My research and teaching concerns the documentary functions and effects of photographic images and narrative discourse. I have specialized in the field of autobiography, or “egodocuments,” and published a monograph and a co-edited collection, both on the history of autobiographical texts and discourses. My current research is an interpretive history of the political uses of photography in modern Cambodia, with specific reference to the epochal Khmer Rouge catastrophe of the 1970s. Organized around the notorious S-21 prisoner identification photos, it looks at the period of Cambodian independence (1953-now) and addresses cinema alongside both fine art and vernacular still photography. It will argue that inside and outside the nation, the photographic representation of “modern” Cambodia presented an illusion of Cambodian reality, obscuring rather than documenting actual problems of social, economic, and political modernization, resulting in an absence of vision that was conducive to tragic state failure. I am also a founding editor, with Arianne Baggerman and Rudolf Dekker, of the Brill academic book series, Egodocuments and History. My teaching addresses the several fields related to documents and documentary processes that interest me. These include the history and theory of narrative genres and forms, in particular autobiography; orality and literacy; photography and visual culture; material culture; new media; and literary and critical theory.
Because I am frequently asked: my surname is pronounced, Muh-SHOE. The name is Ruthenian. Ruthenia is historically located in a region of the western Carpathian mountains occupied now by portions of the states of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine. The most celebrated Ruthenian-American is Andy Warhol, who once famously declared, “I am from nowhere.” Warhol was in fact born in Pittsburgh, PA, a city at the center of the greatest concentration of people with the surname Mascuch in the United States. My Mascuch ancestors settled in New Jersey, where I was born. I am 3/4 Irish.