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Amalgamation Schemes

Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism

Jared Sexton

Despite being heralded as the answer to racial conflict in the post–civil rights United States, the principal political effect of multiracialism is neither a challenge to the ideology of white supremacy nor a defiance of sexual racism. More accurately, Jared Sexton argues in Amalgamation Schemes, multiculturalism displaces both by evoking long-standing tenets of antiblackness and prescriptions for normative sexuality.

 

In this timely and penetrating analysis, Sexton pursues a critique of contemporary multiracialism, from the splintered political initiatives of the multiracial movement to the academic field of multiracial studies, to the melodramatic media declarations about “the browning of America.” He contests the rationales of colorblindness and multiracial exceptionalism and the promotion of a repackaged family values platform in order to demonstrate that the true target of multiracialism is the singularity of blackness as a social identity, a political organizing principle, and an object of desire. From this vantage, Sexton interrogates the trivialization of sexual violence under chattel slavery and the convoluted relationship between racial and sexual politics in the new multiracial consciousness.

 

An original and challenging intervention, Amalgamation Schemes posits that multiracialism stems from the conservative and reactionary forces determined to undo the gains of the modern civil rights movement and dismantle radical black and feminist politics.

 

Jared Sexton is assistant professor of African American studies and film and media studies at the University of California, Irvine.

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The Amalgamation Waltz

Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory

Tavia Nyong’o

At a time when the idea of a postracial society has entered public discourse, The Amalgamation Waltz investigates the practices that conjoined blackness and whiteness in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Scrutinizing widely diverse texts—archival, musical, visual, and theatrical—Tavia Nyong’o traces the genealogy of racial hybridity, analyzing how key events in the nineteenth century spawned a debate about interracialism that lives on today.

Deeply interested in how discussions of racial hybridity have portrayed the hybrid as the recurring hope for a distant raceless future, Nyong’o is concerned with the ways this discourse deploys the figure of the racial hybrid as an alibi for a nationalism that reinvents the racist logics it claims to have broken with. As Nyong’o demonstrates, the rise of a pervasive image of racially anomalous bodies responded to the appearance of an independent black public sphere and organized politics of black uplift. This newfound mobility was apprehended in the political imaginary as a bodily and sexual scandal, and the resultant amalgamation discourse, he argues, must be recognized as one of the earliest and most enduring national dialogues on sex and sexuality.

Nyong’o tracks the emergence of the concept of the racial hybrid as an ideological modernization of the older concept of the mongrel and shows how this revision brought race-thinking in line with new understandings of sex and gender, providing a racial context for the shift toward modern heterosexuality, the discourse on which postracial metaphors so frequently rely. A timely rebuttal to our contemporary fascination with racial hybridity, The Amalgamation Waltz questions the vision of a national future without racial difference or conflict.

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Ambient Media

Japanese Atmospheres of Self

Paul Roquet

Ambient Media examines music, video art, film, and literature as tools of atmospheric design in contemporary Japan, and what it means to use media as a resource for personal mood regulation. Paul Roquet traces the emergence of ambient styles from the environmental music and Erik Satie boom of the 1960s and 1970s to the more recent therapeutic emphasis on healing and relaxation.

Focusing on how an atmosphere works to reshape those dwelling within it, Roquet shows how ambient aesthetics can provide affordances for reflective drift, rhythmic attunement, embodied security, and urban coexistence. Musicians, video artists, filmmakers, and novelists in Japan have expanded on Brian Eno’s notion of the ambient as a style generating “calm, and a space to think,” exploring what it means to cultivate an ambivalent tranquility set against the uncertain horizons of an ever-shifting social landscape. Offering a new way of understanding the emphasis on “reading the air” in Japanese culture, Ambient Media documents both the adaptive and the alarming sides of the increasing deployment of mediated moods.

Arguing against critiques of mood regulation that see it primarily as a form of social pacification, Roquet makes a case for understanding ambient media as a neoliberal response to older modes of collective attunement—one that enables the indirect shaping of social behavior while also allowing individuals to feel like they are the ones ultimately in control.


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Ambrose Bierce - American Writers 37

University of Minnesota Pamphlets on American Writers

Robert A. Wiggins

Ambrose Bierce - American Writers 37 was first published in 1964. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

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America in the Forties

The Letters of Ole Munch Ræder

Gunnar Malmin

America in the Forties: Letters of Ole Munch Ræder was first published in 1929. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.These lively, well-informed letters with their shrewd comment on the American scene are an important addition to Americana. Between De Tocqueville and Bryce there were few more competently trained observers than the author, Munch Ræder, a distinguished Norwegian jurist sent by his government in 1847 to study American legal institutions.Ræder traveled widely and wrote home to a Christiania newspaper his observations on many topics: American politics and social customs, the working of the “melting pot,” slavery, westward expansion, transportation, Chicago with a budding reputation as a tough town, New York where hogs on the open streets had been forbidden. Not without interest is the reaction of the United States to the European revolution of 1848 and Munch Ræder’s own dream of a Pan-Scandinavian Union.Dr. Gunnar J. Malmin has supplied an excellent translation of the necessary notes. Through the aid of descendants of Munch Ræder, he has added letters not published in the original Christiana journal.

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America'S Shadow

An Anatomy of Empire

William V. Spanos

A study of imperialism that stretches from ancient Rome to the post–Cold War world, this provocative work boldly revises our assumptions about the genealogy of the West. Rather than locating its source in classical Greece, William V. Spanos argues, we should look to ancient Rome, which first articulated the ideas that would become fundamental to the West’s imperial project. These founding ideas, he claims, have informed the American national identity and its foreign policy from its origins.

The Vietnam War is at the center of this book. In the contradiction between the “free world” logic used to justify U.S. intervention in Vietnam and the genocidal practices used to realize that logic, Spanos finds the culmination of an imperialistic discourse reaching back to the colonizing rationale of the Roman Empire. Spanos identifies the language of expansion in the “white” metaphors used in Western philosophical discourse since the colonization of Greek thought by the Romans. He shows how these metaphors, and their use in metaphysical discourse, have long been complicit in the violence of imperialism.

Unique in the context of postcolonial studies, this book emphasizes what is largely overlooked by commentators on imperialism: its metaphysical source. By interpreting U.S. conduct in the Vietnam War as the fulfillment of the logic springing from ancient Rome, America’s Shadow calls on us to confront our past, our “truths,” and the imperialistic violence latent in our inherited frame of reference. It urges us to discover the positive critical and political possibilities that lie in an examination of the contradictions that haunt the language of Western thought.

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America Town

Building the Outposts of Empire

Mark L. Gillem

American servicemen and -women are currently stationed in more than 140 countries from Central America to Western Europe to the Middle East, often living and working on military bases that not only dominate foreign territories but also re-create familiar space that “feels like home”—gated communities filled with rambling subdivisions, franchised restaurants, and lush golf courses.

 

In America Town, Mark Gillem reveals modern military outposts as key symbols of not just American power but also consumer consumption. Through case studies of several U.S. military facilities—including Aviano Air Base in Italy, Osan and Kunsan Air Bases in South Korea, and Kadena Air Base in Japan—Gillem exposes these military installations as exports of the American Dream, as suburban culture replicated in the form of vast green lawns, three-car garages, and big-box stores. With passion and eloquence he questions the impact of this practice on the rest of the world, exposing the arrogance of U.S. consumption of foreign land.

 

Gillem contends that current U.S. military policy for its overseas troops practices avoidance—relocating military bases to isolated but well-appointed compounds designed to prevent contact with the residents. He probes the policy directives behind base building that reproduce widely spaced, abundantly paved, and extensively manicured American suburbs, regardless of the host nation’s terrain and culture or the impact on local communities living under empire’s wings.

 

Throughout America Town, Gillem demonstrates how the excesses of American culture are strikingly evident in the way that the U.S. military builds its outposts. The defense of the United States, he concludes, has led to the massive imposition of tract homes and strip malls on the world—creating mini-Americas that inhibit cultural understanding between U.S. troops and our allies abroad.

 

Mark L. Gillem is assistant professor of architecture and landscape architecture at the University of Oregon. He is also a licensed architect, a certified planner, and a former active-duty U.S. Air Force officer.

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American-Australian Relations

Werner Levi

American-Australian Relations was first published in 1947. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

This new study fills a wide gap in the story of American-Australian relations and is a timely addition to the literature in this field. There has been no comprehensive treatment of the topic before, and it will be of interest to those seeking information that the thorough documentation includes wide use of reports of the American consuls in Australia, and material from Australian parliamentary debates and Australian and American newspapers.

Australia has emerged from the war as an important world power that demands a prominent role in the south and southwest Pacific. At the same time the United States has become more and more deeply involved in Far Eastern affairs. The book gives the background of the development and shows the gradual enlargement of spheres of mutual interest between the two countries, both political and economic, from the end of the eighteenth century down to the problems presented by postwar developments in the Pacific.

Emphasis is placed on the economic and political ambitions of the two countries, and on their resulting agreements and disagreements both in their direct relations and in their relations with the whole Far Eastern region. Dr. Levi points out that the new importance of the Pacific resulting from World War II has proved to both nations their mutual dependence, but at the same time has increased their national interest in ever-widening and overlapping spheres in the Pacific area.

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American by Paper

How Documents Matter in Immigrant Literacy

Kate Vieira

American by Paper reveals how two groups of immigrants who share a primary language nevertheless have very different experiences of literacy in the United States. It describes the social realities facing documented and undocumented immigrants who use everyday acts of writing to negotiate papers—the visas, green cards, and passports that promise access to the American Dream. It is both an ethnography, filled with illuminating details about contemporary immigrant lives, and a critical intervention into two leading—and conflicting—scholarly ideas of literacy and its social role.

Although popular thinking and scholarship have viewed literacy as a method of culturally assimilating immigrants into the nation, Kate Vieira finds that upward mobility and social inclusion in the United States are tied to literacy in complex ways. She draws from extensive interviews with Portuguese-speaking migrants who live and work together in a former mill town in Massachusetts that she calls South Mills: one group from the Azores, who are usually documented, and another from Brazil, who are usually undocumented. She explains how these migrants experience literacy not as a vehicle for assimilation (as educational policy makers often assert) nor as a means of resisting oppression (as literacy scholars often hope) but instead as tied up in papers, particularly in the papers that confer legal status. Papers and literacy are inextricably bound together, both promoting and constraining opportunities, and they shape why and how migrants read and write.

Vieira builds on insights from literacy theories that have long been in opposition to each other in order to develop a new sociomaterial theory of literacy, one that takes into account its inseparable link to paper, forms, and documentation. This point of view leads to a deeper understanding of how literacy actually accrues meaning by circulating, and recirculating, through institutions and the lives of individuals.


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The American Dream in Vietnamese

Nhi T. Lieu

In her research on popular culture of the Vietnamese diaspora, Nhi T. Lieu explores how people displaced by war reconstruct cultural identity in the aftermath of migration. Embracing American democratic ideals and consumer capitalism prior to arriving in the United States, postwar Vietnamese refugees endeavored to assimilate and live the American Dream. In The American Dream in Vietnamese, she claims that nowhere are these fantasies played out more vividly than in the Vietnamese American entertainment industry.

Lieu examines how live music variety shows and videos, beauty pageants, and Web sites created by and for Vietnamese Americans contributed to the shaping of their cultural identity. She shows how popular culture forms repositories for conflicting expectations of assimilation, cultural preservation, and invention, alongside gendered and classed dimensions of ethnic and diasporic identity.

The American Dream in Vietnamese demonstrates how the circulation of images manufactured by both Americans and Vietnamese immigrants serves to produce these immigrants’ paradoxical desires. Within these desires and their representations, Lieu finds the dramatization of the community’s struggle to define itself against the legacy of the refugee label, a classification that continues to pathologize their experiences in American society.

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