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Post-Nationalist American Studies

John Carlos Rowe

Publication Year: 2000

Post-Nationalist American Studies seeks to revise the cultural nationalism and celebratory American exceptionalism that tended to dominate American Studies in the Cold War era. The goal of the book's contributors is a less insular, more trans-national, comparative approach to American Studies, one that questions dominant American myths rather than canonizes them. Articulating new ways to think about American Studies, these essays demonstrate how diverse the field has become.

Contributors are concerned with cross-cultural communication, race and gender, global and local identities, and the complex tensions between symbolic and political economies. Their essays explore, among other topics, the construction of "foreign" peoples and cultures; the notion of borders—territorial, racial, economic, and sexual; the "multilingual reality" of the United States; the place of the Mexican-American War in U.S. history; and the significance of Tiger Woods in today's global market of consumption.

Together, the essays propose a renewed vision of the United States' role in the world and how American Studies scholarship can address that vision. Each contributor includes a sample syllabus showing how the issues discussed in individual essays can be brought into the classroom.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

...In the fall of 1996, nine scholars participated in the residential research group, “Post-Nationalist American Studies,” at the University of California’s Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) on the Irvine campus: Barbara Brinson Curiel, at that time lecturer in Liberal Studies and Women’s Studies at California State University, San Marcos, currently assistant professor of English at Humboldt State University, who had recently earned her Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC); David Kazanjian, now an assistant professor of English...

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pp. 1-22

...Our group was initially organized under the title “Post-Nationalist American Studies.” In the call for applications, the description beneath the title, however, emphasized the intersections between changing models of American Studies and “ ‘post-national’ models for community and social organization.” During our weekly conversations, we frequently talked about the differences between the terms...

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Post-Nationalism, Globalism, and the New American Studies

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pp. 23-37

...Curricula and scholarship in American Studies have changed significantly over the past decade, reflecting the important influences of Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, and postmodern and postcolonial theories. Earlier approaches, such as the Puritan Origins and Myth-and-Symbol schools, attempted to elaborate those features of American identity and social organization that are unique national characteristics. Often implicit in this nationalist approach to the study of U.S. culture was the assumption that the United States constitutes a model for democratic...

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Syllabus: Comparative American Studies: An Introduction

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pp. 38-39

...We will begin by reading several recent revisions of traditional American Studies, including such defenses of the latter as offered by Leo Marx. The essays included in the course reader will be ways of identifying the major issues and problems both in traditional American Studies and for the socalled new and comparative American Studies. In order to test some of the claims we make in the course, we will use the recently revised...

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Creating the Multicultural Nation: Adventures in Post-Nationalist American Studies in the 1990s

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pp. 40-58

...On one level, the previews for that movie enticed us to the theaters by depicting the explosion of virtually every important architectural symbol of nationalism in the United States: the White House and Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Empire State Building in New York (and in the movie a fallen Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor), and even Capitol Records Tower in Los Angeles—that odd mixture of national pride, phallic symbolism, and international capitalism embedded in popular culture. Once in the theaters, audiences were treated to the...

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Syllabus: Introduction to American Studies and Ethnicity

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pp. 59-62

...This course explores a variety of themes, theoretical influences, and methodological approaches currently alive in American Studies, and its related disciplinary fields. My aim is to introduce you, at the graduate level, to a wide array of ongoing “conversations” in the field of American Studies and Ethnicity with the hope of promoting active engagement in those discussions from you. Particular emphasis is placed on the current controversies and scholarship surrounding...

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Rethinking (and Reteaching) the Civil Religion in Post-Nationalist American Studies

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pp. 63-80

...Several years ago I inherited from my good friend and colleague, David S. Wilson, an undergraduate course entitled “Religion in American Lives.” I had been teaching an undergraduate course on “Technology, Science, and American Culture,” which examines science as a belief system and compares that belief system with other systems of belief and practices, including religion. Murphey’s essay “On the Relation between Science and...

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Syllabus: (Re)Teaching the Civil Religion: Religion in American Lives

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pp. 81-83

...The following syllabus describes only one of several possible ways to translate the foregoing ideas into a concrete course. I teach this course in a tenweek quarter, but I present here a twelve-week design that can be expanded or contracted to fit terms of different lengths. The course design moves from the individual’s most private experience (“Religion as Subjective Reality”) to the social construction of religious experiences in the face-to-face group...

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Foreign Affairs: Women, War, and the Pacific

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pp. 84-106

...Kennedyesque senator, is waiting in Hong Kong in April of 1975 while her lover, Jack Lovett, searches for her daughter in Saigon. Lovett tells Inez to listen to the shortwave radio for the final evacuation order from the American embassy in Saigon. “Mother wants you to call home,” the American Service announcer would say and then play Bing Crosby singing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” This secret signal is no less absurd for the way in which it uncannily articulates Inez’s personal desire to find her daughter. But listening...

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Syllabus: Pacific America: War, Memory, and Imagination

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pp. 107-109

...This class considers the importance of the Pacific and Asia in twentiethcentury American conceptions of nationalism and culture, particularly in relationship to war. For the first half of the course we will consider a variety of historical moments and cultural icons—Captain Cook, Madam Butterfly, the atomic bomb, and war memorials—which mark the frequently militarized place of Asia in American national memory and imagination. In the second half of the course...

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Making Comparisons: First Contact, Ethnocentrism, and Cross-Cultural Communication

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pp. 110-125

...The new American Studies is going radically comparativist. In John Rowe’s words, it combines two models, one which “stresses the ‘comparative American cultures’ within the multiculture of the United States and another that allows us to situate domestic ‘multiculturalism’ within international, transnational, and potentially post-national contexts.” That is, the two dimensions of this new Comparative American Studies are internal and external to the cultural practices located within...

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Syllabus: Making Comparisons

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pp. 126-128

...The new American Studies has made a strong comparativist turn. This course examines several of the theoretical issues surrounding the practice of making comparisons in such a revisionist field. In particular we will look at comparisons made within and across different geopolitical communities, cultural traditions, professional disciplines, and historical periods. We will begin with an overview of a Comparative American Studies and then focus on the theoretical and political problems of comparison...

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Race, Nation, and Equality: Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative and a Genealogy of U.S. Mercantilism

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pp. 129-163

...On July 4, 1789, four months into its first session, the U.S. Congress celebrated thirteen years of formal U.S. independence by passing its first tariff bill. The bill placed duties of 5–15 percent on approximately thirty different goods, ranging from nails to carriages, with the highest rates reserved for “articles of luxury.” When James Madison proposed this “endeavour...

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Syllabus: Enclosing the “Open Sea”: Race, Nation, Gender, and Equality in the Northern Atlantic

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pp. 164-165

...This class examines the confrontations of African diasporans who traveled the Northern Atlantic during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with emerging Enlightenment conceptions of “race,” “gender,” “nation,” and “equality.” The readings will allow us to consider the relationships among central aspects of the period’s Northern Atlantic cultures: hierarchical codifications of racial, national, and gender identities...

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Joaquín Murrieta and the American 1848

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pp. 166-196

...1998 marked the 150th anniversary of the American 1848, the year that gold was discovered in California just before the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally ended the war between the United States and Mexico. Eighteen forty-eight has been and continues to be, of course, a crucial date for Chicano Studies scholars and cultural workers. In the 1960s and 1970s writers and activists formulated...

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Syllabus: 1848: Empire, Amnesia, and American Studies

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pp. 197-199

...This course complicates the conventional periodization of nineteenthcentury U.S. history and culture that makes the Civil War the pivotal event in a narrative that moves from sectional conflict to national consolidation and then to imperialism at the end of the century. By examining the early history of U.S. empire-building in Mexico as well as the filibustering attempts in Cuba and Latin America in the years that followed, we will think about how the events of 1848 established...

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My Border Stories: Life Narratives, Interdisciplinarity, and Post-Nationalism in Ethnic Studies

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pp. 200-218

...A few years ago in Southern California, in response to a series of incidents in which border-crossers were hit by cars while fleeing across the highway from Immigration and Naturalization Service officers, a new traffic sign was installed to alert drivers to watch for people crossing the highway. It’s a well-known sign to Southern Californians. In a bright yellow diamond, a silhouetted family is captured in mid-stride. At the head of the line of figures is a running man; at his heels is the outline...

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Syllabus: Race and Gender in American Autobiography

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pp. 219-222

...In this class we will explore life writings that address the issues of culture, race, gender, class, and nation. We will read a selection of texts and examine the possibilities and the limits of biographical and autobiographical forms. We will look at how authors establish credibility in the eyes of their readers, as well as how authors challenge their readers’ preexisting views. We will also contrast the varying representations...

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How Tiger Woods Lost His Stripes: Post-Nationalist American Studies as a History of Race, Migration, and the Commodification of Culture

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pp. 223-246

...As the summer waned in 1996, the world was treated to the coronation of a new public hero. Eldrick “Tiger” Woods, the twenty-year-old golf prodigy, captured his third straight amateur championship and then promptly declared his intention to turn professional. The story became a media sensation, transferring the material of sports page headlines to the front page of newspapers in a way usually reserved for World Series championships or athletes involved in sex and drug...

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Syllabus: Buying and Selling the Exotic: Transnational Culture and Global History

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pp. 247-248

...An undergraduate- or graduate-level course might organize an examination of post-nationalist issues into three main themes: migration and movement, the consciousness of cultural difference, and commodification. An examination of migration, either actual physical bodies or imagined movements, is a good starting point to ground the previous two hundred years of history. Colonialism, empire, labor migration—all can be charted demographically and...

List of Contributors

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pp. 249-252


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pp. 253-258

E-ISBN-13: 9780520925267
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520224384

Page Count: 271
Publication Year: 2000