American Studies
American Studies

Presenting: The 2018 Incoming Cohort of Doctoral Students!

Thu, September 13, 2018
Presenting: The 2018 Incoming Cohort of Doctoral Students!
Welcome to the 2018 incoming cohort!

UT-Austin's American Studies doctoral program is delighted to welcome five new students this Fall, 2018: Ja'nell Ajani, Holly Genovese, Taylor Johnson, Bahar Tahamtani, and Kristen Wilson. Read on to find out a little bit about each student's academic interests, personal and scholarly background, and other passions and interests.   

Ja'nell N. Ajani is a first-year PhD student in American Studies. She graduated from New York University with an MA in Africana/Museum Studies and a MA in Studio Art Photography. Prior to beginning doctoral studies, she conceptualized and produced special events in partnership with institutions such as The Museum of Modern Art, Times Square Arts, Performa, The Brooklyn Museum, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, WBAI Radio 99.5 FM NYC, and the Africana Studies program in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU, and NYU Florence. She also worked for NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai as an administrator. Her current research interests include Modern and Contemporary Art, Commodification, Cinema and Media Studies, Visual Culture Studies, African-American Art and Art of the African Diaspora, Media and Performance, and Popular Culture.

Holly Genovese's "academic interests are in radical social movement history,
African American history, incarceration, women’s studies and prison literature. I have written
about women’s prison literature and also the Angola 3. I am a native of Central Pennsylvania,
and did my undergrad in history and political science at Temple University. I received my MA in
history from the University of South Carolina in 2015 and did some graduate
coursework in both History and Women’s Studies at Temple. For the past year I have
served as the coordinator for the Field Family Teen Author Series at the Free Library of
Philadelphia, as well as a ticket seller for the Franklin Institute, a tour guide for Grim Philly
Tours, and an African American history teacher at Homelink center for older adults. I am also
really interested in public history and have curated exhibits for Eastern State Penitentiary,
McKissick Museum and the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks. I am also a
freelance journalist and my work has been published in Teen Vogue, the Washington Post, The
Chronicle of Higher Education, The LA Review of Books, Lit Hub, and many other publications.
I am a huge reader-of literary fiction, young adult fiction, and other genres."

Taylor Cheyenne Johnson "was raised in San Antonio, Texas by my mom, a
public school teacher. In May of 2016, I graduated from Duke University with a BA
in International Comparative Studies and a minor in history. My main areas of interest in
undergrad were the carceral state, decolonization struggles, and media studies - and it is on
these areas that I would like to focus my graduate research. My favorite experiences during
undergrad were traveling and studying in Europe, my time volunteering at a sea turtle rescue
program in Turkey, the States of Incarceration project I worked on through the New School, and
volunteer-DJing at WXDU radio station for five years. In the two years since I graduated I have
worked at various school programs and have spent the last  year directing an after-
school program at an elementary school in Austin ISD. When I’m not working, I love to read and
go often to Austin Public Libraries. I am very interested in languages/linguistics and have
beginner Turkish and Spanish and intermediate French language skills - all of which I’m hoping
to continually improve upon. I also like volunteering with the Inside Books project and Keep Austin Beautiful community cleanups and am hoping to get back into volunteer-DJing at KOOP radio. I’m very excited to return to academia and research - while I’ve enjoyed my time off, my greatest passion in life is learning and I can’t wait to restart my studies."

Bahar Tahamti "received my BA in Psychology at California State University, Fullerton, and an MA
in American Studies at the same university. My research interests include representations of violence
(in literature, film, photography, video games), gender and sexuality, surveillance, cultural memory, affect, and
digital culture. When not doing academic work,  I enjoy reading without a highlighter, playing video games,
walking (to any place or nowhere at all), and drawing. I collect toys of various sorts (vinyl, action figures,
antiques) and I have 3 dogs (a pit bull, Queensland heeler, dachshund) and a deaf cat. I also enjoy re-watching
the same movies over and over again."

Kristin Wilson received her BA in English and American Studies from UC-Berkeley. "In
my time there, I worked on several projects that allowed me to immerse myself in research and
learn to tell coherent narratives about historical and cultural moments that still have bearing on
our modern cultural and societal landscape. My senior thesis focused on children’s literature
written directly before and after 9/11, particularly studying how Lemony Snicket’s (Daniel
Handler’s) A Series of Unfortunate Events (1999-2006) models a version of American
citizenship, grief, and morality appropriate for a time in which all seems lost and impossible to
make right. I expect my dissertation to look at American films exported to Germany in the direct
post-war period, with an eye to how the MPEA (Motion Picture Export Association), U.S. Army,
and State Department thought of culture as an early means to fight the Cold War, with film as a
way of showing West Germans models of responsible democratic citizenship and capitalist
participation, with all manner of assumptions made within those films about gender, race, and
class. As far as hobbies go, I  love to read and write, but also enjoy running, hiking,
lifting weights, kayaking, playing videogames, cooking, and falling down research rabbit holes.
I’ve also heard of Austin BBQ in legends and look forward to seeing if it lives up to the hype."


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