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Meet a Fellow: Claire Sisco King

Posted by on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 in Robert Penn Waren Center.

Meet Claire Sisco King, a 2020-2021 RPW Center Faculty Fellow. This year’s group is exploring the theme of “Imagining Cities.”

What does the phrase “Imagining Cities” mean to you? 

The phrase “Imagining Cities” suggests the coextensive relationship between ideas about what cities are, or should be, and their material instantiations. Central to this relationship are mediated depictions of cities, both real and imagined, because images of cities shape and are shaped by people’s embodied experiences of built environments. These questions seem particularly pertinent to the city of Nashville, which multiple media outlets have dubbed an “It City” and which will be the focus of my fellowship project. Recent growth and change in Nashville have resulted in and from increasing visibility of Nashville’s spaces, institutions, residents, and visitors; and my project will consider the affordances of media and art for offering inclusive and capacious (re)imaginings of what Nashville can be.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your research? If so, how, and how have you chosen to move forward?

The pandemic has made it difficult to engage with the people and places of Nashville, but the affordances of social media have made it possible to stay connected with artists and makers in the city who are continuing to create and serve their communities. For example, many local artists share photographic representations of their work on social media, and such hashtags as #nashvillemurals enable me to see what not only artists post about public art throughout the city but also what consumers post when they visit these sites. I can even follow hashtags and social media accounts for specific works of art to see who is engaging them and how. Furthermore, because I am also a scholar of media, I have been able to analyze cinematic and televisual representations of Nashville and other cities as a way of considering the varied ways with which cities have been imagined throughout history and across cultures, and this is work I can do safely from home!

And, for fun, what was your first job and what did you learn from it?

I did not grow up in Nashville, but one of my first jobs did take place in Music City in the 1990s. During the summer in college I worked at the Country Music Association in the public relations office. I got to meet an amazing array of writers and musicians—many of them just starting out and many of them already quite famous. At the time, I had no idea that, over twenty years later, I would be living in Nashville and doing scholarly work about the capacity of media and art to help people make sense of their everyday lives.

Claire Sisco King is an associate professor of Communication Studies, and she also teaches in the Department of Cinema and Media Arts and the Comparative Media Analysis and Practice program. A critical cultural scholar of media and visual culture, King is the author of Washed in Blood: Male Sacrifice, Trauma, and the Cinema (Rutgers University Press), and she has recently finished a new book manuscript, entitled “Mapping the Stars: Celebrity, Metonymy, and the Networked Politics of Identity.” She has also published scholarship in a range of communication, media, and gender studies journals and is the editor of the journal Women’s Studies in Communication.