McKayla Sluga

Year in Program: 3rd

Fields: Modern United States, Modern European, Cultural and Intellectual, Film/Modernism

Advisor: Michael Stamm

Committee: Kirsten Fermaglich, Sean Forner, Josh Yumibe

Research Languages: French, German

Educational Background: B.A. with Honors, Elmira College (2017)


I am a third-year Ph.D. student with an interest in twentieth-century American radical and extremist movements of both the Left and Right. The radicalization processes individuals and groups undergo as well as the ways in which they mobilize to connect theory and action are the underpinnings of my work, but I am particularly attentive to how avant-garde and modernist art and film have been used to project messages within social-political movements. My work also explores relationships between “high” and “popular” culture as well as how intellectuals have engaged with creative industries, culture, society, and politics in primarily urban spaces.

In a thematic sense, my research investigates intersections among cultural, social, political, and intellectual movements. Geographically, I focus on cultural history and radicalism in the United States, but I have become increasingly concerned with transnational connections and conflicts between radical movements of the United States, Europe, and the Soviet Union. My current projects are interested in how radical/avant-garde visual culture from Europe and the Soviet Union have influenced how American intellectuals understand and construct national identity through art and criticism, primarily in early-to-mid-20th-century New York City. I have also been interested in fin-de-si├Ęcle San Francisco’s avant-garde scene as well as its connections to cinema culture and Marxist artist-intellectual groups in the twentieth century.

My dissertation will focus on cultural brokers who negotiated the status of Marxist modernist/avant-garde art and film in the United States via writing in film/art journals, distributing and exhibiting these works, and building cultural, intellectual, and institutional networks. I am also a RCAH Teaching Fellow for the 2019-2020 year.

I double majored in History and American Studies and minored in Philosophy at Elmira College, where I earned my B.A. with Summa Cum Laude Latin Honors and completed the Honors Program. I was also a 2017 Gilder Lehrman American History Honors Scholar Award recipient. My research projects have focused on the relationship between radical social-political movements and radical artistic-intellectual movements of both the United States and Europe. Some examples include US Leftism/Marxism and Social Surrealism of the 1930s; Italian Fascism and Futurism; German Nazism and Modernism; Situationist International theory and Atelier Populaire poster art during the 1968 French uprisings; the 1960s-1970s Black Power and Black Arts Movements; and Afro-Cuban/Martiniquean Marxism and Surrealism.

TA appointments:

HST 202: US History to 1876 (Summer 2018-online)

GEO 211: Environment and Policy–with the Social Science Scholars Program (Spring 2018)

HST 304: The American Civil War (Summer 2018-online)

IAH 203: Latin America and the World (Spring 2018)

HST 392: History of the Holocaust (Fall 2017 and Fall 2018)

RA appointments:

Dr. John Waller with the Social Science Scholars Program (Fall 2019 and Spring 2020)

Dr. Lisa Fine (Spring 2019)