Dissertation Talks

Wednesday, 10/18/17
494 Wurster Hall

Dissertation Talks!
Aku Ammah-Tagoe, English Department, Stanford University
William Gow, Ethnic Studies Department, UC Berkeley
Wednesday, October 18, 12:00-1:30pm
Cal Design Lab, Wurster 494, Wurster Hall

Aku Ammah-Tagoe’s presentation will provide an overview of urban humanities projects at Stanford, and explain how her doctoral research in English has grown out of these collaborations. Since 2016, Stanford’s Creative Cities initiative has served as a nexus for arts practitioners researchers who use the city as a space for inquiry. She will discuss how Creative Cities, by connecting multi-disciplinary scholars with Bay Area citizens, has posed challenging questions about the role of art in urban environments. Ammah-Tagoe will then discuss a chapter-in-progress from her dissertation, which asks how contemporary novels might provide models for ideal urban communities in the 21st century.

Ammah-Tagoe is a doctoral candidate in English at Stanford University. Her dissertation, titled Urban Form: Planning and American Fiction, 1940-present, argues that urban planning is one of the central frameworks for understanding formal innovation in American fiction of the past 75 years. In addition to urbanism and literature, Aku writes about the contemporary, as well as democracy and literature. She lives in San Francisco, and teaches writing throughout the Bay Area.

In the decades before the outbreak of the Second World War, Los Angeles Chinatown had a long and complex relationship with Hollywood film. Chinese Americans often found supplemental work as background and bit-players in Hollywood films, and the film industry often drew on Old Chinatown as a backdrop for motion pictures. When most of Old Chinatown was destroyed in the 1930s to make way for Union Station, the community was replaced by two competing districts New Chinatown and China City—the later of which featured a recreation of the set from MGM’s 1937 film, The Good Earth. Drawing on nearly a decade of experience as a public historian at the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California in Los Angeles Chinatown and on his current work as a doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, William Gow will discuss his research on the relationship of Los Angeles Chinatown and Hollywood Cinema in the first half of the twentieth century.

William Gow is a San Francisco-based community historian, filmmaker, and educator. Currently a doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies, William’s dissertation is tentatively entitled “Performing Chinatown: Hollywood Cinema, Tourism, and the Making of A Los Angeles Community, 1931-1949.” The project examines the ways in which everyday Chinese Americans in Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s engaged broader notions of race, gender, and national identity through their participation in both Hollywood film and the tourist industry in Los Angeles Chinatown. His written work on Chinese American genealogical research, community history, and documentary filmmaking has appeared in Amerasia Journal, Chinese America: History & Perspective, and the CHSSC’s GumSaan Journal.