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1   the texas modern The nineteenth century was a time of war, of maneuver, position , and outright violence. The seeds of war were scattered alongside the ashes of those killed in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, and local and regional conflicts emerged soon after, but it was not until the early twentieth century that the seeds of conflict would fully germinate. The story of how the Alamo emerged as a major site of American cultural memory does not begin in 1836 but in the latter part of the nineteenth century as Texas was undergoing a vast social transformation. It is then that efforts were initiated to preserve the remaining physical structures of the old mission of the Alamo and to claim Davy Crockett as an American hero. But why some sixty years after the battle? There is no single answer; we can only look to the numerous events and forces that began to shape the social face of Texas at this time. Several critical changes affected the Texas economy between 1880 and 1900: the closing of the range, the introduction of the railroad, and the beginning of commercial farming. Between 1900 and 1920 the rate of these changes accelerated, leading to increased social pressure and conflict. Overall, the period between 1880 and 1920 was marked by the working out of new relationships, habits, and practices, resulting in the establishment of a social order segmented into various ethnic and class divisions. By 1915, however, these struggles for position—struggles Antonio Gramsci (1971:108) identifies as passive or nonvio1 01-T2008 2/25/02 11:41 AM Page 1 lent forms of negotiation—had erupted into violent conflict. The various social and class contradictions of this period could no longer be restrained by earlier social and ideological arrangements, like those between elite ranchers and their workers, revealing the depth and magnitude of social change. These eruptions are markers of a “cultural revolution”—that unsettling and transitional period in which new practices and customs, forged from new relations of material and ideological production, ascend to a position of dominance ( Jameson 1981:85). I refer to the emerging and newly established social forms and the numerous responses they engendered , both for and against, as the Texas Modern. While modernity had its beginning far from the Texas-Mexican border, events there provide an important perspective on how global processes and forces are both constitutive of and repositioned by local practices and concerns. The project of modernity resulted from the attempts of writers, philosophers, intellectuals, and others to free the world from the confines of “tradition,” to establish scientific rationalism in place of “magic” and “superstition,” to understand and control “nature,” and to organize society through rationalized bureaucratic institutions. While it is clear that these achievements developed in uneven stages and, by some accounts, are still in process, it is also clear that they brought both promise and tragedy. Modernity, therefore, references a complex, uneven, and multifaceted process of transformation through which earlier social and cultural complexes are dislodged from the habitats of their making and reconstituted , under the weight of rationalized, technocratic forces, into distinct and qualitatively new forms.1 One of the effects of this process is the redefinition and reinvention of society and self as earlier social rubrics arestretchedbeyondtheircapacitytorecognize,organize,andmapemerging relations. A primary engine of modernity is capitalism, with its incessant drive to create new markets and its incorporation of earlier productivepracticesandrelationsintoitsguidingprinciplesofwagelabor ,surplus value, and commodity fetishism. While pointing to capitalism as an “essential ” ingredient of the modern, I want also to clarify that modernity refuses linear or causal explanation and is better understood as a “complex structure” of multiple and uneven events, forces, practices, and ideologies that emerge in their own time and place and through the rhythm of their own development (Althusser and Balibar 1979:312).2 Modernity can be seen directly through changes in the various articulations of its complex structure. Such changes grow out of historically speci fic conditions that, while interacting with larger social networks, are rooted in the concrete conditions of the local. It is this conjuncture of maRemembering the Alamo 2 01-T2008 2/25/02 11:41 AM Page 2 terial relations and their articulation though a meaning-making system of signs that constitutes my discussion of the Texas Modern and the Alamo. To speak of the Texas Modern and its various inflections serves, not to define all social relations of this period...


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