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ASU film professor awarded fellowship for musical stage research

portrait of Desirée Garcia, assistant professor at ASU
March 06, 2014

Desirée Garcia, assistant professor in the Arizona State University Department of English’s film and media studies program, has been awarded a 2014 Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

The highly competitive fellowships, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Wilson Foundation, are given to “increase the presence of minority junior faculty members and other faculty members committed to eradicating racial disparities in core fields in the arts and sciences” (according to a fellowship brochure from the Wilson Foundation). They provide a one-year sabbatical stipend; a research, travel or publication grant; and participation in a conference/retreat.

Garcia’s winning project, “Show People: American Identities on the Musical Stage,” explores the physical and metaphorical stage as a site of self-creation. Her work focuses especially on women, immigrant and African-American performers. Garcia says that through fame-making performance, marginalized individuals have become accepted members of society’s culture at-large. “[D]isempowered groups in American society have consistently wielded the stage as a place where the American Dream can be attained and secured.”

The research springs from Garcia’s earlier work on the American musical; her monograph, “The Migration of Musical Film: From Ethnic Margins to American Mainstream,” will be published in August by Rutgers University Press. The book traces the development of the American “folk musical” in film. Not to be confused with the folk movement of the 1960s and 1970s, folk musicals arose from various ethnic traditions in the early 20th century. Garcia argues that they were the precursors to the well-known Hollywood musical, and that their influence can be seen in such recognizable film classics as "The Wizard of Oz” (1939) and “The Sound of Music” (1965).

Formerly a producer for the PBS documentary series American Experience, Garcia earned a doctorate in American studies at Boston University, where she was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Diversity Dissertation Fellowship. She came to ASU in 2011, where she teaches cross-disciplinary courses on global and national cinemas, and race and gender in American film.

The Department of English is an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.