Kara’s interdisciplinary approach is reflected in her examinations of the mythic West, conceptions of the past, popular culture, and science and dystopian fiction. Her first book, Imagining Tombstone: The Town too Tough to Die, goes beyond the famous gunfight near the O.K. Corral, looking at the tourism industry in Tombstone and the ways the town must negotiate between selling its own history and meeting the expectations of tourists that have been cultivated through popular culture. Taking into account decades of preservation efforts, performance on the town’s streets, the stories told about Tombstone and Wyatt Earp by fiction writers, filmmakers, and television producers, the ways the West has circulated around the world, and the fervor with which Earp historians and western history buffs keep the field alive, this work demonstrates that Tombstone’s future rests not solely on its past but on a wide variety of avenues of sustainability that have earned it the reputation as “The Town too Tough to Die.”
Also informing this project are the thematic similarities between portrayals of the West and science fiction, particularly their shared exploration of the regenerative power of the frontier, and the promises of adventure and opportunity that are central to both genres. She included in this work an analysis of representations of the Sci Fi West, most notably the Star Trek episode “Spectre of the Gun” and Michael Crichton’s Westworld.
Her exploration into the ways science fiction and the West interact in popular culture and public space continues with a critical examination of Roswell, New Mexico. The success of Roswell’s annual UFO festival relies on science fiction, Cold War anxieties, technology and militarization, folklore, and conspiracy theory as well as notions of pilgrimage and sacred space embedded in the “Land of Enchantment” on which the state of New Mexico’s tourism industry has been built. Through this work, Kara hopes to demonstrate the cultural relevance of Roswell to ideological understandings of the American nation during the Cold War up through the current era of rapidly advancing technologies, from the Atomic Age to the Information Age.
She is also working on other projects, including a community/public history project, BY THE PEOPLE: THE PEOPLE’S MUSEUM OF BROCKTON; an analysis of the ways filmmakers have imagined the West as a space of disaster and apocalypse, particularly The Book of Eli (2010) and The Road (2009); and an examination of the production and consumption of western films produced in the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.