“Indian Patriots on Last Stand Hill” unravels these forms of patriotism by attending to the speeches, ceremonies, and architecture of memorialization at the Little Bighorn Battlefield. It describes the dramas of reconciliation that were staged there in the early twentieth century, as well as the conflicts over commemoration that took place from the 1970s to the 1990s. Crucial to all of these acts is the unique texture of defeat at the Little Bighorn: The United States can claim the status of the defeated in the battle, whereas American Indian nations have the moral authority of the defeated in their longer struggles against colonization. As a corollary, the Little Bighorn is also a place where both sides claim victory—the United States in its territorial consolidation of the North American plains, and the Indian nations in the battle of the Little Bighorn itself. This peculiar configuration of victory and defeat creates the possibility for the Little Bighorn to function as a place where both Indians and non-Indians can converge to articulate the contradictions of the status of Indian nations and Indian people in the contemporary United States.
This essay also explores the values and terms which shaped the Chinese into assimilable subjects and in particular, how cold war domesticity and its promotion of the ideal of middle-class heterosexual nuclear families influenced the constructed image of the Chinese. It highlights how sociological and historiographical studies along with newspapers and magazine articles published during the early cold war years focused on the growing presence of Chinese women in order to fashion the Chinese in conformity with the domestic ideal. This emphasis helped to transform the “segregated immobility” of bachelors into heterosexual nuclear families, fit for desegregated mobility. The presence of Chinese women thus crucially mediated the terms of cultural membership in the nation. The concluding examination of the Sing Sheng case where a Chinese family battled to reside in a whites-only neighborhood in South San Francisco develops the themes introduced in this essay. It demonstrates how popular newspapers narrated the contradiction over the meaning of Americanness into a contestation over who counts as an American. It also calls attention to the ways newspapers stressed Sheng’s role as father, husband, and head of a heterosexual nuclear family, in order to construct him a desirable candidate for residence in the suburbs.
The rhetorical strategies of these guidebooks complemented a particular strain of liberal antiracism necessitated and lubricated by the cold war, facilitated by the “nationalization” of postwar politics and economics, and performed in increasingly standardized public spaces. One of these spaces was the Interstate highway, which, set apart from and above the landscape and local culture through which it cut, provided an opportunity for the obscuring of one’s identity from the scrutiny of others. The new interstate highway, I argue, enabled the African-American driver to pass as the blank liberal subject, and to effect, under certain circumstances, the privatist withdrawal that has been such an extravagant and problematic characteristic of American citizenship.
Like the Enola Gay controversy at the Smithsonian, The Price of Freedom has generated lively debate about the museum’s historical methodology and curatorial practices. However, unlike the public campaign mounted by veteran’s groups and conservative politicians to cancel that exhibition, this time criticism largely stems from internal concerns about The Price of Freedom’s celebratory history, its treatment of the war in Iraq, and the delicate matter of donor control. This article explores the exhibition and its dissent from a perspective critical of “the post-9/11 politics of display,” in which patriotic visions of history are promoted by evacuating the past of its potential to challenge—rather than justify—the politics of violence in the present.