In the fifty years following the American Civil War, the very national and cultural identity of the United States was on the brink of deconstruction. The white supremacist narratives on which the country’s cultural identity was built were being forcibly challenged by the emancipation of millions of black people from slavery. While some Americans wanted to remember the war as a war fought over slavery – a memory eventually called the emancipationist account of the war, others violently fought to enshrine a different memory into the American cognitive landscape. The continuum of narratives responding to emancipationist accounts of the war came to be collectively known as Lost Cause ideology. The Lost Cause was used to keep white supremacy central to American identity, thereby doing the cultural work of setting the stage for Jim Crow legislation, and allowed the South to engage in multiple complex performances of surrogation in order to cope with the Confederacy’s defeat at the hands of the Union. A common identity narrative for white people was forged and bolstered by the literal hanging and burning in effigy of black people. Thus, the lynching of black people following the American Civil War was a cultural performance of surrogation which was used to bolster the centrality of white supremacy within the American identity.
Using Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. album as a primary document, the article makes connections between the musician’s songs and the state of working-class masculinity in the eighties. In setting up a quasi-star text of Springsteen, Katzenberg argues that the artist became a representative of heterosexual masculinity. The author’s investigation is framed by a discussion of the changes in white working-class masculinity during the Reagan administrations. This examination is bolstered by the use of gender studies, history and economics, hinting at the destructive impact of Reaganomics and consumer culture has on the labour force. In its interdisciplinary approach, the paper offers textual analysis that firmly anoints Springsteen as the working man’s hero.
At the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1970, radical conceptual artist Robert Irwin was busy removing all of the contents of the museum’s fourth floor gallery spaces. The controversial installation which resulted—a room ostensibly devoid of “art” altogether—was just one in a long line of critical investigations into what Irwin called, “the pure subject of art.” The danger of misreading Irwin is high; he is a man containing multitudes. His artistic projects are at once intensely private, yet public, utterly personal, and yet universally relevant. In fact, the scope of Irwin’s aesthetic and intellectual inquiry resonates with that of the prototypical American theorist, Ralph Waldo Emerson. While Emerson’s philosophy can help to illuminate the conceptual underpinnings of Irwin’s art, we might also hope to learn something about the gentleman poet-philosopher from the life and art of a more contemporary Transcendentalist.
At the start of his presidency, Barack Obama issued an Executive Order to shut down the naval base at Guantanamo Bay and halt all detainees’ trial proceedings pending the creation of a review process. Legal scholars and White House advisors made suggestions regarding how to shut the prison down and what to do with its occupants. In this paper, I will argue that detainees should be tried in federal courts and sent home or transferred to prisons within the United States. I will examine the nature of the President’s Executive Order and documents outlining traditional protections granted to detainees including the Geneva Conventions, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and Supreme Court rulings. An analysis of how to proceed with the adjudication of detainees will follow. My findings illustrate that the most efficient solution to these problems is to implement domestic parole programs and try detainees in US federal courts.
The Iroquois Confederacy was torn apart by intertribal violence for the first time in its history during the United States’ War of Independence. This paper is an exploration of the external forces that precipitated the brutal and bloody fracture. It describes the social and geographic setting of the period in detail and proceeds to show how various individuals from both sides acted within this setting to manipulate the Iroquois to their advantage. It is a history that is notable for its strong personalities, including an exceptionally influential Iroquois woman, a politically motivated reverend, and a racist military general desperate to win the loyalty of the ‘savages.’ Ultimately, the British were more competent and more resourceful, while the Americans – especially after a heavy-handed and disastrous campaign to force the remaining neutral tribes to join their ranks – lost most of their Iroquois allies by the time the war ended.
This essay investigates the complex duality of the concept of modernity as both lived experience and artistic tenet. It explores Modernism as a socio-economic force and as a literary movement which helped to create the historical image of the early twentieth century. As representatives of American Modernism, Ezra Pound and W. C. Williams expound the Modernist incorporation of aspects of the ironic and the ambiguous, promoting a state of ‘constant flickering’ or a suspension of resolution; offering not explanations or reassurances but contradictions and unsynthesized dialectics. By examining the dynamics of poetic and socio-economic change reflected in the work of Pound and Williams, this essay provides a useful theoretical snapshot of American Modernism, in both an historical and literary-historical context. While the focus of the work is Pound and Williams’ figurations of these ideas, this paper also incorporates several other influences through both American and world poetics.
In the aftermath of the 1755 New England earthquake, preacher Thomas Prince and professor John Winthrop engaged in a four-month public dispute about the causes of earthquakes and the effectiveness of lightening rods. Historians have traditionally characterized their disagreement as battle between science and religion, but this paper traces the conflict instead to a fundamental difference in the two men’s personal theologies. Prince’s conception of a wrathful god and Winthrop’s belief in a more benevolent deity generated the contrasting visions for public welfare evident in their sermons, lectures, and newspaper submissions.
In Constructing an Image Holly Karibo traces the development of the mythology of the ‘crack mother’ in mainstream American media during the 1980s. The author demonstrates how implications of race, class, and gender in the popular press furthered the systematic marginalization of minority women, and particularly, African American single mothers, effectively reinforcing the burgeoning conservative and patriarchal ideologies being espoused by the New Right. Through a comprehensive analysis of the decade’s print media, Karibo argues that the racial targeting of the ‘crack scare’ served to strengthen both the concept of the middle-class, nuclear family, and the notion of a ‘normal,’ female, maternal instinct. Thus, the author concludes, the ‘crack scare’ which emerged in American society at the close of the twentieth century is demonstrative of the ways in which media representations have been instrumental in constructing particular social categories, which in turn, serve to further legitimize the hegemonic power structure that inform American society.
Since the late 1990s, Indian-Americans have begun acting on a desire to see their experience of America reflected through the mass culture they consume. American Desi (2001), which offers a comedic, coming-of-age college narrative of US-born Indian-Americans, was the first true film-based articulation of this desire. A cultural look into identity among ‘Desis’—a word meaning literally “someone from India”—through the lens of youth is the film’s ambitious proposition. This paper places American Desi in its historical and cultural context by privileging what Homi Bhaba coined as “cultural difference”; an examination of the textual articulation of culture to illuminate and analyze the tensions it houses. Through this lens, culture is revealed to inform individuals on simultaneous, multiplex levels that include gender, race and racism, class, consumerism and nationalism. Locating and evaluating the presentation of these dynamic categories and their tensions within the praxis of culture is thus the critical benchmark for American Desi.
Infotainment — the portmanteau of “information” and “entertainment” — is virtually renounced by traditional journalists, who believe that information and entertainment should not be mixed. Despite this resistance, infotainment is an increasingly popular and prevalent method as news networks use it to lure in viewers and advertising dollars that continue to drift to other mediums. Infotainment has many faces, the most popular being cable news talk shows in which pundits such as Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, and Lou Dobbs host shows that, without admitting as much, blur the lines between news and commentary. This piece explores how infotainment pundits use emotional frameworks, dialogical formats, and appeals to the “good vs. evil” mentality to attract viewers and appeal to deeply ingrained cultural discourses. Focusing particularly on the “good vs. evil” trope in infotainment works, this binary mode of thinking is central to how Americans perceive issues in the news. However, the information news pundits provide is purposely skewed, often patently false, and uses the veil of media objectivity to mask hyperbolic opinion as unbiased reporting. This piece goes on to explore how infotainment not only effects the perception of world events but also fails to reflect the diversity of America, with visible minorities largely appearing only when race-centric stories are discussed. While infotainment reveals deep tensions between journalism’s faith in objectivity, on the one hand, this essay also explores how pundits provide a dangerous “echo chamber” for audiences — encouraging and reinforcing largely under-informed opinions rather than challenging them with a truly journalistic exploration of the complexities of issues.