X College Letterhead
October 15th, 2014
American Studies Program
City, State Zip
Dear Chair of the Search Committee,
I am pleased to submit my application for the position of Assistant Professor of Humanities in the American Studies Program. I am a cultural geographer engaged in research on the digital and urban dimensions of queer spaces and economies. My doctorate in Environmental Social Science informs my critical interdisciplinary social science approach to American, digital, and queer studies. I believe that my teaching and research, which emphasize social justice and notions of the community and publics in urban environments, will complement the goals of your department.
My own work challenges the notion of the oppressed as invisible by demonstrating alternative ways that marginalized groups produce and sustain social spaces in urban and digital environments.
I have done this through 22 publications: 10 peer-‐reviewed articles and 5 book chapters, and the co-‐edited, interdisciplinary volume, [title]. My current book project, [title], is a historical geography of contemporary lesbian and queer society and economies in New York City. Based on research from my dissertation, drawing upon in-‐person and online mixed methods with lesbians and queer women, and archival research spanning the same period. Rather than taking the traditional approach to LGBTQ spaces as merely bars, neighborhoods, and cities, I argue that the body, and the spaces it occupies, is the key factor in the production of lesbian-‐queer urban spaces. This feminist-‐queer theoretical contribution to American studies affords a way to argue against labeling these women as “invisible” while challenging visibility politics as the best solution for securing justice in the city. Portions of this project are forthcoming in Journal 1 [URL] and Journal 2 [URL].
My primary new research project, the [Title], expands my earlier work into geographic information systems (GIS), geoweb mapping techniques, and other data visualizations. The [Title] emerged from over 3,000 NYC-‐based places that I recently collected and mapped from archives of both lesbian-‐queer organizational records and media publications spanning 25 years. To my knowledge, these data are the largest of their kind in existence and the only “big data” available on LGBTQ spaces. The range and breadth of these data and my feminist-‐queer approach inform my design of the interactive [Title] web‐interface in which LGBTQ people will be able to share their stories online in their own words and images from an intersectional perspective, especially in regards to gender and sexuality. The [Title] will be a significant contribution to urban public history, and will allow me to further my research at the urban and transnational scale. (See URL for an in-‐progress glimpse into the project.) My interest in queer digital studies has also led me to organize, with Name, the Queer Studies Workshop at Z University. Produced in conjunction with the Smith Institute for Media, it was the first gathering on this topic from which new networks, ideas, and projects continue to grow. Given the focus of my work on how digital cultures can reflect and affect inequalities and my strong record of publication, I am confident that I can make significant contributions to Y’s innovative research program.
Like my research, my teaching is inspired by a humanistic social science perspective that applies theoretical concepts to real world issues, using the actual practice of research to bridge the gap between urban, digital, and classroom environments. As a member of a new initiative of Digital Studies at X College, I collaborated on new digital humanities courses, developing an interdisciplinary approach to studying digital society in a liberal arts environment. Building on my experience teaching within the diverse CUNY community, my courses express my dedication to community-‐based research. This fall I am teaching the Digital City, a course where students conduct individual research using mixed methods around social issues in nearby City, State, including ethnography and mental mapping exercises. I guide students in developing their own datasets to turn their findings into interactive, online GIS maps. We practice an analytic of comparative urbanisms to suggest next steps for city policies while recognizing the distinct qualities of a place and its people. Through a series of scaffolded writing assignments on our course blog about their research, maps, and in-‐class readings, students propose “smart city” policy recommendations to share with the city and its citizens. Like the work of Y’s urban-global program, my students comment that they are excited to learn how to connect the urban and digital spaces of their everyday lives to global structures and events.
I have had the opportunity to involve myself in the daily life of a leading liberal arts institution at X. These experiences have allowed me the chance to get to know and mentor my undergraduate students as individual scholars with their own passions, intellectual investments, and insights into the issues we study together. Besides my ability to lead courses on American studies and digital studies, my range of teaching experiences has also well prepared me to teach classes related to urban studies, community action, research methods, and gender and sexuality studies. At Y, I would be enthusiastic to incorporate studies of visual culture and ethnographic methods into these courses, and to develop new courses in association with the Community Learning Initiative that support the college’s relationship with communities in City.
As a scholar whose work draws heavily on both the theories and methods of American Studies, I believe strongly in the importance of interdisciplinary engagement in the service of social justice. The panels I have brought together at major conferences and talks given with diverse programs reflect this commitment, including my recent talks in [Programs] at A University; the [Laboratory for Ethnography] at B University; and the School Public Affairs at C University; as well as my consistent participation in the American Studies Association meetings. This dedication is also evident in my activities organizing on-‐campus events for both students and colleagues such as hackathons, lectures, and workshops. Furthermore, I see teaching and research as a practice not limited to the classroom. As one of 18 invited scholars, I helped to launch the US LGBT Monuments Advisory Council of Scholars of the [Government Agency] that offers direction for the selection of future national LGBTQ historic monuments. These have been galvanizing experiences for me, and I look forward to being a part of a warm and engaged community that extends its research to the public.
I would be honored to both lead and learn as Assistant Professor and join the community of scholars at Y where I can grow as a tenured faculty member. Three reference letters will arrive separately from Professors [Names]. Please let me know if you would like any further information. Thank you for your consideration of my application.