Professor Profile: Matthew Countryman

BY ANGELA SON

Published January 14, 2013

When did you move to Michigan?

I started teaching in the University of Michigan in 1998. I have a Ph.D. from Duke, and I’ve taught my whole career here.

What classes do you teach here?

Right now I’m teaching a class on the modern civil rights movement, which is cross-listed with History and African American Studies and a graduate class on research methods in history. Every fall I teach (a class on) politics and culture in 1960s, which is a big lecture class on American culture and history. The civil rights movement is my specialty; that’s what I do my research on. It’s exciting to have a relatively small class of about 20 students where I can interact with them.

Your specialty is the civil rights movement yet you teach American Culture courses, not history. How are American Culture classes different from history classes?

American Culture is an interdisciplinary program, so our faculty comes from a whole range of departments like English, History, Romance Languages (& Literatures) and Sociology. Different research methods come from these different disciplines. We spend a lot of attention on things that don’t get a lot of attention in history classes such as popular music, television (and) movies. Not that historians don’t do that, but we try to emphasize on how the popular cultures shape our social change. The idea behind the classes is to be able to look at something either historically or currently present in American culture from multiple perspectives.

Do you have a favorite place on campus?

So, the other work I do is primarily on campus. I run the Community Engagement Program for grad school students which is based at Rackham. In this research program, we have internships and grants for graduate students interested in working on arts issues in communities. I love doing that work, and Rackham is a spectacular building.

What do you do outside of academia?

I have two kids, 16 and 11, born and raised in Ann Arbor, so I spend a lot of time with them. They play a lot of sports, music ... and I also love watching U of M sports, all sorts of sports. Basketball season is pretty exciting right now. It hasn’t been since last Christmas that I was at a game, but I like to watch them on television.