School of Interdisciplinary Studies American Studies

Graduate Student Research Showcase

The graduate students in the American Studies program at Purdue produce forward-thinking original scholarship and creative productions that push the boundaries of American Studies as a field, as well as that of the various disciplines with which they engage. This page regularly showcases these young scholars and their current interdisciplinary research. 

Jennifer Sdunzik

Race relations continue to be tense and fraught in U.S. society.  However, we are yet to develop an understanding of how the contests over who belongs in a community have evolved in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  My work provides a historical explanation for the construction of whites-only towns, the cultural supports for which are, sometimes inadvertently, reinforced into the present.  It investigates how the influx of black Americans into previously "white spaces" in Indiana as a result of the Great Migration elecited violence from white residents to keep their towns segregated.  My project also explores the legacy of exclusionary policies and practices on these communities today, in an attempt to illustrate how the histories of towns, people, and migration pathways contribute to our contemporary understanding of race in the Midwest.  Based on archival and ethnographic research, my dissertation highlights the relationship between structural inequalities, ideological imperatives, and belonging in Indiana.  Thus, it locates the Midwest as a critical site of inquiry and addresses how space, race, and policies intersect in ways that have historically reinforced geographical borders for racial minorities.



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