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Published on Mar 29, 2012
Part of our Intellectual Profile series, here is the first installment of six of our conversation with Dr. Kathleen Belew. In this part, she explains what she researches, what sparked her interest in it and why she pursued graduate school.
Kathleen Belew received her Ph.D. with Distinction in American Studies from Yale University in 2011. Her dissertation, Theaters of War: Paramilitarism, Mercenaries, and the Racist Right from Vietnam to Oklahoma City, traces the circulations of violence from the Vietnam War to Central America to the United States, arguing that war cannot be contained in the time and space designated for it by the state. Rather, following the profound experience of war, many Vietnam veterans rehearsed, restaged, and re-fought that conflict in other settings long after its official conclusion, using the script of the Vietnam War—and its grand themes of loss, betrayal by authority, fixation on weapons, reckless individual action, indiscriminate violence against civilians, and trivialization of death—to shape their violence. Her project has received the generous support of Javits, Enders, Beveridge, and Mellon fellowships and grants. Belew, a Colorado native, received her B.A. in Comparative History of Ideas from the University of Washington in 2005, where she was named Dean's Medalist in the Humanities. As an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, Belew is working on an article about the white female body in the racist right war on the state. She has taught at Yale University, Northwestern University, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in fields including United States History since 1865; Violence and Reconciliation, Holocaust to present; Narrative, Memory, and Ways of Telling; and Histories and Theories of Race and Gender.