American Studies
American Studies

B. Alex Beasley

Core FacultyPh.D., Yale University

Assistant Professor
B. Alex Beasley


  • Phone: 512-475-7792
  • Office: BUR 428
  • Office Hours: Spring 2020: Tuesdays, 3:30-4:30; Wednesdays 12:30-1:30; Thursdays, 3:30-4:30
  • Campus Mail Code: B7100


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


Alex Beasley grew up in central Georgia and attended The University of Georgia, where he earned a B.A. in history. After graduation, he lived in New York City before beginning his PhD program in American Studies at Yale University. While at Yale, he split his time between New Haven and Philadelphia, where he dissertated over tofu hoagies and not-quite-New-York bagels. After he finished his PhD, he 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 joined 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 capitalism and U.S. empire. He is primarily interested in how people experience and understand capitalism, and how their ideas about how the economy work -- or "should" work -- shape racial formations, gender, and sexuality. At the same time, he aims to chart how capitalism works -- often invisibly -- to create and reinscribe racial, gendered, and sexual inequalities. His research focuses on energy and the environmental humanities; urban studies; and the culture and politics of service work and reproductive labor.
Publications & Scholarly Awards
Professor Beasley is currently finishing his 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. His dissertation was awarded the Honorable Mention for the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations’ Betty M. Unterberger Dissertation Prize, and his article "Service Learning: Oil, International Education, and Texas' Corporate Cold War" won SHAFR's Stuart L. Bernath Scholarly Article Prize for the best article on United States foreign relations in 2018. He 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 his 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.


AMS 355 • Main Cur Of Amr Cul To 1865-Wb

31585 • Spring 2021
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM
Internet; Synchronous
CD HI (also listed as HIS 355N)

Same as History 355N. Traces the development of American culture and society from the colonial era until the end of the Civil War. Major themes include racial conflict, religion, slavery, the development of democracy, and cultural reform. Three lecture hours a week for one semester. Prerequisite: Upper-division standing.

AMS 390 • Us Capitalism And Culture-Wb

30659 • Fall 2020
Meets M 12:00PM-3:00PM
Internet; Synchronous
(also listed as HIS 392, WGS 393)

Graduate standing required. Permission from instructor required.

UGS 302 • Emotions In History-Wb

60180 • Fall 2020
Meets MW 9:30AM-11:00AM
Internet; Synchronous

The Signature Course (UGS 302 and 303) introduces first-year students to the university’s academic community through the exploration of new interests. The Signature Course is your opportunity to engage in college-level thinking and learning.

AMS F370 • Us Masculinities

78410 • Summer 2020
Meets MWF 10:00AM-11:30AM
IIWr (also listed as WGS F335)

What does it mean to be a man? Hiding in plain sight, the idea of masculinity is often taken for granted in American culture. Whereas femininity is discussed at length in the media and popular culture—through national debates about “leaning in,” for instance, or girls’ and women’s struggles with body image— masculinity is rarely given the same attention. Yet masculinity, like femininity, is constructed by cultural ideas about sex, gender, class, and race and has changed dramatically over time. Moreover, ideas about manhood and masculinity have shaped American political, economic, and cultural history in profound ways.

This course explores varied ideas about masculinity in the U.S. from the nineteenth century through the present. We will focus on four primary questions: How have the meanings of manhood changed over time? How have ideas about manhood and manliness affected the history of work in the U.S.? How have ideas about masculinity impacted U.S. international relations? And how do ideas of masculinity intersect with ideas about race, class, and sexuality? Through these questions, we will consider how masculinity relates to ideas about violence and self-sufficiency. We will engage with interdisciplinary literature in history, American Studies, urban studies, gender studies, and anthropology to answer these questions.

AMS 356 • Main Curr Amer Cul Since 1865

31160 • Spring 2020
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 130

Same as History 356K. Traces the development of American culture and society from the end of the Civil War to the present. Major themes include racial conflict, pluralism, religion, urban development and reform, modernism, government centralization, cultural radicalism, and the rebirth of conservatism. Three lecture hours a week for one semester. Prerequisite: Upper-division standing.

WGS 335 • U.S. Masculinities

45030 • Spring 2020
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 436A

Please check back for updates.

AMS 356 • Main Curr Amer Cul Since 1865

30590 • Fall 2019
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 136
CD HI (also listed as HIS 356K)

This course explores how different communities organized around identifiers such as race, ethnicity, national origin, class, gender, and ideology have negotiated with and contributed to changing conceptions of American identity. This course follows a rough chronology of the past 150 years, demonstrating changes and consistencies in social attitudes regarding individual, communal, and national identities, revealing a century and a half of political and social conflicts that complicate narratives of national consensus.

AMS 390 • Us Capitalism And Culture

30650 • Fall 2019
Meets M 2:00PM-5:00PM BUR 436B
(also listed as HIS 392, WGS 393)

This graduate seminar surveys key texts in the history of U.S. capitalism, paying particular attention to how capitalism has shaped American culture, and how American culture has shaped capitalism. We will place scholarship from the “new history of capitalism” into conversation with older texts to ask a series of questions: What is capitalism? What is culture? How does the “new history of capitalism” stem from and diverge from older histories of labor, business, and consumption? What is the relationship between the history of capitalism and American Studies? Our analysis will foreground scholars interrogating racial capitalism, settler colonialism, empire, gender, and sexuality, and we will also examine debates in the field about whether the “new history of capitalism” is or is not antagonistic to the so-called “cultural turn.”

AMS 370 • Energy And Us Capitalism

31157 • Spring 2019
Meets TTH 9:30AM-11:00AM BUR 436A

Does economic growth depend on production of cheap energy? Are the interests of the environment necessarily contrary to the interests of making money? Do jobs in the energy industry sustain communities or destroy workers’ bodies? These are the questions at the heart of much contemporary discussion about climate change in the United States and beyond. From promoting “green jobs” to debating “clean energy,” Americans are constantly grappling with the relationship between energy and the economy. 


This course explores the multiple intersections between the history of energy and the history of capitalism in the twentieth century, with a particular focus on the period since 1945. Using secondary texts as well as primary documents, film, photographs, and fiction, this course will interrogate the relationship between energy – oil, coal, natural gas, solar and wind energy – and the American economy. We will focus on four primary questions: How has the production of energy shaped American economic growth? How have energy companies shaped social and cultural life at home and abroad? How do workers in the energy industry understand the costs and benefits of their jobs? And how have American consumers thought about their consumption of energy? Throughout, we will pay careful attention to how race, gender, and sexuality have intersected with the politics and the culture of energy. 

AMS 370 • Global Cities In The U.S.

31159 • Spring 2019
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM BUR 436A

What is a “global city”? Journalists and social scientists alike argue that the global city is a recent invention of the 1990s, brought into being by new technologies, the end of the Cold War, and new immigration legislation. Characterized by transnational residents, dramatic socioeconomic stratification, economic connections between international marketplaces, and high levels of tourism and real estate speculation, the global city is, according to these commentators, a radically new form of urbanism. In this course, we will complicate this narrative by taking a longer view of the global city. In addition, we will seek to examine how placing global cities at the center of our analysis changes our understanding of both urban history and the history of U.S. global power. 


Our readings in this course seek to understand the relationships between the local and the global from the mid-nineteenth century through the present. To examine these relationships, we will concentrate on four distinct but overlapping questions: How have the structure and culture of workin the United States been influenced by transnational developments, including war, immigration, and the relocation of jobs? How have cities served as centralized sites for the movement of money, and how can we read these business functions in the landscape? How has U.S. global power been represented culturallyin urban space? 

Curriculum Vitae

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