MAST Faculty Spotlight: Former MAST Director, Dr. Rebecca Hill

Dr. Rebecca Hill

As an undergraduate, former MAST director Dr. Rebecca Hill studied history at a small liberal arts college, and she describes her undergraduate years as being strongly influenced not just by the classes she took with her mentors, but also by the anti-apartheid movement with which she was heavily involved. She reflects, “I wound up writing my senior thesis on women in the Communist Party of the USA from 1941-1956, which would later wind up being the foundation of my first academic publication.” For part of that project, she analyzed gender in communism by studying the Communist Party newspaper, The Daily Worker’s weekly “women’s page” which included cartoons and cooking advice.

The intersection of politics and popular culture in her undergraduate thesis ultimately led Hill to pursue a PhD in American Studies at the University of Minnesota. Her thesis there became the basis for her book Men, Mobs and Law, about labor defense and anti-lynching activism, which was motivated by her participation in Minneapolis community organizations opposed to police and prisons in the mid-1990s. Right after she graduated, Hill taught for two years as an adjunct in New York City, dividing her time between English and history, until she got a tenure-track job at the Borough of Manhattan Community College teaching U.S. history. In recalling that time, she says, “I loved my students and colleagues at BMCC, but really wanted to work in American Studies, so when I saw the job advertisement for the director of the new American Studies program at Kennesaw in 2010, I was very excited.”

When reflecting on her accomplishments, Hill says that the role she played in the collective decision to create the Interdisciplinary Studies Department starting in 2011 is among the most impactful. This brought together American Studies, African and African Diaspora Studies, Asian Studies, Latin-American and Latinx Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Religious Studies, and Peace Studies with a department chair. Having a department instead of being several separate programs allowed them to make dedicated interdisciplinary hires, bringing a number of excellent faculty into the American Studies program, starting with our first Interdisciplinary Studies chair, Robbie Lieberman, as well as Dr. Rudy Aguilar and Dr. Miriam Brown Spiers.

Having American Studies in a department with a significant emphasis in ethnic studies also meant that the American Studies programs at both the graduate and undergraduate levels were more directly connected to faculty teaching in these programs and to the scholarship coming out of ethnic studies and gender studies. Changing the American Studies minor to a “Comparative American Studies” in 2017 was also about making this connection between American Studies and ethnic and gender studies stronger. Finally, she’s proud of working with colleagues to create the two new first-year graduate courses: History and Culture of the Americas and Literature and Culture of the Americas, which have made the program’s early vision of a hemispheric American Studies program much more of a reality.

The biggest highlights for Hill are mostly related to the student organization, AMSTO which she advised students in founding in 2013. In particular, she enjoyed the symposium that AMSTO put together every fall. She relates, “Seeing students and faculty gathered around tables in the atrium talking about research during ‘chat and chew’ to me represents the best of what grad school can be.” Hill admits, though, that the other major highlights have been attending thesis defenses for her students. “I feel very proud of my own advisees for the work they did on their projects and love to hear from them about what they are doing now,” she reflects. Finally, a highlight that sticks out for Hill came just last year: “This past fall we had a big alumni party to celebrate the program’s 10th anniversary and it was fantastic to have students from so many different classes together in one room.”

Hill’s mass incarceration is her favorite course to teach because “the topic is so urgent, and because it’s not a required course. There’s also just a huge amount of good academic work on the subject that is finally crossing over into popular discourse- which we can see in the current global uprising.” She continues, “On a more mundane level, it’s a really different experience to teach a course about a specific theme to people who chose that course rather than to teach required theory and methods courses. I’ve been teaching both those courses for the past ten years, and I have liked teaching both of them for different reasons.” She enjoys teaching theory because “I like working through complex ideas with students in real time,” and she enjoys teaching methods because “I enjoy seeing students developing their own research projects and trying to problem-solve with them.” That in particular — working with students on the more theoretical elements of research methods — was exciting for Hill. She explains, “For me, conversations about the way research methods shape thinking are central to the interdisciplinary mission of American Studies.”

Now that Dr. Stacy Keltner has taken the reigns of the American Studies program at KSU, Dr. Hill is going to be a regular faculty member and Professor of American Studies in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department. She’s teaching two graduate courses this fall because she’ll be on a research leave in the spring of 2021. She’s located down at the other end of the hall in the ISD suite, next to the conference room. During her leave, she’ll be working on a book she started when she was in her second year as director, which is about anti-fascism in U.S. politics and popular culture. She’s teaching both the graduate and undergraduate American Studies research methods courses as well as her graduate course on the geography of mass incarceration under the heading “Cities, Suburbs and Countryside.”

Hill is also working on a new course on the 2008 global economic crisis and ensuing social movements, under the general heading “Occupy” which she would like to teach at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. Finally, she’s currently one of three co-editors of a new book of essays called Teaching American Studies: State of the Classroom as State of the Field, which is scheduled to come out from the University Press of Kansas in Spring 2021.

Thanks for ten great years, Dr. Hill! We wish you all the best in your current and future endeavors.

Adapted Proust Questionnaire: Dr. Hill Edition

1. What is your favorite word? Important.

2. What is your least favorite word? Ugly.

3. What excites you creatively, spiritually, or emotionally? Social movements.

4. What doesn’t excite you? Grading Papers.

5. What is your favorite curse word? The f-bomb in any permutation. When not wearing my professor hat, I still talk like a line-cook.

6. What sound or noise do you love? Music.

7. What sound or noise do you hate? Traffic.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Journalism. At one time I almost quit graduate school to go be an intern at the Nation – but my advisors talked me out of it.

9. What profession would you not like to do? Advertising.

10. If an ultimate “God” exists, what would you like to hear her say when it is your time? You did enough.


MAST Program Introduces New Director, Dr. Stacy Keltner

Dr. Stacy Keltner

We here at KSU’s Master of Arts in American Studies program (MAST) are pleased to introduce you to our new program director, Dr. Stacy Keltner, who comes to us from our department’s Gender & Women’s Studies program (GWST), with which she’s been involved since its inception in 2007. Dr. Keltner is a first-generation college graduate from the Nashville area, who double-majored in Philosophy and Literature at the University of Evansville in Indiana. There she received, as she says, “all the individualized attention and loving care a student could ever hope for in two different departments,” and that’s exactly what she plans to bring to our MAST program.

Later, Dr. Keltner attended graduate school at the University of Memphis (UM), studying philosophy and focusing on social, cultural, and political theory. At the time, UM was one of the only philosophy programs in the country emphasizing feminist and critical race theory from American, European, and postcolonial theoretical traditions and contexts. This had a profound effect on Dr. Keltner’s research interests, and it is only part of why we’re excited for what she’ll bring to the MAST program.

Dr. Keltner came to KSU in 2005, joining the History & Philosophy Department, but she switched to Interdisciplinary Studies (ISD) when it first began forming in 2007. At that point, she became co-founder and the first program coordinator for our GWST program. More recently, Dr. Keltner has started her first term as President of the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association (SEWSA), the largest and most active regional organization in the field. 

Dr. Keltner has published widely in social and political theory, continental philosophy, and feminist theory. She has two books on French cultural theorist Julia Kristeva: a monograph, Kristeva: Thresholds (Polity Press, 2011), and a co-edited volume, Psychoanalysis, Aesthetics, and Politics in the Work of Kristeva (SUNY Press, 2009). Her work has appeared in Proceedings of the Modern Language AssociationPhilosophy Today, and Continental Philosophy Review, as well as in broad reach venues like CounterPunch and Common Dreams. She is currently finalizing an edited collection of key writings on love and sex for Kendall-Hunt, Love and Sex: A Primer, which will appear this fall; re-launching a public scholarship project online called Engage This! A Toolbox for Changemakers (August 2020); and co-writing a book on nudity, the body, and activism with former MAST student and current GWST instructor Ashley McFarland.

When asked about transitioning from GWST leadership to MAST, Dr. Keltner is optimistic: “I’m excited and have a lot of ideas about collaboration, mentoring, program building, and recruitment that I want to try out,” she says. In thinking about the university’s mission to transition into an R2 school, she emphasizes the value of our department’s work:  

I think it is very important for American Studies to be at the table for the college- and university-level discussions of what graduate programming is going to look like. That said, many of our long-held values are the ones being emphasized – interdisciplinarity, engagement, diversity, culture. We just have to make sure we are part of the dialogue that determines their meaning.

Dr. Keltner is confident that she can bring our values to the forefront of the dialogue about graduate education at KSU with the administration, and as she notes above, our values of interdisciplinarity and engagement are at the heart of KSU’s new mission. We need someone, like Dr. Keltner herself, to communicate our mission, as our professors and students are already doing the kind of work the administration is emphasizing. In many ways, our MAST program is on the cutting edge of research and graduate studies at KSU and beyond, and in Dr. Keltner, we find a new spokesperson for the important role we have to play in the university’s future.

Dr. Keltner describes her leadership style as “[c]ollaborative, democratic, creative, integrative.” Furthermore, she notes that “[she likes] finding creative solutions to problems and ways forward that engage current and new constituents in building structures, processes, and spaces that strengthen our communities.”  She comes to us ready to put into place a new short-term, three-year vision to “launch a specialized online graduate certificate, graduating 12-15 M.A. students each year, and [be] more connected to various communities and initiatives throughout the university and the metro region.”

Dr. Keltner is most assured of the quality of MAST’s content, and she is excited to begin her work as Director of MAST on July 1, 2020. As she says, “Everyone wants to learn more and talk about the cultural, social, and political phenomena of the Americas.” Hear, hear!

Welcome, Dr. Keltner! We look forward to working with you!

Scroll below for an exclusive “Inside the Professor’s Office” with Dr. Keltner!

Exclusive: Inside the Professor’s Office with Dr. Stacy Keltner

Based on Bernard Pivot’s Adapted Use of Proust’s Questionnaire

What is your favorite word?

All of them. I love words, especially those moments when they return us to their joy and novelty — when you read an author and are struck by how many words continue to flow in describing a single thing or when you catch yourself speaking or writing and are surprised the words are erupting. I probably experienced this most when my children began emerging as little speakers themselves. I love it when words succeed in pulling you down deep into their joy and novelty. 

What is your least favorite word?

All of them when they refuse to come, leaving you cold and exposed.

What excites you creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?

Really good writing.

What doesn’t excite you?

Really bad writing. 

What is your favorite curse word?

Curses! (My daughter picked this up somewhere recently, and it is hilarious).

What sound or noise do you love?

Birdsong or laughter, can’t decide

What sound or noise do you hate?

That incessant hum (of machines, the highway, my brain) blocking out the sounds I like.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Great American novelist – I launched my career as a failed novelist when I was a teenager.

What profession would you not like to do?

Marketing – which seems to have swallowed our jobs whole. 

If an ultimate “God” exists, what would you like to hear her say when it is your time? 

I’m sorry. 


Welcome to American Studies at Kennesaw State University!

Our Department Chair, Dr. Robbie Lieberman, with members of our American Studies Student Organization, or AMSTO

We here at the Master of Arts in American Studies are venturing into the blogosphere to keep you updated on what’s going on in our department and in the broader field of American Studies. We’ll bring you Student and Faculty Spotlights, Guest Bloggers, Reading lists for your breaks, and Alumni Updates in addition to general articles about American Studies.

See our website for more information here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well to keep up with all that we have going on!

Application deadlines:

Fall Semester: July 1

Spring Semester: November 1

Summer Semester: April 1

Creating a Record of It: Digital Archives for the Past, Present, & Future

We are excited to announce a new recurring panel series featuring our very own students, staff, alumni, and faculty highlighting the outstanding work that our MAST community does. To kick us off, we’re bringing back alumna Ann Kane Burkly (’14), alumna and staff member Annie Moye (’12), and KSU’s top archivist, Dr. Tamara Livingston to discuss how to build a digital archive either for your research and scholarship or for personal use as well. 

Dr. Tamara Livingston will start us off with a kind of Archives 101 discussion of her experience and expertise in the field of archival research. Next, Burkly will discuss her practicum in the MAST program working one summer back in 2011 at Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, during which she and two other MAST students created a digital archive, a sort of digital map, for Paradise Garden’s then-caretakers. Finally, Moye will discuss her capstone project with the Pasaquan Preservation Society and all the wonderful things that digital archive project led to. 

This is sure to be a colorful and lively conversation between three passionate womxn, so make plans to join us on Wednesday, September 23, at 3:30PM.  Click here to register for the meeting.

Hitchhiking on the Proud Highway: Hunter S. Thompson and an American Past-time

By Jack Reid

Photo from hitchhiking journey west in 1960 (also the cover of the edited volume The Proud Highway)

In 1963, a young Hunter S. Thompson published a thoughtful eulogy to a beloved pastime of his titled, “The Extinct Hitchhiker.”  Thompson had taken a keen interest in hitchhiking five years earlier after reading On the Road as a twenty-one-year-old living in New York City. Although Thompson would come to be known for his famed Gonzo approach to writing with the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)—at the time he was an unknown writer struggling to pay his mounting bills.  Even so, this reality did little to diminish his spirit.  Indeed, he was desirous of everything and eager to see the world and all it had to offer. 

Over the next several years Thompson certainly did, chasing down stories throughout the United States and even into the Caribbean and South America.  Still, his memories of hitchhiking adventures years earlier stuck with him, prompting him to circle back to the topic while freelancing for an upstart weekly newspaper called The National Observer.  The resulting article framed hitchhiking as a “lost art,” a bygone form of spontaneous transit out of touch within an increasingly regimented America. What Thompson failed to realize at the time, though, was that hitchhiking was instead on the cusp of a renaissance among young people.

Once common during the Great Depression and World War II years when a sense of national crisis forged a more cooperative civic culture in the United States, hitchhiking began to lose popularity in the 1950s as the country’s citizenry became increasingly prosperous and risk-averse.  With more Americans than ever able to afford automobiles, many critics characterized flagging down a stranger for a ride as anachronistic and needlessly dangerous. Yet a series of historical circumstances, including the publication of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in 1957, helped the practice to gain traction among growing numbers of middle class, white youths. 

Kerouac’s romanticized portrait of the road and the characters who populated it gave restless mobility a hip allure to a generation of young men yearning to cast off the comforts and predictability of post-war suburbia.  By the late-sixties, women too began to see hitchhiking as a vehicle toward a more liberated sense of self.  Some youths hitched across town, while more ambitious individuals took off on extended journeys throughout the country.  Surviving the difficulties of a rucksack existence on the open road and meeting a cross section of Americans they would otherwise likely never meet opened their eyes to a new world.  As Thompson’s writing career took off in the early 1970s, so too did the popularity of hitchhiking, which thrived as a form of alternative transit until the late 1970s.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thompson moved to New York City following a bumpy stint in the Air Force that came to an end in 1958While living in New York, he wrote constantly.  Although finding steady work as a journalist, he ultimately wanted to become a novelist in the vein of his hero Ernest Hemingway.  Thompson was drawn to the literary output of those he described as “men of action,” individuals who in his mind captured the essence of masculine individualism and intellectual vigor.

“At age 22, I set what I insist is an all-time record for distance hitchhiking in Bermuda shorts: 3,700 miles in three weeks.”

This sentiment and the growing popularity of the beat movement led him to read On the Road once he arrived in New York.  Impressed, he wrote to a friend “I’m beginning to see what Kerouac means when he says ‘I want God to show me his face’: it is not the statement, but what the statement implies: ‘I want to believe in something.’” In an earnest but irreverent tone, he observed “the man is more of a ‘spokesman’ than most people think…and he speaks for more than thieves, hopheads, and whores.”[1]  Still, he wasn’t completely sold on Kerouac, complaining to a close friend that most of his other works were vastly inferior to On the Road.  With an early taste of the ruthless wit that would soon become a trademark of his, he noted “The man is an ass, a mystic boob with intellectual myopia.”[2]

Regardless, On the Road left an imprint on Thompson and many other young people at the time. In August of 1958 Thompson embarked on a hitchhiking trip around the country—hoping that an unfiltered dose of the human condition would inspire the great American novel he was aching to write.  He took off once again in the autumn of 1960, hitchhiking with a friend from New York to Seattle, before heading over to San Francisco.  The two were ostensibly looking for work, but the frequent photos of themselves posing on the roadside sporting a beat disposition suggests that they imagined the trip in more romanticized terms as well.[3]

In his 1963 article, Thompson looked back on those hitchhiking days, remarking “Can any bus, plane, or train match the feeling of standing out on a morning road with the sunlight in your face and the smell of new-cut grass all around and no worry in the world except how far the next ride will take you.”  Still, Thompson was too impatient to take in such a moment for too long.  In the same article, he bragged “At age 22, I set what I insist is an all-time record for distance hitchhiking in Bermuda shorts: 3,700 miles in three weeks.”[4] 

Although Thompson believed the practice was on its way to extinction, a number of historical circumstances in the mid-to-late 1960s inspired a growing number of youths to share his enthusiasm for hitchhiking.   While a generation of adults who had survived the Great Depression and World War II wanted comfort and predictability, many of their children looked to escape these staid environments.

In the end, thrifty transit made hitchhiking practical and appealing, but it was the wild stories that came out of these spontaneous experiences that gave the practice hip cache among young people. In the case of Hunter S. Thompson, hitchhiking offered an antidote to his restlessness and a vehicle to vigorously grab life with both hands. Thompson famously wrote “Buy the ticket. Take the ride.”  In this case, the ride was free.  Ultimately, this instinct to live with a boldness and intensity beyond what most could handle would fuel the rest of his writing career and life more broadly.

Jack Reid is a historian of American culture and the author of Roadside Americans: The Rise and Fall of Hitchhiking in a Changing Nation (University of North Carolina Press, 2020).

[1] Hunter S. Thompson The Proud Highway: The Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, ed. Douglas Brinkley (New York: Villard Books, 1997), 110

[2] Thompson, The Proud Highway, 140.

[3] For instance, see Gonzo, ed. Steve Crist and Paul Norton (Los Angeles: Ammo Books, 2007), 19-27.

[4] Crist, Gonzo, 19-27.