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Encounters in the Customs of Mourning
Someone dies. What happens next?One family inters their matriarch’s ashes on the floor of the ocean. Another holds a memorial weenie roast each year at a greenburial cemetery. An 1898 ad for embalming fluid promises, “You can make mummies with it!” while a leading contemporary burial vault is touted as impervious to the elements. A grieving mother, 150 years ago, might spend her days tending a garden at her daughter’s grave. Today, she might tend the roadside memorial she erected at the spot her daughter was killed. One mother wears a locket containing her daughter’s hair; the other, a necklace containing her ashes.What happens after someone dies depends on our personal stories and on where those stories fall in a larger tale—that of death in America. It’s a powerful tale that we usually keep hidden from our everyday lives until we have to face it.American Afterlife by Kate Sweeney reveals this world through a collective portrait of Americans past and present who find themselves personally involved with death: a klatch of obit writers in the desert, a funeral voyage on the Atlantic, a fourth-generation funeral director—even a midwestern museum that takes us back in time to meet our deathobsessed Victorian progenitors. Each story illuminates details in another until something larger is revealed: a landscape that feels at once strange and familiar, one that’s by turns odd, tragic, poignant, and sometimes even funny.
Cultural Tourism and the Negotiation of Tradition
At the 1989 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, throngs of visitors gathered on the National Mall to celebrate Hawai‘i’s multicultural heritage through its traditional arts. The "edu-tainment" spectacle revealed a richly complex Hawai‘i few tourists ever see and one never before or since replicated in a national space. The program was restaged a year later in Honolulu for a local audience and subsequently inspired several spin-offs in Hawai‘i. In both Washington, D.C., and Honolulu, the program instigated a new paradigm for cultural representation. Based on archival research and extensive interviews with festival organizers and participants, this innovative cross-disciplinary study uncovers the behind-the-scenes negotiations and processes that inform the national spectacle of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Intersecting the fields of museum studies, folklore studies, Hawaiian studies, performance studies, cultural studies, and American studies, American Aloha supplies a nuanced analysis of how the carefully crafted staging of Hawai‘i’s cultural diversity was used to serve a national narrative of utopian multiculturalism—one that collapsed social inequities and tensions, masked colonial history, and subordinated indigenous politics—while empowering Hawai‘i’s traditional artists and providing a model for cultural tourism that has had long-lasting effects. Heather Diamond deftly positions the 1989 program within a history of institutional intervention in the traditional arts of Hawai‘i’s ethnic groups as well as in relation to local cultural revivals and the tourist industry. By tracing the planning, fieldwork, site design, performance, and aftermath stages of the program, she examines the uneven processes through which local culture is transformed into national culture and raises questions about the stakes involved in cultural tourism for both culture bearers and culture brokers.
How Documents Matter in Immigrant Literacy
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.
A Century of Changing Markets and Missions
In American Catholic Hospitals, Barbra Mann Wall chronicles changes in Catholic hospitals during the twentieth century, many of which are emblematic of trends in the American healthcare system.
Wall explores the Church's struggle to safeguard its religious values. As hospital leaders reacted to increased political, economic, and societal secularization, they extended their religious principles in the areas of universal health care and adherence to the Ethical and Religious Values in Catholic Hospitals, leading to tensions between the Church, government, and society. The book also examines the power of women--as administrators, Catholic sisters wielded significant authority--as well as the gender disparity in these institutions which came to be run, for the most part, by men. Wall also situates these critical transformations within the context of the changing Church policy during the 1960s. She undertakes unprecedented analyses of the gendered politics of post-Second Vatican Council Catholic hospitals, as well as the effect of social movements on the practice of medicine.
Rethinking the Academic Study of Religion
Michael P. Carroll argues that the academic study of religion in the United States continues to be shaped by a "Protestant imagination" that has warped our perception of the American religious experience and its written history and analysis. In this provocative study, Carroll explores a number of historiographical puzzles that emerge from the American Catholic story as it has been understood through the Protestant tradition. Reexamining the experience of Catholicism among Irish immigrants, Italian Americans, Acadians and Cajuns, and Hispanics, Carroll debunks the myths that have informed much of this history. Shedding new light on lived religion in America, Carroll moves an entire academic field in new, exciting directions and challenges his fellow scholars to open their minds and eyes to develop fresh interpretations of American religious history.
A History of Minors and Marriage in the United States
Most in the United States likely associate the concept of the child bride with the mores and practices of the distant past. But Nicholas L. Syrett challenges this assumption in his sweeping and sometimes shocking history of youthful marriage in America. Focusing on young women and girls--the most common underage spouses--Syrett tracks the marital history of American minors from the colonial period to the present, chronicling the debates and moral panics related to these unions.Although the frequency of child marriages has declined since the early twentieth century, Syrett reveals that the practice was historically far more widespread in the United States than is commonly thought. It also continues to this day: current estimates indicate that 9 percent of living American women were married before turning eighteen. By examining the legal and social forces that have worked to curtail early marriage in America--including the efforts of women's rights activists, advocates for children's rights, and social workers--Syrett sheds new light on the American public's perceptions of young people marrying and the ways that individuals and communities challenged the complex legalities and cultural norms brought to the fore when underage citizens, by choice or coercion, became husband and wife.
The college town is a unique type of urban place, shaped by the sometimes conflicting forces of youth, intellect, and idealism. The hundreds of college towns in the United States are, in essence, an academic archipelago. Similar to one another, they differ in fundamental ways from other cities and the regions in which they are located. In this highly readable book—the first work published on the subject—Blake Gumprecht identifies the distinguishing features of college towns, explains why they have developed as they have in the United States, and examines in depth various characteristics that make them unusual. In eight thematic chapters, he explores some of the most interesting aspects of college towns—their distinctive residential and commercial districts, their unconventional political cultures, their status as bohemian islands, their emergence as high-tech centers, and more. Each of these chapters focuses on a single college town as an example, while providing additional evidence from other towns. Lively, richly detailed, and profusely illustrated with original maps and photographs, as well as historical images, this is an important book that firmly establishes the college town as an integral component of the American experience.
Thinking It, Teaching It
This book offers a rare opportunity to read about how a scholar's teaching informs his research, in this case an examination of the nature of American conservatism. It is based on an interdisciplinary senior seminar Lyons taught in Spring 2006. His teaching log, including student comments from an electronic conferencing system, gives a vivid sense of the daily frustrations and triumphs. Lyons reflects on some of the most difficult issues in higher education today, such as how to handle racism and political passions in the classroom, as well as how a teacher presents his own political convictions.
Lyons begins with the premise that most universities have been negligent in helping undergraduates understand a movement that has shaped the political landscape for half a century. In addition, in a series of essays that frame the teaching log, he makes the case that conservatives have too often failed to adhere to basic, Burkean principles, and that the best of conservatism has often appeared as a form of liberalism from thinkers such as Hannah Arendt, Reinhold Niebuhr, and George Kennan. The essays also cover the history of conservatism, conservative use of the city-on-a-hill metaphor, and an examination of how the promise of Camelot sophistication was subverted by a resurgence of right-wing populism.
A Demographic Challenge for the Twenty-first Century
Presenting important work by well-known demographers, American Diversity focuses on U.S. population changes in the twenty-first century, emphasizing the nation’s increasing racial and ethnic diversity. Rather than focusing on separate groups sequentially, this work emphasizes comparisons across groups and highlights how demographic and social structural processes affect all groups. Specific topics covered include the formation of race and ethnicity; population projections by race; immigration, fertility, and mortality differentials; segregation; work and education; intermarriage; aging; and racism.
Changes in family and household composition are part of every individual's life course. Childhood families expand and contract; the individual leaves to set up an independent household; he or she may marry, raise children, lose a spouse. These transitions have a profound effect on the economic and social well-being of individuals, and the relative prevalence of different living arrangements affects the very character of society.
American families and Households takes advantage of the large samples provided by the decennial censuses to document recent major transformations in the individual life cycle and consequent changes in the composition of the American population. As James Sweet and Larry Bumpass demonstrate, these changes have been dramatic—rates of marriage and childbirth are down, rates of marital disruption are up, and those who can are more likely to maintain independent households despite the rapid acceleration of change during recent years, however, the authors find that contemporary trends are continuous with long-term changes in Western society.
This meticulous work makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the American Family and the individual life experiences that are translated into the larger population experience.
"Jim Sweet and Larry Bumpass provide detailed descriptions of three components of the households and families of Americans: family transitions; the prevalence of different family and household arrangements; and the economic and social circumstances of people living in different types of families and households....As a reference work, the volume is a gold mine, with many rich veins of useful information....Anyone interested in American families and how they have been changing will want to refer to this volume." —American Journal of Sociology
A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series