Two Fulbright College Faculty and Six Students Receive 2018-19 Blair Center Fellowships

Brandon A. Jackson and Casey Kayser
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Brandon A. Jackson and Casey Kayser

Diane D. Blair, namesake of the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society, was a tireless champion of interdisciplinary research and critical thinking, and the center that bears her name continuously strives to study the American South from a variety of angles, attempting to reveal the undercurrents of politics, history and culture that have shaped the region over time. 

With this mission in mind, the center recently selected two faculty members and six students from the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences to receive fellowships to encourage research related to the American South, politics, history and literature.

The faculty fellowship recipients for 2018-19 are Brandon Jackson and Casey Kayser.

Brandon A. Jackson is an assistant professor jointly appointed through the college's Department of Sociology and Criminology and its African and African American Studies Program. He plans to use the fellowship to work on his next project, "A Ministry of Brothers: Fatherhood and Families in a Black Men's Ministry Group." This project seeks to understand how black fathers involved in men's ministry groups at southern megachurches support one another emotionally. 

Casey Kayser is an assistant professor in the Department of English. She plans to use the fellowship to complete her book Gender, Identity, and Region in the Work of Southern Women Playwrights. This project will examine how regional affiliation and other identities intersect with genre, commercial and critical factors in American theatre, and the ways perceptions about the nation and the American South shape how playwrights represent region.

The graduate fellowship recipients for 2018-19 are Rebecca Albright, Jama Grove, Alex J. Marino, Jordan Savage, Laura Smith and Marie C. Totten.

Since graduating with an M.A. in English from the University of Mississippi in May 2015, Rebecca Albright has taught freshman composition as an adjunct, returned to her roots slinging BBQ in her family's East Texas BBQ joint, and now pursues her Ph.D. in English at the University of Arkansas. Her current research explores the queerly futuristic character of adaptation as enacted by and featured in speculative fiction of the Global South. 

Jama Grove is a doctoral candidate working with university professor of history Jeannie Whayne. Grove's dissertation, "The Farmers' Federation: Regional Racial Mythologies as Agricultural Capital," uses a regional agricultural cooperative as a lens for examining the ways in which mountain whites gained real economic advantages by trading on the mythological racelessness of the southern mountains and national rhetoric of white supremacy during the early twentieth century.  

Alex J. Marino is in the sixth year of his doctorate in history. He received his B.A. in history from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his M.A. in history at the University of Arkansas. He is currently working on a dissertation titled "The United States and the Angolan Revolution: Southern Segregation, Black Nationalism, and the Cold War in Africa." The Blair Fellowship enabled his research at the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, the Ellender Memorial Library at Nicholls State University, and the Center for Southeast Louisiana Studies at Southeastern Louisiana University.

Jordan Savage received her B.A. in English from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith and her M.A. in English from the University of Mississippi, where she also worked in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. She is interested in the ways Southern heritage, race and queerness overlap, intersect and haunt 20th century Southern literature.

Laura Smith is in the fourth year of her doctorate, having received her B.A. in history and English from Harding University and her M.A. in history from the University of Arkansas. Her research focuses on medical education in the Nineteenth-Century U.S. South, specifically investigating how people both in and outside of the medical profession reacted to the founding of medical schools in their communities through the lenses of race and class. The Blair Fellowship will fund archival trips to Charleston, S.C., Little Rock, A.R., and Louisville, K.Y.—the main Southern centers of medical education covered by her dissertation.

Marie C. Totten is in the fourth year of her doctorate. Totten received her B.A. and M.A. in history from Arkansas Tech University. She is currently studying Arkansas politician James D. "Justice Jim" Johnson and his impact on Arkansas politics in the mid-twentieth century. Totten uses Justice Jim's career to showcase the political effectiveness of massive resistance against the civil rights movement, specifically in defiance to the integration of public schools. Totten will use the Blair Fellowship to travel to archives in Mississippi and Alabama in order to study the correspondence between Justice Jim and other prominent segregationists, specifically U.S. Senator James Eastland and George Wallace.

For more information, please visit the Diane D. Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society.


Angie Maxwell, director of the Blair Center
J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences


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