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The Hidden Landscapes of Domestic Service in Johannesburg
Despite their peaceful, bucolic appearance, the tree-lined streets of South African suburbia were no refuge from the racial tensions and indignities of apartheid’s most repressive years. In At Home with Apartheid, Rebecca Ginsburg provides an intimate examination of the cultural landscapes of Johannesburg’s middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods during the height of apartheid (c. 1960-1975) and incorporates recent scholarship on gender, the home, and family.
More subtly but no less significantly than factory floors, squatter camps, prisons, and courtrooms, the homes of white South Africans were sites of important contests between white privilege and black aspiration. Subtle negotiations within the domestic sphere between white, mostly female, householders and their black domestic workers, also primarily women, played out over and around this space. These seemingly mundane, private conflicts were part of larger contemporary struggles between whites and blacks over territory and power.
Ginsburg gives special attention to the distinct social and racial geographies produced by the workers’ detached living quarters, designed by builders and architects as landscape complements to the main houses. Ranch houses, Italianate villas, modernist cubes, and Victorian bungalows filled Johannesburg’s suburbs. What distinguished these neighborhoods from their precedents in the United States or the United Kingdom was the presence of the ubiquitous back rooms and of the African women who inhabited them in these otherwise exclusively white areas.
The author conducted more than seventy-five personal interviews for this book, an approach that sets it apart from other architectural histories. In addition to these oral accounts, Ginsburg draws from plans, drawings, and onsite analysis of the physical properties themselves. While the issues addressed span the disciplines of South African and architectural history, feminist studies, material culture studies, and psychology, the book’s strong narrative, powerful oral histories, and compelling subject matter bring the neighborhoods and residents it examines vividly to life.
The Culture of Drink in Early Modern Germany
In Bacchus and Civic Order, Ann Tlusty examines the social and cultural functions served by drinking and tavern life in Germany between 1500 and 1700, and challenges existing theories about urban identity, sociability, and power. Through her reconstruction of the social history of Augsburg, from beggars to council members, Tlusty also sheds light on such diverse topics as social ritual, gender and household relations, medical practice, and the concerns of civic leaders with public health and poverty. Drunkenness, dueling, and other forms of tavern comportment that may appear "disorderly" to us today turn out to be the inevitable, even desirable result of a society functioning according to its own rules.
Frances Burney and the Theater Arts
In Backstage in the Novel, Francesca Saggini traces the unique interplay between fiction and theater in the eighteenth century through an examination of the work of the English novelist, diarist, and playwright Frances Burney. Moving beyond the basic identification of affinities between the genres, Saggini establishes a literary-cultural context for Burney's work, considering the relation between drama, a long-standing tradition, and the still-emergent form of the novel.
Through close semiotic analysis, intertextual comparison, and cultural contextualization, Saggini highlights the extensive metatextual discourse in Burney's novels, allowing the theater within the novels to surface. Saggini’s comparative analysis addresses, among other elements, textual structures, plots, characters, narrative discourse, and reading practices. The author explores the theatrical and spectacular elements that made the eighteenth-century novel a hybrid genre infused with dramatic conventions. She analyzes such conventions in light of contemporary theories of reception and of the role of the reader that underpinned eighteenth-century cultural consumption. In doing so, Saggini contextualizes the typical reader-spectator of Burney’s day, one who kept abreast of the latest publications and was able to move effortlessly between "high" (sentimental, dramatic) and "low" (grotesque, comedic) cultural forms that intersected on the stage.
Backstage in the Novel aims to restore to Burney's entire literary corpus the dimensionality that characterized it originally. It is a vivid, close-up view of a writer who operated in a society saturated by theater and spectacle and who rendered that dramatic text into narrative. More than a study of Burney or an overview of eighteenth-century literature and theater, this book gives immediacy to an understanding of the broad forces informing, and channeled through, Burney's life and work.
Hunting and Mastery in the Old South
Nicolas Proctor argues in Bathed in Blood that because slaves frequently accompanied white hunters into the field, whites often believed that hunting was a particularly effective venue for the demonstration of white supremacy. Slaves interpreted such interactions quite differently: they remained focused on the products of the hunt and considered the labor performed at the behest of their owners as an opportunity to improve their own condition. Whether acquired as a reward from a white hunter or as a result of their own independent—often illicit—efforts, game provided them with an important supplementary food source, an item for trade, and a measure of autonomy. By sharing their valuable resources with other slaves, slave hunters also strengthened the bonds within their own community. In a society predicated upon the constant degradation of African Americans, such simple acts of generosity became symbolic of resistance and had a cohesive effect on slave families.
Senators, Interest Groups, and Lower Court Confirmations
As as arbiters of political and social issues, lower court judges play at least as decisive a role as Supreme Court justices, yet remarkably little is known about the process by which some lower court nominees are confirmed while others may be blocked. The most throrough empirical study the confirmation process concludes that political horse-trading unrelated to a judge's politics is even more important than the expected factors of political ideology and interest group lobbying.
Poverty, Fiction, and the Invention of the Middle-Class Home
Before the rise of private homes as we now understand them, the realm of personal, private, and local relations in England was the parish, which was also the sphere of poverty management. Between the 1740s and the 1790s, legislators, political economists, reformers, and novelists transferred the parish system’s functions to another institution that promised self-sufficient prosperity: the laborer’s cottage. Expanding its scope beyond the parameters of literary history and previous studies of domesticity, Be It Ever So Humble posits that the modern middle-class home was conceived during the eighteenth century in England, and that its first inhabitants were the poor.
Over the course of the eighteenth century, many participants in discussions about poverty management came to believe that private family dwellings could turn England's indigent, unemployed, and discontent into a self-sufficient, productive, and patriotic labor force. Writers and thinkers involved in these debates produced copious descriptions of what a private home was and how it related to the collective national home. In this body of texts, Scott MacKenzie pursues the origins of the modern middle-class home through an extensive set of discourses—including philosophy, law, religion, economics, and aesthetics—all of which brush up against and often spill over into literary representations.
Through close readings, the author substantiates his claim that the private home was first invented for the poor and that only later did the middle class appropriate it to themselves. Thus, the late eighteenth century proves to be a watershed moment in home's conceptual life, one that produced a remarkably rich and complex set of cultural ideas and images.
Animals, Humans, and the Study of History
This volume of interdisciplinary essays on animals and cultural history boasts a stellar list of international contributors. It will be a valuable text for university courses in the fast-growing field of animal studies.
Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda
Using innovative research strategies from fieldwork to historical linguistics, Kodesh produces a vision of the Ganda past that emphasizes decentralized institutions of "public healing" and supplants the royalist perspective of European documentary sources and histories based on them.
Virginia Plantation Families and Their Postbellum Domestic Experiment
The Big House after Slavery examines the economic, social, and political challenges that Virginia planter families faced following Confederate defeat and emancipation. Amy Feely Morsman addresses how men and women of the planter class responded to postwar problems and how their adaptations to life without slavery altered their marital relationships and their conceptions of gender roles.
A Sympathetic History of American Spiritualism
A product of the "spiritual hothouse" of the Second Great Awakening, Spiritualism became the fastest growing religion in the nation during the 1850s, and one of the principal responses to the widespread perception that American society was descending into atomistic particularity.
InBody and Soul, Robert Cox shows how Spiritualism sought to transform sympathy into social practice, arguing that each individual, living and dead, was poised within a nexus of affect, and through the active propagation of these sympathetic bonds, a new and coherent society would emerge. Phenomena such as spontaneous somnambulism and sympathetic communion with the dead—whether through séance or "spirit photography"—were ways of transcending the barriers dissecting the American body politic, including the ultimate barrier, death. Drawing equally upon social, occult, and physiological registers, Spiritualism created a unique "social physiology" in which mind was integrated into body and body into society, leading Spiritualists into earthly social reforms, such as women’s rights and anti-slavery.
From the beginning, however, Spiritualist political and social expression was far more diverse than has previously been recognized, encompassing distinctive proslavery and antiegalitarian strains, and in the wake of racial and political adjustments following the Civil War, the movement began to fracture. Cox traces the eventual dissolution of Spiritualism through the contradictions of its various regional and racial factions and through their increasingly circumscribed responses to a changing world. In the end, he concludes, the history of Spiritualism was written in the limits of sympathy, and not its limitless potential.
Robert S. Cox is Curator of Manuscripts at the American Philosophical Society.