrived in New York and have been planning mischief ever since. Currently they are working on creating an NYU student group affiliated with fat activism out of which they plan to run the Fat Studies Writing Workshop, a writer’s group for academics in this developing discipline. They are also planning on attending the Endangered Species: Women international summit at The New School this coming weekend. They welcome their fellow students to join them at this upcoming conference. You can reach them through their nyu emails at ksh287 or mmm608.

*We are planning a “Make Your Own Yay! Scale” Workshop for the Spring. If you are interested in joining us, please shoot us an email.

Guest Post: Katie Koumatos on Two Upcoming Women’s Issues Conferences

On the west coast, we hear that New York City has everything. As a newly minted resident of Queens, I am beginning to see evidence that this might actually be true. This month there are two inexpensive and impressive conferences on women’s issues happening in the area and I can’t wait to attend.

Interested in the dynamic nature of discourse surrounding the female body? Want to learn and talk about how these ideas intersect with topics like health, race, law and education? Then you should attend Breaking Boundaries: Body Politics & the Dynamics of Difference. This conference is being held this coming weekend at Sarah Lawrence College. It is free and open to the public but you must register on the website. The conference runs Friday, March 4th from 6pm-8pm and Saturday, March 5th from 10am-6pm (there is an optional $10 luncheon on Saturday). The conference features keynote speaker Marilyn Wann, author of Fat?So!, prominent Fat Activist, and all around phenomenal speaker.

Concerned about the cultural constructs that stop women from accepting their bodies? I am too. That’s why I am attending the international summit, Endangered Species: Preserving the Female Body on March 18th and 19th. Hosted by the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute, this incredible educational opportunity will be held at The New School. Featuring international speakers from a wide range of backgrounds, this summit consists of several complex and carefully crafted panels where speakers are discussing the “toxic culture that teaches women and girls to hate their bodies” and the way they are facing this challenge in their respective fields. The summit runs 6pm-9pm on Friday, March 18th and 8am-8pm on Saturday, March 19th. Registration requires some level of body activist donation (the least expensive option is $20).

I will be attending both conferences with a fellow fat studies scholar from the NYU School of Social Work and we would love to have you join us. Feel free to email larissa.kyzer@nyu.edu for my contact information.


Katie Koumatos, a transplant from Northern California, has just started her education at NYU this semester. She is trained in anthropology and studies the burgeoning fat activist movement and the discourse that occurs at the intersection of fat, food, and shame. She is greatly interested in collaborative work and would welcome contact from scholars interested in Fat Studies.