American Studies
American Studies

Betsy Beasley


Core FacultyPh.D., Yale University

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Interests


U.S. cultural, social, and political history; history of capitalism; environmental studies; the U.S. and the world; gender and sexuality; geography and urban studies; public and digital humanities

Biography


Betsy Beasley grew up in central Georgia and attended The University of Georgia, where she earned a B.A. in history. After graduation, she lived in New York City before beginning her PhD program in American Studies at Yale University. While at Yale, she split her time between New Haven and Philadelphia, where she dissertated over tofu hoagies and not-quite-New-York bagels. After she finished her PhD, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Mahindra Humanities Center and a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. In fall 2018, Professor Beasley joins the American Studies Department at UT Austin. Professor Beasley is the co-host and co-creator of Who Makes Cents: A History of Capitalism Podcast and the Book Review Editor at Enterprise and Society.

 

Research Interests

Professor Beasley is an interdisciplinary scholar of empire, capitalism, and the environment. She is interested in how labor politics and business strategy intersect with energy production and environmental justice; the ways in which local urban space shapes and is shaped by global forces; the culture and politics of labor, particularly service work; and the multidirectional intersections of capitalism, race, gender, and state formation in the twentieth century.
 
Publications & Scholarly Awards
Professor Beasley is currently finishing her first book manuscript, Expert Capital: Houston and the Making of a Service Empire, under contract with Harvard University Press. Expert Capital examines the intellectual and economic development of the globally integrated economy through the lens of the oilfield services industry. The book argues that oilfield services executives promoted a new ideology of American internationalism that envisioned the U.S. not as a center of manufacturing and production but as a white-collar headquarters serving the world through its provision of expertise. This corporate strategy and its accompanying ideology provided a way for U.S.-based firms to maintain cultural and economic power in an era of postcolonial nations’ rising political strength. In a moment when U.S. oil resources drastically diminished, exporting oil expertise offered a triumphalist explanation for the U.S. transition from an industrial to a post-industrial economy. The book follows the industry’s highest executives, its domestic and international blue- and white-collar employees, oil consumers at home and abroad, and international business and government officials to uncover the collaborations and negotiations that extended the industry’s reach across the globe and helped to cement the United States—and Houston in particular—as its international headquarters. While oil companies struggled over the ownership of the world’s oil reserves, oilfield services companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger forged a form of capitalism that escaped state oversight and slipped through national boundaries. Capitalizing on expertise remade both capitalism and U.S. foreign relations. 
 
Professor Beasley has published on the history of labor, business, gender and sexuality, cities, and international relations in Diplomatic History, Radical History Review, Urban History Review, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, The American Historian, and Public Seminar. Her dissertation was awarded the Honorable Mention for the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations’ Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize. She was a recipient of the Miller Center National Fellowship from the University of Virginia and the John E. Rovensky Fellowship in U.S. Business and Economic History, and her work has been supported with funding from the American Historical Association, the New Orleans Center for the Global South at Tulane University  the Coca-Cola World Fund, and multiple research libraries.

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