B.A., Georgetown University; A.M., Ph.D., Harvard University
Erin Royston BattatLecturer in the Writing Program
My research and teaching explores the relationship between art, literature, and social change, with a focus on the U.S. Left in the 1930s.
My book, ‘Ain’t Got No Home’: America’s Great Migrations and the Making of an Interracial Left, examines how writers and artists in the 1930s used migration narratives to fight for economic and racial justice. During this period of economic collapse, images of migrants--black and white--flooded American culture, appearing in novels, documentary photography, folk songs, ethnographies, and popular culture. Unlike the immigrant success stories and frontier tales of previous generations, Depression-era migration narratives call into question capitalist myths of mobility and progress. While most scholars treat black and white migrations--and their stories--as separate phenomena, I argue that writers and artists on the Left envisioned a common ground between African American and southern white migrants through their shared experiences of tenancy, homelessness, and labor exploitation, while addressing, to varying degrees, the persistence of white privilege and systemic racism. In doing so, they forged an interracial alliance that has had a lasting impact on American politics and culture.
My research on migration has expanded to include both domestic and global population movements. Currently, I work with AncestryDNA to analyze the migration patterns of clusters of people with shared ancestry.
I teach first-year writing courses on themes of art, politics, and migration. I encourage students to develop their own voices in their writing as they engage with texts motivated by a social purpose. Students in my classes conduct hands-on research in the Davis museum, create digital stories and exhibits, and engage with immigrant communities at Wellesley and beyond.
Other professional interests and activities
After college, I served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, helping to empower families at risk for child neglect and abuse in Montana. More recently, I facilitated a literature class for women on probation though Changing Lives Through Literature, an alternative sentencing program.
My husband and I have three children (Sebastian, Kiernan, and Julian) and a dog (Guinness). I can often be found running around Lake Waban, eating ice cream at Truly Yogurt, or drinking coffee at Peets. Some of my favorite places in the world are Glacier National Park, Montana; Dingle Peninsula, Ireland; food courts in Tokyo, Japan; the Kalalau trail in Kauai, Hawaii; and Birch Island, Maine. My dream is to hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu!