Welcome to the Center for Cultural Analysis

Mary RizzoMary Rizzo earned a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. Her research and teaching centers on 20th century American cultural and urban history; public history theory, methods and practice; and, digital humanities. She is the author of two books. The most recent, Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters and The Wire (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020) examines how Baltimore has been represented in popular culture since the 1950s. Including both well-known depictions like The Wire and Hairspray alongside less-remembered examples such as the TV show Roc or the poetry magazine Chicory, the book analyzes the political economy and racial implications of cultural representation, showing how artists and city leaders battled over the image of the city. It was awarded the 2021 Arline Custer Memorial Award from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference for its use of diverse archival sources.

Through this research she rediscovered Chicory, which published the unedited poetry of working-class African American residents of Baltimore from 1966-1983. In 1969, the Baltimore Afro American newspaper called it, “the most authentic microphone of Black people talking ever devised.” In partnership with cultural, arts, and youth organizations in Baltimore, she founded the Chicory Revitalization Project, which uses the magazine to catalyze conversations about race, social justice, and place with youth in Baltimore. The Project has digitized the magazine, runs an Instagram account that interprets poems from the magazine in light of issues around racial justice today, and has hosted poetry workshops in Baltimore. In 2020, Rizzo received a Public Engagement Fellowship from the Whiting Foundation to co-curate an exhibit on Chicory and the history of Black cultural activism in Baltimore from the 1960s-1980s with Rutgers students and high school students in Baltimore. The exhibit will debut at the Pratt library in Baltimore in June 2022.

Prior to becoming a faculty member, she worked as a professional public historian, including as the Public Historian in Residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities and the Associate Director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. She continues her work in public history in a variety of ways. She is a member of the Queer Newark Oral History Project and co-chair of the National Council on Public History’s committee on Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment. She also publishes in public history, including “Who Speaks for Baltimore: The Invisibility of Whiteness and the Ethics of Oral History Theater,” Oral History Review (2021).

She regularly teaches classes in urban history, public history, Black cultural studies, and digital humanities. She won the 2017 Teaching Award for excellence in teaching New Jersey history from the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance.

Her first book, Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle (University of Nevada Press, 2015), examined how marketers and advertisers in the 1960s co-opted white middle-class men’s use of working-class style to create the concept of lifestyle as divorced from material reality.

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