Commerce in Color
Race, Consumer Culture, and American Literature, 1893-1933
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University of Michigan Press
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By the time the stock market crashed and the Great Depression provoked a widespread reappraisal of U.S.-style capitalism, Americans were already well on the way to defining themselves as a nation of consumers. We tend to think of consumerism as a recent or even âpostmodernâ phenomenon,...
1. No Place of Race: Consumer Culture's Critical Tradition
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For students of African American history and of race in the United States, the years between Plessy v. Ferguson and the Great Depression were pivotal in the renewal of racial thinkingâthe retrenchment of racism, the disenfranchisement of African Americans, and the consolidation of a whiteness that would include the massive âsecond waveâ of...
2. "Stage Business" as Citizenship: Ida B. Wells at the World's Columbian Exposition
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Visitors to the 1893 Worldâs Columbian Exposition saw âNegroesâ but few, if any, African Americans. An ethnological display exhibited the Fon people of Dahomey (now the West African nation of Benin), but African American endeavors had been scrupulously suppressed. By and large, the only African Americans in the...
3. Thrown into Relief: Distinction Making in The American Scene
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Henry James noted in The American Scene in 1904 that in New York there are âoccasions, days and weeks together, when the electric cars offer you nothing else to think ofâ besides immigrants. âThe carful, again and again, is a foreign carful,â he continued, âa row of faces, up and down, testifying, without exception, to alienism...
4. Race-changes as Exchanges: The Autobiography of an Ex-coloured Man
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Reflecting on his travels by Pullman coach at the end of The American Scene, Henry James imagines a race-change. He speculates that his perceptions would be altered dramatically were he âredâ instead of âwhite,â a Native American rather than a ânativeâ American. He scolds the railroad itself:...
5. A Black Culture Industry: Public Relations and the "New Negro" at Boni and Liveright
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The same year that Boni and Liveright published Jean Toomerâs Cane (1923), which many took as a signal of the maturation of a new generation of black writers, a book entitled Publicity appeared, outlining the subtle new tactics of promotion that were bolstering the new industry...
6. Confessions of the Flesh: The Mass Public in Epidermal Trouble in Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts and George Schuyler's Black No More
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By 1930, the quantity of goods manufactured in the United States had grown at nearly three times the rate at which the population had increased since the turn of the century, according to a federally commissioned study by Middletown author Robert Lynd (âPeopleâ 857). This discrepancy had been a fundamental crisis...
Conclusion: Leaving Muncie
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In 1923, ROBERT S. LYND hit a methodological snag while in the â¹nal planning stages for the research that would become Middletownâa text that, along with Veblenâs Theory of the Leisure Class, helped found a ânativeâ critical tradition on consumer culture....
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Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2007
Series Title: Class : Culture