Lauren Erin Brown
Lauren Erin Brown (Ph.D., Harvard University; A.B., Smith College) will spend her Fulbright semester at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, where she will teach a course, “Made in the U.S.A.: American Bodies as History, 1900-1960," and offer teaching support in 20th century U.S. cultural and diplomatic history.
Intrigued by how perceptions of something, or someone, as “American” have changed in an increasingly "globalized" world, Brown's research interests reside at the intersection of cultural diplomacy, national identity, the arts, and the physical body. These issues are at the heart of her work Cultural Czars: American Nationalism, Dance, and Cold War Arts Funding, 1945-1989, which she will spend her non-teaching time in Moscow preparing for publication. Detailing the introduction of “Russian” ballet to the United States, its evolution into an “American” form, and the funding and political opportunities created as a direct result, Cultural Czars argues that the investment in a distinctly American ballet following World War II begged a question: could a physical form, a body and its movement, articulate nationality—and transcend visual markers like race?
Brown contends that the postwar emphasis on abstraction across all dance genres forced vested parties to reconsider what made a body “American.” Further, she argues that ballet’s political and philanthropic consecration not only sharpened the divide between the white and the ethnic dancing body, but also reinforced what it meant to be an American, both at home and abroad. Her time in Russia will be dedicated to conducting oral histories with Russian dancers and Goskoncert officials active during the Cold War, enriching her narrative with voices not often heard by American scholars.
A professionally-trained classical dancer herself, Brown is particularly excited to experience first-hand Russia's amazing cultural offerings, historical and contemporary. She hopes that conversations with her students, Russian hosts, and Fulbright colleagues will provide her new insights on the way nationality and cultural products blend—and that the exchange will help them all push pedagogical and scholarly boundaries.
A U.S. Department of Education Jacob K. Javits Fellow from 2000-2004 and Joint Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museums of American Art and American History in 2006, Ms. Brown will join the faculty of High Point University, in High Point, N.C., as Assistant Professor of U.S. History upon her return home from Russia.