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Stigma and the Body Politic
On any given day in America’s news cycle, stories and images of disgraced politicians and celebrities solicit our moral indignation, their misdeeds fueling a lucrative economy of shame and scandal. Shame is one of the most coercive, painful, and intriguing of human emotions. Only in recent years has interest in shame extended beyond a focus on the subjective experience of this emotion and its psychological effects. The essays collected here consider the role of shame as cultural practice and examine ways that public shaming practices enforce conformity and group coherence. Addressing abortion, mental illness, suicide, immigration, and body image among other issues, this volume calls attention to the ways shaming practices create and police social boundaries; how shaming speech is endorsed, judged, or challenged by various groups; and the distinct ways that shame is encoded and embodied in a nation that prides itself on individualism, diversity, and exceptionalism. Examining shame through a prism of race, sexuality, ethnicity, and gender, these provocative essays offer a broader understanding of how America’s discourse of shame helps to define its people as citizens, spectators, consumers, and moral actors.
Notes from a Son of the Empire
Beidler has experienced enough of history to question the kinds of peace that one empire after another has tried to impose on the world at whatever immense costs.” As he reflects on terrorism, patriotism, geopolitics, sacrifice, propaganda, and more, Beidler revisits his generation's inherited vision of national purpose”--and he asks what happened. These essays are a sobering wake-up call for even the most informed and conscientious citizen.
Memory, Slavery, and the Politics of Identity in the United States and Sierra Leone
Iyunolu Folayan Osagie is a native of Sierra Leone, from where the Amistad's cargo of slaves originated. She digs deeply into the Amistad story to show the historical and contemporary relevance of the incident and its subsequent trials. At the same time, she shows how the incident has contributed to the construction of national and cultural identity both in Africa and the African diasporo in America--though in intriguingly different ways.
This pioneering work of comparative African and American cultural criticism shows how creative arts have both confirmed and fostered the significance of the Amistad revolt in contemporary racial discourse and in the collective memories of both countries.
A Journey into Hawaiian Ways of Knowing
As Hawaiians continue to recover their language and culture, the voices of kupuna (elders) are heard once again in urban and rural settings, both in Hawai'i and elsewhere. How do kupuna create knowledge and “tell” history? What do they tell us about being Hawaiian? Adopted by a Midwestern couple in the 1950s as an infant, Leilani Holmes spent much of her early life in settings that offered no clues about her Hawaiian past—images of which continued to haunt her even as she completed a master's thesis on Hawaiian music and identity in southern California. Ancestry of Experience documents Holmes’ quest to reclaim and understand her own origin story.
Holmes writes in two different and at times incongruent voices—one describing the search for her genealogy, the other critiquing Western epistemologies she encounters along the way. In the course of her journey, she finds that Hawaiian oral tradition links identity to the land (‘aina) through ancestry, while traditional, scholarly theories of knowing (particularly political economy and the discourse of the invention of tradition) textually obliterate land and ancestry. In interviews with kupuna, Holmes learns of the connectedness of spirituality and ‘aina; through her study and practice of hula kahiko comes an understanding of ancient hula as a conversation between ‘aina and the dancer’s body that has the power to activate historical memory.
Holmes’ experience has special relevance for indigenous adoptees and indigenous scholars: Both are distanced from the knowledge agendas and strategies of their communities and are tasked to speak in languages ill-suited to the telling of their own stories and those of their ancestors. In addition to those with an interest in Hawaiian knowledge and culture, Ancestry of Experience will appeal to readers of memoirs of identity, academic and personal accounts of racial identity formation, and works of indigenous epistemologies. A website (www.ancestryofexperience.com) will include supplementary material.
Angola to Zydeco: Louisiana Lives is a collection of creative nonfiction pieces about the lively personalities who call south Louisiana home. Originally published in newspapers based in Lafayette-Times of Acadiana and Independent Weekly-the twenty-five profiles and features provide intriguing glimpses into the lives of well-known Louisianans such as James Lee Burke, Ernest J. Gaines, Elemore Morgan Jr., Buckwheat Zydeco, Marc Savoy, Boozoo Chavis, Calvin Borel, Santy Runyon, and Eddie Shuler. Author R. Reese Fuller also details the sometimes zany and sometimes tragic subjects that populate the cultural landscape of south Louisiana, from Tabasco peppers to Angola prison to cockfighting.
Fuller brings years of experience in the newspaper industry to bear on this collection, offering behind-the-scenes access not available elsewhere. Of particular note are his interviews with musicians and local celebrities, who reveal how their love of the region has influenced their work. Fuller's natural approach to storytelling creates a book that is a joy to read and truly represents the people of south Louisiana.
Critiques of American Consumer Culture, 1939-1979
This book charts the reactions of prominent American writers to the unprecedented prosperity of the decades following World War II. It begins with an examination of Lewis Mumford’s wartime call for “democratic” consumption and concludes with an analysis of the origins of President Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech of 1979. Between these bookends, Daniel Horowitz documents a broad range of competing views, each in its own way reflective of a deep-seated ambivalence toward consumer culture.
The American Novel in the Age of Television
It almost goes without saying that the rise in popularity of television has killed the audience for “serious" literature. This is such a given that reading Fitzpatrick's challenge to this notion can be very disconcerting, as she traces the ways in which a small cadre of writers of "serious" literature--DeLillo, Pynchon, and Franzen, for instance--have propagated this myth in order to set themselves up as the last bastions of good writing. Fitzpatrick first explores whether serious literature was ever as all-pervasive as critics of the television culture claim and then asks the obvious question: what, or who, exactly, are these guys defending good writing against? Fitzpatrick examines the ways in which the anxiety about the supposed death of the novel is built on a myth of the novel's past ubiquity and its present displacement by television. She explores the ways in which this myth plays out in and around contemporary fiction and how it serves as a kind of unacknowledged discourse about race, class, and gender. The declaration constructs a minority status for the “white male author” who needs protecting from television's largely female and increasingly non-white audience. The novel, then, is transformed from a primary means of communication into an ancient, almost forgotten, and thus, treasured form reserved for the well-educated and well-to-do, and the men who practice it are exalted as the practitioners of an almost lost art. Such positioning serves to further marginalize women writers and writers of color because it makes the novel, by definition, the preserve of the poor endangered white man. If the novel is only a product of a small group of white men, how can the contributions of women and writers of color be recognized? Instead, this positioning abandons women and people of color to television as a creative outlet, and in return, cedes television to them. Fitzpatrick argues that there's a level of unrecognized patronization in assuming that television serves no purpose but to provide dumb entertainment to bored women and others too stupid to understand novels. And, instead, she demonstrates the real positive effects of a televisual culture.
American Film at the Turn of the Millennium
In Apocalyptic Dread, Kirsten Moana Thompson examines how fears and anxieties about the future are reflected in recent American cinema. Through close readings of such films as Cape Fear, Candyman, Dolores Claiborne, Se7en, Signs, and War of the Worlds, Thompson argues that a longstanding American apocalyptic tradition permeates our popular culture, spreading from science-fiction and disaster films into horror, crime, and melodrama. Drawing upon Kierkegaard’s notion of dread—that is, a fundamental anxiety and ambivalence about existential choice and the future—Thompson suggests that the apocalyptic dread revealed in these films, and its guiding tropes of violence, retribution, and renewal, also reveal deep-seated anxieties about historical fragmentation and change, anxieties that are in turn displaced onto each film’s particular “monster,” whether human, demonic, or eschatological.
The Last of the Welcome Immigrants
Born of a Palestinian father and British mother, Bill Rezak has always been intrigued by the different worlds his parents came from. His father’s ancestors were highwaymen on the Arabian Peninsula in the eighteenth century. They sparred unsuccessfully with ruling Ottoman Turks and escaped with their family to America. His mother’s parents were sent to Canada from Great Britain into indentured servitude as children separately and alone at the ages of 10 and 16. They worked off their servitude, met, married and moved to New York State. In The Arab and the Brit, a memoir that spans multiple generations and countries, Rezak traces the remarkable lives of his ancestors. Narrating their experiences against the backdrop of two World Wars and an emerging modern Middle East, the author gives readers a textured and vivid immigrant story. Rezak recalls his paternal grandmother apprehending would-be Russian saboteurs during World War One, his grandfather’s time at Dr. Bernardo’s home, a shelter for destitute children, and his father’s work with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association following the war. Told with humor and captivating detail, The Arab and the Brit, chronicles the trials and triumphs of one family’s struggle to succeed in the New World.