Broadly, my Fulbright project consisted of two parts: an internship with AustLit at University of Queensland and a research assistantship with the Texas Heritage Centre and Tobacco Museum in Texas, Queensland. Together, these two roles represent the scope of my work in cultural studies, from in-depth literary criticism on narratives of settler belonging to embedded ethnographic research on the legacies of settlement history.
In terms of outcomes, I developed Contemporary Settler Literature: Resources for Students and Teachers as an exhibition for AustLit. Through researching archival material in state libraries in Brisbane and Melbourne, I located primary sources concerning the principle figure behind the settlement of Texas, Queensland, that added crucial details to a history full of silences. Additionally, I conducted research of my own regarding the monument and memorial culture of the present-day town of Texas, and I presented some of these findings at the Australia and New Zealand American Studies Association's biennial conference. I also took part in the Texas Country Music Roundup, playing and singing a few of my favorite folk and country songs.
You've probably heard that platitude about reading being a window into other worlds. And that’s mostly true. Reading and imagination do transport us. In my case, studying literature has taken me from a small, rural town in Texas to an even smaller, more rural town called Texas in southern Queensland, Australia. I’ve read myself not into another world, necessarily, but into a different part of it. It wasn’t until I got there that I realised how much I stood to benefit by experiencing Australia’s literary culture in-person. A Fulbright fellowship made that possible.
Even though much of the work I undertook during my program took place in libraries and digital archives, I could not have truly been immersed in Australia’s literary history without working face-to-face with my advisors. From sitting in on classes and attending academic conferences, I learned that there are disciplinary differences in the ways in which my field operates in the US and Australia. As someone who hopes to appeal to both audiences as a scholar, I know that my time here has been invaluable in the sense that it has made me aware of these differences. The guidance and support my mentors provided sent my research into directions I might have only stumbled upon much later by accident had I been back in the States, working with limited resources. Quite frankly, there are resources in private collections at UQ that I can’t access without physically reading them.
Then there are those conferences which took place in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Without the Fulbright, international conferences like these would have been beyond my reach. And the same is true of the fieldwork I did over three trips to Texas, Queensland. With roughly 900 residents and little online presence, most people outside of the region don’t even know the place exists. To my great surprise, I found a wealth of research opportunities there—but, again, I had to be there in person to do so.
My academic focus is the study of literature and, true, you can read a book just about anywhere. But it’s something else to live within in the culture that produces those stories and their writers. Fulbright brought me to Australia and my work--and my life--are richer for it.
A portion of my research was made possible through funding provided by the Lois Roth Endowment.
'The Lois Roth Endowment honors the life and work of Lois Wersba Roth by promoting and encouraging dialogue across national, linguistic, disciplinary and cultural boundaries, focusing on countries that were especially important to Lois in her life and career. The Endowment seeks to do this in four ways: Awards for Excellence in Cultural Diplomacy recognize the outstanding contributions of individuals working in the service of US cultural diplomacy; Translation Awards foster respect for literary translation; Project Support helps young people in countries to which Lois was particularly attached accomplish projects in the arts, humanities and social sciences and is awarded only in tandem with primary funding agencies; and Sponsored Programs pursue parallel goals through on-going collaborative programs. Roth Endowment awards, project support and sponsored programs build on close collaborations with a wide range of partner organizations, including the Australian-American Fulbright Commission
'Programs that enable scholars and artists to live and work in other countries for a time are at the heart of international exchange and what we can understand as cultural diplomacy in a broader sense. Lois Roth worked with such programs throughout her career, both at the American Scandinavian Foundation and with the U.S. State Department. The Roth Endowment seeks to reinforce the service rendered by Fulbright and other such programs by offering supplementary support for projects in the social sciences and humanities, including the visual and performing arts. Project Support is awarded only in tandem with primary funding agencies and assists students, scholars and artists in taking advantage of opportunities that deepen their international experiences.'
For more on the history of Lois Roth Project Support of Australian Fulbrighters, click here.