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Gavin  Benke

Gavin Benke

Gavin Benke
Postdoctoral Scholar


Office: SOC 246
Phone: 813/974-9375



Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 2012


At the University of South Florida, I teach U.S. history with an emphasis on the history of capitalism, business history, and political economy. My courses examine the ways in which business enterprises and the emergence of capitalism in the U.S. have influenced and shaped political ideologies, social movements, and cultural expressions from the colonial era through the twentieth century. My students and I explore these topics by looking at a mix of primary documents, including advertisements, newspaper and magazine articles, songs, and memoirs. My students learn to put the story of business enterprise and the development of capitalism in the U.S. in the larger context of American history.

In my teaching, I encourage students to take an interdisciplinary approach to course subject matter. I strongly believe that looking at a topic from a number of different perspectives, culture, politics, economics, geography, and so on, consistently yields new insights and ways of thinking about the world. I have also taught courses on America in the 1970s, Introduction to American Studies, and Globalization.


My research interests also focus on the complicated role businesses and companies play in American life. My current book project, “Electronic Bits and Ten Gallon Hats: Enron, American Culture, and Postindustrial Political Economy,” uses the Enron collapse as a starting point to explore the complicated role corporations play in United States culture. I am interested in how the cultural, political, and economic developments of the late twentieth century helped create the conditions for this company’s spectacular failure. Examining this famous scandal also allows me to look at the ways in which the nation reacts to and makes sense of corporate wrong-doing. A recent conference paper related to this project is available online by clicking here.

I have also worked with a group of scholars at the University of Texas at Austin conducting oral histories of those involved in barbecue in central Texas. This project resulted in a website,, as well as the book, Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket, published by the University of Texas Press in 2009.

Recent Publications

“Laughing All The Way to the Bank: Enron, Humor, and Political Economy” in A Decade of Dark Humor: How Popular Culture Has Shaped Post-9/11 Politics. U.P. of Mississippi, 2011.

“Authenticity: The Search for the Real Thing,” in Republic of Barbecue. U of Texas Press, 2009.

Section Editor and Review of Invested Interests: Capital, Culture and the World Bank, by Bret Benjamin, in e3w Review of Books, Volume 9, Spring 2009.

“Where Is Enron? Changing Perceptions of Geographic Relationships in the Deregulation of California’s Energy Market,” in Business and Economic History On-Line: Papers Presented at the BHC Annual Meeting. Vol. 6, 2008.

“The Corporate American Dream: Class and Ethnic Struggle in Non-fiction Representations of Wall Street Culture,” in Storytelling: A Critical Journal of Popular Narrative special issue on non-fiction narrative. Winter 2006.

Review of Paul Bowles on Music in “Book Notes,” Virginia Quarterly Review, Spring 2004, Vol. 80, Issue 2. Online Edition.