Session Submission Summary

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Material Culture Caucus: Material Culture Pedagogy Across the Curriculum

Sat, November 11, 2:00 to 3:45pm, Hyatt Regency Chicago, McCormick, Third Floor West Tower

Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format


Requested description of the roundtable's subject and format:
This roundtable brings together six early-to-mid-career scholar/ teachers to discuss innovative strategies for enhancing learning through material culture-based approaches. It builds on an observation at a roundtable during last year’s ASA meeting that material culture pedagogy could have broad appeal in ways comparable to long successful “writing across the disciplines” or “writing across the curriculum” programs. To exploit that analogy, discussants in the proposed roundtable--a new generation of innovative teachers and researchers in American Studies--will each present strategies and techniques to incorporate material culture pedagogy in courses and settings within and outside academe for students in a range of disciplines. The strategies to be discussed also square well with new instructional approaches: problem-based, project-based, collaborative, hands-on learning that challenges the boundaries of the traditional classroom. As a result of these brief presentations and the ensuing conversation based on them, audience participants in the proposed session will come away with innovative, practical strategies and exercises based on material culture pedagogy that they can adapt or adopt and implement in a variety of courses. We are presenting the roundtable in honor of David Jaffee, long-time teacher and caucus member and professor at the Bard Graduate Center, who died on January 21, 2017.

Requested abstract:
Things—the everyday stuff that surrounds us—are so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible. Yet in deeply meaningful ways, American culture is experienced through our daily encounters with ordinary objects. Knowing how to learn from things is an essential aspect of education in any discipline, but one often overlooked as teachers focus instead on what’s found in texts. The discussants will provide practical ways to engage student interest and critical thinking through broadly applicable teaching strategies based on material culture studies. These emerging and early career scholar/teachers offer new voices in the field and bring to the session a range of backgrounds in American Studies, folklore, ethnography, industrial design, public humanities, art and art history, history, cultural landscape studies, museum studies, archaeology, and vernacular architecture. Their teaching and research interests span historical periods in America and are as varied as Jewish American culture, foodways and spirits, gaming, automobiles, Civil War clothing, domestic landscapes and social identity, World War II souvenirs, 19th Century institutional furniture, pattern-book houses, and popular periodicals. The discussants incorporate a variety of strategies in their teaching, including collaborative student activities that encompass exhibits in museums and libraries, digital and multimedia projects, hands-on exercises with objects in studios and laboratories, ethnographic and other types of field trips, joint programs with area cultural institutions and community organizations, and other forms of experiential learning. Many of these activities occur without special funding or facilities. Each brief presentation will focus on a particular topic and technique. Subsequent discussion will engage everyone, discussants and those in the audience, in developing ways to adapt or adopt these models for their own educational setting, whether in academe, museums, or other venues.

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