Hip-hop and boxing are not just entertainment for Notre Dame’s two new Moreau Academic Diversity Postdoctoral Fellows, Brian Su-Jen Chung (at left) and Jesse Costantino; they’re fertile ground for academic research.
Chung, in the American studies department, and Costantino, in English, joined the faculty fall semester 2011 as part of a University effort to enhance cultural awareness and diversity within the campus community. The program, supported by the offices of the president, provost, and college deans, was initiated last year with 11 new postdoctoral fellows representing a large cross-section of academic disciplines. During one-to two-year residencies, Moreau Fellows engage in research, teach classes and mentor students.
“We’re operating in an increasingly global and diverse environment, and it’s important that we prepare our students for that experience,” explains Susan Ohmer, who has worked collaboratively with vice president and associate provost Don Pope- Davis on the University’s Diversity Advisory Committee. Concerning the Moreau Fellow applicants, Ohmer said, “We found that we have a very rich candidate pool, especially in departments where the disciplines focus on gender, race and ethnicity.”
Chung, who received his Ph.D. in American culture at the University of Michigan, is currently teaching a course titled “Hip-hop is Dead! Race, Circulation and the Global Block,” which examines the subculture dance and music phenomenon hip-hop within the context of global politics, economics and history.
“Like other forms of popular culture, hip-hop, specifically rap music, is a billion-dollar industry, and it’s used to sell all kinds of products,” says Chung. “It’s a mass- mediated expressive culture that shapes our social consciousness of race, gender, class and sexuality… Students are drawn to the artistry of hip-hop culture and are eager to learn more about its history.”
Chung’s spring semester class, “Screening Asian Americans,” focuses on Asian American histories and experiences as seen through the lens of U.S. mass media.
Costantino’s interest in the intersections between class, race and aesthetics in American culture led him to study boxing, the subject of his dissertation research, which he completed at the University of California, Berkeley. A specialist in 20th-century American literature and visual culture, Costantino is teaching in Notre Dame’s English Department the course “Violent Modernisms,” which highlights social and political change in the works of selected American writers.
“What has been most gratifying about this course,” says Costantino, “is how readily the issues in these texts translate into present situations.
For example, we spent this past week discussing the Occupy (Wall Street) protests and the corresponding discourses of violence and ideology in media coverage of the events. Students show tremendous interest in how slippery a concept like violence can be.”
Chung and Costantino are the latest to join what has become a community of Moreau Fellows on Notre Dame’s campus.
Jessica Graham, a 2010 Moreau Fellow in Notre Dame’s History Department, describes that community as a supportive blend of formal and informal ingredients: “Formally, Maura Ryan and the other associate deans have scheduled a series of lunch workshops to help in our professional development and career advancement. Informally, we support one another in various ways. We call each other for help on the minor questions (“How do I file an expense report?”) to the more urgent issues about career and life in general…It’s a great group; there exists a true sense that folks are willing to lend an ear, advice, or help in any way they can.”