Samuel Allen Receives Two Awards

Samuel Allen, doctoral candidate in the Department of Communication pursuing concurrent graduate certificates in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s studies and Cultural Studies programs, won two awards of funding for archival research related to his dissertation-in-progress. His dissertation-in-progress is a rhetorical history of the transatlantic promotions, exhibitions, and active, highly variable receptions of conjoined twins throughout the 19th century. Each chapter of his dissertation attends to the changing symbolic, communicative, and cultural dynamics of ability, race, class, gender, and sexuality in the 19th century as they intersect with the lives and exhibitions of the still well-known twins Chang and Eng Bunker (1818-1874) and the lesser known Millie-Christine McKoy (1851-1912).


The first award from the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies Program Student Research Fund supports research in the “Chang and Papers” at the Wilson Library in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the “Millie-Christine Collection” at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh, North Carolina in early March. These collections contain advertising broadsides and circulars, family photographs, personal letters and notes, and account books. Extending his archive into sources that refract a more everyday sense of the lives of Chang and Eng and Millie-Christine offers an important resource beyond the various imaginations of managers and medical men.


The second award, the Frank & Vilma Slater/Scottish Room Committee Scholarship, supports a 5-week archival research trip through England and Scotland in May. He has arranged visits to the British Library in London, the National Fairground and Circus Archive at the University of Sheffield, the Edinburgh City Archives at The University of Edinburgh, the Scottish Music Hall and Variety Collection and the History of Medicine Collection at the University of Glasgow, and The Kinnaird Hall in Dundee, Scotland. Extending his archival scope beyond the United States offers him a means to address the tendency toward what Marlene Tromp has called the “Americanness” of freak studies.


Samuel hopes to ultimately produce a publishable book manuscript that enriches collective understanding of how normativity and deviance were rhetorically reconstituted throughout the 19th century by means of negotiating individual autonomy, nation, race, gender, sexuality, and age in the popular exhibitions and lives of conjoined twins.