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FTVM Ph.D. Alumni

Vincent Longo (Ph.D. 2022)

Lecturer I & DIrector of Honors, Dept. of FIlm, Television, and Media, University of Michigan

Vincent defended his dissertation on July 21, 2022. "A Hard Act to Follow: Live Performance in the Age of the Hollywood Studio System" argues that scholars should not equate the demise of vaudeville as a cultural industry in the early 1930s with the disappearance of live performance in movie theaters in the United States, which continued with much success in many large luxurious downtown theaters until the 1950s. Doing so has concealed variety theater as a critical shaping force in the industrial history of studio era Hollywood, the star system, and the experiences of theatergoers. The dissertation recasts the Hollywood studios as multimedia conglomerates (not just film companies) which came to control variety stage entertainment and create studio-run live performance circuits. These live performance circuits supported a more diverse star system, where diverse performers received star billing unlike in films of the period. These performances also make visible the experiences and tastes of audiences of color who sought out these performances. The project begins detailing the experiences of these under-researched audiences who were an important, but largely overlooked part of the movie palace experience.


Marissa Spada (Ph.D. 2022)

Marissa Spada’s dissertation, “Camera Beauty: Makeup and the Art of Image Making in Studio Era Hollywood,” explores how screen makeup developed in the American motion picture industry, and how these developments subsequently shaped normative beauty standards and practices. Between the years 1927 and 1937, the art of screen makeup underwent critical transitions attendant to the maturation of the Hollywood studio system, its increasingly realistic modes of representation, and the growing omnipresence of its star culture. Additionally, during this decade, the mass cosmetics industry grew exponentially and symbiotically alongside these changes in Hollywood, despite the economic devastation of the Great Depression. She argues that it was during these years that the relationship between beauty, makeup, and the cinema took root in American culture, alongside the growth of the Hollywood studio system, and the standardization of its technologies and creative practices.


Joseph DeLeon (Ph.D. 2020)

Joseph DeLeon defended his dissertation “Social Media at the Margins: Crafting Community Media Before the Web” on December 10, 2020. His work investigates queer and subcultural media projects from the 1970s-1990s that built what he terms “community information formats.” A community information format refers to the development of social and technical standards for building community and for fostering access to community media production during the period right before the World Wide Web. He excavates this multi-sited history through methods of cultural history including original archival analysis and oral history interviews with media producers. Incorporating research from archival collections housed at the Computer History Museum’s Shustek Research Archive in Fremont, California, and Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library in Atlanta, Georgia, Joseph’s dissertation offers a cultural history of social media before “social media” that surfaces understudied media technological visions.


Kayti Lausch (Ph.D. 2020)

Kayti successfully defended her dissertation on October 23, 2020. Building a Climate of Righteousness: Religious Television Networks in American Culture uses archival sources in order to reconstruct the industrial histories of three evangelical networks (the Christian Broadcasting Network, American Christian Television System, and the Trinity Broadcasting Network) in order to understand how these broadcasters have fundamentally shaped American culture and politics. This project brings together the methods of media industry studies, television studies, and cultural history and mixes an analysis of archival material with national and local newspapers, magazines, books, and trade journals, as well as textual and discursive analyses of networks’ programs, schedules, and promotional material. She argues that these networks successfully created and nurtured a new demographic of television viewers encouraged to define themselves as counter to the mainstream because of their religious and moral values, and reveals how religious broadcasters capitalized on cultural fragmentation in order to carve out space for socially conservative television.

Richard Mwakasege-Minaya (Ph.D. 2019)

Richard successfully defended his dissertation, "Exiled Counterpoints: Cuban Exile Media Activism and Conservative Latinidad" in May of 2019. His work explores the media activism of first-wave Cuban exiles and the strategies they deployed to shape U.S. media from the 1960s-1970s. The Truth About Cuba Committee (TACC) chiefly led this phenomenon and formed coalitions with Cuban organizations and U.S. conservative advocates and broadcasters. Cuban media activists sought to pit the media, the state, and public opinion in the U.S. against the Castro regime. For this project, Richard relied on archival materials from the Cuban Heritage Collection, namely the TACC collection and the Luis V. Manrara papers, as well as periodicals, advertisements, government documents, and press releases. To examine these materials, he drew from the media theory and models of transnationalism.

Joshua Morrison (Ph.D. 2019)
Faculty member in English/Women's and Gender Studies
College of Arts & Science
University of Saskatchewan

Josh Morrison successfully defended his dissertation, "Revelling in Uselessness: Queer and Trans Media, Consumptive Labour, and Cultural Capital" on January 25, 2019. He is looking forward to finalizing revisions, and beginning to publish more of his work, especially on kitsch and political economy (and potatoes). He'd like to thank everyone in the FTVM community, his colleagues, friends, and interlocutors in other units (which are essential to doing interdisciplinary work), and (especially!) his committee members, Drs. Caryl Flinn, Kathering Sender, Lisa Nakamura, and Dan Herbert, for their time, support, feedback, and engagement.

Niclas Heckner (Ph.D. 2018)

Niclas Heckner successfully defended his dissertation, " Embodied Historiographies: Affect and Realism in the 'Medal of Honor' and 'Call of Duty' Franchises after 'Saving Private Ryan'" in August of 2018.

Benjamin Strassfeld (Ph.D. 2017)

Ben successfully defended his dissertation, “Indecent Detroit: Regulating Race, Sex, and Adult Entertainment, 1950-1975,” in December of 2017. This project explores the history of censorship and anti-porn politics in Detroit, beginning with an examination of the city’s literary censorship campaign in the immediate postwar era and moving up through the efforts to curtail the rapid growth of adult entertainment in the early 1970s. Strassfeld argues that the city’s methods of censoring “indecent” media evolved over this time period as a result of regional demographic shifts, the urban crisis, and mounting racial tensions. The project also makes the case for Detroit’s centrality to the broader history of media censorship, with the anti-porn regulatory methods pioneered in Detroit influencing countless cities across the country. Beyond his dissertation, Strassfeld has also published articles dealing with the histories of film exhibition, educational cinema, and media censorship.


Feroz Hassan (Ph.D. 2016)

Assistant Professor (English), Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT-Kanpur.

Feroz Hassan defended his dissertation, "Surviving Politics: André Bazin and Aesthetic Bad Faith," in December 2016. Feroz's dissertation recovers the political character of Bazin's work by identifying the intellectual debates that were formative for his critical positions. It also revises the standard picture of Bazin as a realist film theorist by highlighting his ambivalence about cinematic realism as well as by foregrounding his close engagement with generic cinema, stardom, and the sociological dimensions of the medium.


Dimitrios Pavlounis (Ph.D. 2016)

Visiting Asst. Prof. of Cinema and Media Studies, Carleton College

Dimitri succesfully defended his dissertation, entitled, "Sound Evidence: An Archaeology of Audio Recording and Surveillance in Popular Film and Media," in 2016. In his work, he traces the historical appropriation of sound recording technologies for the purposes of surveillance from 1910-1975. He argues that popular media generally, and crime cinema and television in particular, must be understood as constituent parts of this history, playing a central role in transmitting knowledge and shaping public understandings of surveillance technologies that continue to resonate in the present. 


Katy Peplin (Ph.D. 2016)

Founder, Thrive PhD

Katy successfully defended her dissertation, entitled, "Construction and Constraint: The Animal Body and Constructions of Power in Motion Pictures," in May of 2016. Her dissertation proceeds from the question, "How does the camera capture animals, and how does the medium of that image structure the relationship between camera, animal and spectator?" by arguing that both the terms of the question and the answer are culturally and historically contingent. 


Michael Arnold (Ph.D. 2015)

Lecturer of Film and Digital Media, UC Santa Cruz 

In 2015, Michael successfully defended his dissertation entitled, "Sex Every Afternoon: Pink Film and the Body of Pornographic Cinema in Japan," a theoretical and historiographical analysis of Pink Film production and exhibition in Japan from the 1980s to the present.


Nathan Koob (Ph.D. 2015)

Special Lecturer, Department of Cinema Studies, Oakland University

Nathan successfully defended his dissertation, entitled, "Out-siders: Auteurs in Space," in 2015. In his work, he examines authorship theory and the function of authorship in city spaces. Koob's  primary areas of interest are examining relationships between American commercial, independent and avant-garde cinema production contexts. He has also performed extensive research on 3-D technology along with work considering authorship and cinematic technologies.


Erin Hanna (Ph.D. 2014)

Associate Professor, Dept. of Cinema Studies, University of Oregon

Erin’s work engages with critical questions of economic and cultural power as audience practices are incorporated into the industrial logic of media production, promotion, and publicity.  She successfully defended her dissertation, “Making Fandom Work: Industry Space and Structures of Power at the San Diego Comic-Con,” in 2014. In her work, she examines how the organization and control of labor and space at Comic-Con produces and reinforces hierarchies that shape the relationship between media industries and fans.

Hanna's recent book, Only at Comic-Con: Hollywood, Fans, and the Limits of Exclusivity, examines the connection between exclusivity and the proliferation of Hollywood promotion at the San Diego Comic-Con. In addition to exploring the increased media industry presence at Comic-Con in the twenty-first century, the book places a special emphasis on Comic-Con’s history, dating back to its founding in 1970 and the convention’s roots in comics fandom of the 1960s. Hanna's  current research continues this exploration of historical fan communities and their relationship with media producers, with a particular emphasis on gendered labor, visibility, and exclusion.Recent Citations – Publications – Professional Work


Courtney Ritter (Ph.D. 2014)

Courtney successfully defended her dissertation, entitled, “Everyman’s Broadcasting: Programming the Democratic Transition in 1950s Italy,” in 2014. Her work focuses on the much-ignored early years of Italian television and places the new medium in the transnational context of the cold war, the country’s civic transition from fascist dictatorship to democratic republic, and Italy's film and journalistic culture.


Peter Alilunas (Ph.D. 2013)

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Cinema Studies, University of Oregon

Peter Alilunas is an Assistant Professor in the department of Cinema Studies at the University of Oregon, where he has been since 2014. His dissertation, “Smutty Little Movies: The Creation and Regulation of Adult Video, 1976-1986,” defended in 2013, received the 2014 SCMS Dissertation Award of Distinction. It was published as Smutty Little Movies: The Creation and Regulation of Adult Video by the University of California Press in 2016. His work traces the historical transitions and regulations of pornography.


Nancy McVittie (Ph.D. 2013)

Instructor, Department of Communication, Media and Theatre, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, IL

Nancy completed her dissertation, entitled, “Elder Kitsch: The Development of a Comedic and Cultural Trope in Postwar America” in 2013.  The project considers representations of the aging on film and television during the postwar years and how a number of cultural, social, and industrial factors led to the development of the “funny old man/lady” trope popularized later on by stars like George Burns and Betty White.

Since 2012, Nancy has been a faculty member in the Department of Communication, Media and Theatre at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.  She is currently at work on a book project considering representations of aging in Hollywood film and an article about the 1950s television series December Bride.


Kristy Rawson (Ph.D. 2012)

Learning Specialist in the Center for Students with Disabilities, DePaul University, Chicago

Kristy successfully defended her dissertation, entitled, "A Trans-American Dream: Lupe Velez and the Performance of Transculturation" in 2012.