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Residential Faculty Research Fellows

Spring 2019 Dresher Center Faculty Research Fellows

Dawn Biehler, Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Systems
Project: A Place for Creatures: A History of People and Other Animals in New York’s Central Park

A Place for Creatures is a historical geography of diverse human-animal relationships in one of America’s iconic public spaces, beginning with Central Park’s conception in the 1840s and continuing through the late twentieth century. Previous research has established that elites have long defined and dominated Central Park’s landscapes, but that others have struggled to claim space for divergent uses. This book pushes these historical insights into the realm of human-animal interactions, emphasizing the contributions of immigrant, black, working-class, and queer people to shaping spaces and park activities together with animals. This historical geography can inform more inclusive practices of wildlife conservation, agriculture, recreation, and environmental education in cities by highlighting the past contributions of diverse people to making Central Park a place for all creatures.


Michelle Scott, Associate Professor of History; Affiliate Faculty in Gender, Women’s, + Sexuality Studies and the Language, Literacy, and Culture Program
Project: Living on Toby Time: The Theater Owners’ Booking Association and Black Vaudeville’s Rise and Fall

Living on Toby Time is a historical monograph investigating the origins of The Theater Owners’ Booking Association (T.O.B.A. or Toby). T.O.B.A. was a 1920s theater circuit specializing in African American vaudeville entertainment primarily for black audiences that existed between 1920 and 1931. At its height, T.O.B.A. consisted of over eighty interracially owned and/or managed theaters throughout the Southeast and Midwest. Tracing both the art on the stage and the entrepreneurial skills of managers off stage, the study is a social history that examines how this pivotal theater circuit shaped the black variety entertainment industry and provided a foundation for the transmission of working class African American culture throughout the nation. Through exploration of advertisements, contracts, oral histories, scripts, newspapers, and music, Living on Toby Timeilluminates a monumental moment in African American entertainment history, and posits the circuits’ role in fostering economic opportunity in black migrant enclaves in Jazz Age America.

For a list of previous Residential Faculty Research Fellows, please visit the Archives page.