AMERICAN STUDIES (PhD)

Joseph Decosimo (2018) explores folklore, material culture, ethnography, the sounds people make, and the things they say. He has worked as a public folklorist, played music professionally, and taught 9th graders English. He taught Appalachian Studies and fiddle and banjo in East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Program. He holds an M.A. in Folklore from UNC and studied the ways that contemporary traditional musicians in East Tennessee make and record music that connects to family and place while appealing to a global audience of Old Time music enthusiasts. As a performing musician, he has toured and taught Old Time fiddle and banjo music at festivals and camps throughout the US, the UK, and Canada.
Elijah Gaddis (2017) is an historian of the spatial, material, and cultural history of the South. Currently an assistant professor of history at Auburn University, Elijah teaches courses in public history, digital humanities, and African American history. You can reach him at elijah.gaddis@auburn.edu.
Rachel Gelfand (2018) has a Ph.D in American Studies from UNC Chapel Hill where she was a Royster Fellow. Her dissertation: Nobody’s Baby: Queer Intergenerational Thinking Across Oral History, Archives, and Visual Culture applies a queer analysis to modes of memory transmission. The interdisciplinary project draws on LGBT archives, oral history praxis, Jewish studies, queer theory, and visual culture. Gelfand’s work has appeared in The Oral History Review, OutHistory, and Qualitative Inquiry. Her audio documentary work has been featured on KPFK, WPEB, and national programing for Making Contact. During her time at UNC, she was involved on campus as the graduate chair of the Program in Sexuality Studies Advisory Board and as graduate assistant to the Racial Literacies Seminar.

Email: rachel.gelfand@gmail.com

Elijah Heyward III‘s (2018), research interests are the Gullah culture and the Penn School in Beaufort, S.C. A native of Beaufort, Heyward formerly lived in Washington, D.C., where he directed the Youth Scholar Academy, a nationwide college access program that he created as a Yale President’s Public Service Fellow. Heyward received his bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in leadership studies from Hampton University and his master’s degree in religion from Yale Divinity School.
Josh Parshall (2017) is interested in American Jewish identity, with an emphasis on the American South. His current research focuses on the activities of the Southern District of the Workmen’s Circle during the first half of the twentieth century. Previously, Josh worked as an oral historian in Jewish communities throughout the region. He holds a B.A. in American studies from the University of Kansas and a M.A. in folklore from UNC.
Trista Reis Porter (2018) is interested in a variety of topics falling under the scope of American Art and Material Culture. She received her M.A. in the History of Art from Indiana University in 2014, where her thesis focused on the exhibition history of American folk art over the last century. This interest and approach continues to inform the way she thinks about canons in American visual and material culture, how and by whom those canons have been established, and the ways they are constructed around genres such as pottery and sculpture, and descriptors such as folk, fine, outsider, visionary, and immigrant. An Iowa native, Trista received her B.A. in Art History from the University of Iowa in 2012.
Mathew Swiatlowski (2018), originally from western Massachusetts, holds a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a M.A. in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. His research interests include recorded music, sound studies, and working class cultural history. His dissertation project was on the circulation of prewar ethnic American vernacular recordings in the postwar reissue music economy. He is currently a post-doctoral scholar in the department of American Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

 

FOLKLORE (MA)

Victor Bouvéron (2017) is a blues enthusiast arriving from Lille, France. He received a B.A in History (2007) and a Master’s in Communications (2009) at the University of Lille 3, France. After graduating, he worked for over five years at the city hall of Villeneuve d’Ascq (France) as the internal communication manager. Victor hosted the weekly blues program “Bluesland” from 2005 to 2015 on Radio Campus Lille and taught classical guitar. He published many articles for various publications, such as L’Express du Pacifique (a newspaper formerly published in British-Columbia, Canada), La Tribune (Villeneuve d’Ascq municipal paper), and Blues Magazine. He’s interested in the history of the blues in France and its current scene.
Rachel Garringer (2017) was raised on a sheep farm in southeastern West Virginia. She received a B.A. from Hampshire College in 2007. Since then she has worked as a youth advocate and educator in transitional living shelters, GED classrooms, and rural public schools. In 2013 she founded Country Queers, an ongoing multimedia oral history project documenting the diverse experiences of rural and small town LGBTQI folks in the United States. Her interests are in public folklore, oral history, digital humanities, and rural queer experiences. She is excited to use her time at UNC to transition Country Queers into a more collaborative, accountable, community based project.
Jackson Hall (2018) was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with a B.A. in American Studies. Photographing poetry slams and open-mics, and interviewing North Carolina rappers on the South’s relationship to Hip Hop culture, he explores the intersections of verbal arts, space, community, and identity politics. As an undergrad, he completed a Senior Honors Thesis in the poetry track of the Creative Writing program, earning Highest Honors. Titled Burning the Negatives, his manuscript mined familial conflict and love, myth and memory, and mediations on loved ones long deceased. For him, his passion for folklore mirrors his perspective on poetry as a public good, a meeting place between the personal and the communal, and tool by which narratives are affirmed, shared, and celebrated.
Hannah Herzog (2018) is originally from Dallas, Texas. She holds a BA in Honors English and Political Science from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Her research interests include Jewish history in the South, Holocaust Historiography, and memory studies. Her current research project explores the intersection of the southern Jewish experience and the Holocaust and its aftermath. Specifically, she is interested in how Holocaust survivors negotiated the racial landscape of the American South in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and how survivors experienced white nationalism and confronted their own ethnic identity in this racially divisive time. She has been fortunate in receiving research support via fellowships and grants, which have enabled her to travel to southern states such as Charleston, SC, Atlanta, GA, and Birmingham, AL. In these southern states she conducted archival research and oral history interviews with Holocaust survivors and liberators who relocated to the South.
Abigail Nover (2018) holds her B.F.A. in Sound Design from the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University. There she studied audio recording and engineering, music composition, and design for live performances. In 2014, Abigail began her fieldwork project, Natural Rhythm, through a research fellowship while pursuing her undergraduate degree. She traveled along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Chicago, recording music and creating an online multi-media archive of current American folk music. Abigail’s research interests revolve around the ways in which people of marginalized groups create, produce, and promote their own musical traditions. She is interested in different methods people have of taking agency over their own cultures, traditions, and stories in the face of adversity, oppression, and appropriation and what that means for individuals and communities.
Emily Ridder-Beardsley (2017) grew up splitting time between Washington, DC and rural Rappahannock, Virginia. In 2008, she graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a Liberal Arts degree focused on Art History, concentrating on the Tribal Arts of Africa, Oceania, and The Americas. She worked for several years following graduation in New York City for institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and PBS New York. Emily has most recently been working as a curator at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia and as a curatorial assistant for Jane Livingston, a freelance curator based in Flint Hill, Virginia. Her work with Ms. Livingston will produce an exhibition focusing on the works of four early African American photographers, including Addison Scurlock, James Van Der Zee, P.H. Polk and L.O. Taylor. She is continuing work on this project as she pursues an M.A. in Folklore and hopes to apply what she learns from the program to similar projects in the future.
Zoe van Buren (2017) grew up in New York City and received her B.A. with honors in Anthropology from Vassar College in 2013. She is interested in public folklore, race and religious experience, material culture, and occupational folklife in the face of gentrification. As an undergraduate, she was active in the Vassar Prison Initiative, did research on African American old-time string bands and local step teams, and worked with Arts Mid Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY. Since graduating, she has worked with the New Bedford Working Waterfront Festival and Fishing Heritage Center in New Bedford, MA, and the North Carolina Arts Council, where she was the Folklife Intern before beginning at UNC. Folklore helps her to see resilience and beauty in communities big and small. Her other love is wool, and she is a hard-core knitter and hand-spinner.