British Association for American Studies


60 Seconds With Kate Dossett

The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association. 

Last month we invited you to spend 60 seconds with the new members of the U.S. Studies Online editorial team. Now the new members of the BAAS Executive Committee have kindly let us learn more about their lives, their interests, desert island books, and memorable moments…


tiMTqOw2Where are you right now?

In an attic.

If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?

To visit the “ Negro Units” of the Federal Theatre Project as they staged and debated black theatre in the 1930s.

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?

My fantasies rarely involve dinner parties.

You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?

Barbara Kingsolver’s, The Poisonwood Bible. My mum bought it for me years ago and the memories of her love would keep me warm.

What has been your most memorable career moment so far?

‘Memorable’ is an interesting word to apply to apply to your own career. I was delighted and humbled when my first book Bridging Race Divides won an international prize, but memorable conjures something else: I guess I most often reflect on those moments when I’ve been able to work with others to change and challenge sexism and racism in academic life.

What advice would you give to early career academics?

I would pass on a piece of advice I learned by watching a very inspiring female mentor, which is about taking time to find out,  and learning to prioritize what is important to you, both at work and beyond. She taught me not to pick your fights for strategic reasons.  If a battle is worth fighting, it’s worth fighting.

What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?

A holiday.

How did you come to your current area of research?

When I graduated as an undergraduate my college offered me a $3000 cheque to visit the U.S, and a list of American alumni who were happy to put me up for a few nights. Traveling round the South fired my interest in African American cultural history and its  role in challenging racial injustice in the contemporary U.S. This is the subject of my current book project on Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal. I’m also working on a transnational study of Feminist Archives and Women’s Libraries in the U.S. and the U.K, a project inspired by years of working in archives and encounters with inspiring feminist activists and archivists.

What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?

Professional agitator.

What book is currently on your bedside table?

I’m currently reading Margo Jefferson’s Negroland, Claudia Rankine’s, Citizen: An American Lyric, Lucia Berlin’s, A Manual for Cleaning Women, and Sarah Howe’s, Loop of Jade.

Be honest; how long has it been there?

Somewhere between 5 months  and 2 days.