Arts & Letters Research Groups

To encourage intellectual community and support the University’s research mission, the College of Arts and Letters, with assistance from the Vice President for Research, has provided grants for the formation and development of three new faculty research groups: the Freedom50 Research Group, the Urban Studies Collective, and the Digital Archives Research Group.


freedom50              digital                     


Freedom50 Research Group

The fiftieth anniversary of civil rights milestones inspired the creation of the Freedom50 Research Group. Commemorations for the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Mississippi’s Freedom Summer of 1964, and the passing of the Voting Rights Act and desegregation at Southern Miss in 1965 all suggest seismic shifts in racial politics, economic disparities, legislative objectives, and social interactions. Also, the deaths of Medgar Evers and Vernon Dahmer (among other martyrs) are remembered to honor their commitment to civil rights; their names are etched into cultural memories of a dark past.  But can we truly measure improvements in societal conditions, particularly increased awareness and understanding of the workings of race, by the passage of time?  If so, how can the academy partner with local communities to secure the legacies of activists by inspiring civic engagement for generations to come? 

The Freedom50 Research Group will work to facilitate such connections between the university and local communities by promoting public dialogues on race. We will consider how signs of racial progress, as evident by “first” accomplishments among black leaders (e.g. Dr. Rodney Bennett or President Barack Obama), are undermined by countless cases of police brutality against black males; how voter identification laws (e.g. Mississippi’s 2011 constitutional amendment) appear to signal a return to an era of racialized disenfranchisement; and how recent outbreaks of student protests on college campuses also suggest that racial progress should be critically measured, especially within the context of historical freedom movements. 



Urban Studies Collective

The Urban Studies Collective brings together scholars from different disciplines to begin a conversation about urban theory, development and history as it impacts American Studies generally and regional city space in particular.  With a particular focus on twentieth- and twenty-first-century cities, our collective will engage with scholarship from national and international theorists in order to apply their ideas to the local and particular.  Through these discussions, we will approach the problem of the urban from historical, theoretical, performative and statistical methodologies, thereby enriching our disciplinary thinking and scholarship on this field.  While the Collective prioritizes work on local and regional cities like New Orleans, Houston and Hattiesburg, we also take a global-historical view, engaging with macro-narratives of migration and immigration, architectural and spatial design, representational practices that range from the visual to the literary, and questions about how cities both large and small restrict access to the public sphere on the basis of race, class, sexuality and ethnicity.


Don't miss the Urban Studies Collective Colloquium on September 15, 2017! More info > 


Digital Archives Research Group

Regardless of discipline, the growing presence of digital archives has challenged all of us to ask innovative questions about our research and teaching. In the process, they have opened a number of radical challenges and opportunities in the classroom, encouraging faculty and students to incorporate archival materials into their scholarly work. We think a group committed to exploring how digital archives might be used to unsettle conventional practices, pedagogies, and methodologies would be of interest to faculty and students, as well as the broader public and academic community. Inspired by the recent turn toward digital humanities, our group will be guided by two questions. First, how have digital archives changed our understanding of the archive and archival materials (and, consequently, our understanding of our research)? And second, how might digital archives be productively harnessed by humanities scholars to experiment with new ideas, methodologies, projects, and pedagogies?