Margarita Karasoulas F'17
Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art 2017
University of Delaware
Mapping Immigrant New York: Race and Place in Ashcan Visual Culture
This dissertation explores the racial significance of Ashcan School imagery in the context of early twentieth-century debates about immigration. It considers how Ashcan artists negotiated their place within New York’s shifting racial landscape, creating works that alternately engaged, subverted, or subtly resisted ethnic stereotypes. Each chapter examines Ashcan representations of immigrant populations (Italian, Chinese, Jewish, and Irish) in relation to specific settings (parks, restaurants, markets, and tenements), locating the production and contestation of racial meaning in and through particular urban spaces. Drawing on the approaches of critical race theory and cultural geography, this study complicates familiar narratives about Ashcan School realism and provides a richly textured picture of the artists’ relationship to their city. More broadly, it resituates Ashcan art within an emerging visual culture of immigration and in relation to contemporary discourses of race, national identity, and Americanness often attributed to artistic production of the interwar decades.