Clay Cooper's Country Express  - Branson, MO

Joanna Dee Das named as a 2019 American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellow

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) is proud to announce the 2019 ACLS Fellows. This year’s 81 fellows were selected by their peers from over 1,100 applicants in a review process with multiple stages. Awards range from $40,000 to $70,000, depending on the scholar’s career stage, and support six to twelve months of full-time research and writing. 

Joanna Dee Das, Assistant Professor of Performing Arts, has been recognized for her new book project, Dancing for God and Country: Performing Politics in “A Perfect American Town.” In her work Das discusses how over the past several decades, self-proclaimed conservative politicians have affirmed a dedication to a place alternately called “small-town America,” “America’s Heartland,” or “real America,” a mythical creation that uncannily resembles Branson, Missouri, a place that bills itself as the "Live Entertainment Capital of the World." Dancing for God and Country explores how this small Ozark Mountain town helped to create a specific political vision of Americanness through live performance from the 1950s to the present day. Many people outside of the Midwest have never heard of Branson, but every year millions of tourists trek to the area to see the town's more than 100 shows, which range from variety productions that mix dance, country music, and hillbilly comedy to an acrobat who plays violin while swirling on aerial ropes. Despite the seeming heterogeneity, these shows share a focus on what the town’s director of communications calls “Faith, Flag, and Family,” a slogan linked to the rise of the modern conservative movement in the United States. Das states, "I am grateful to the ACLS for funding this research, which I hope will reorient our understanding of the relationship between theatrical performance and political activism in America. "

“The 2019 ACLS Fellows exemplify ACLS’s inclusive vision of excellence in the humanities and humanistic social sciences,” said Matthew Goldfeder, director of fellowship programs at ACLS. “The awardees, who hail from more than 60 colleges and universities, were selected for their potential to make an original and significant contribution to knowledge. They are working at diverse types of institutions, on research projects that span antiquity to the present, in contexts around the world; the array of disciplines and methodologies represented demonstrates the vitality and the incredible breadth of humanistic scholarship today.”
The ACLS Fellowship program is funded primarily by the ACLS's endowment. Institutions and individuals have contributed to this program, including The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Arcadia Charitable Trust, the Council’s Research University Consortium and college and university Associates, past fellows, and individual friends of ACLS.