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Conclusion   the alamo as tex(mex) master symbol of modernity By 1960 and Wayne’s production of The Alamo, modernity was in a state of flux. I even suggest that the intense interest in Crockett coupled with the Alamo films of the 1950s—almost as intense as the years from 1909 to 1926—was an attempt to hold firm the eroding conditions of American modern social life by embracing one of its key symbols. Without fully accepting periodizing dates for the modern, it is not coincidental that the birth of the postmodern is, according to David Harvey (1990), associated with the mid-1960s. Wayne’s Alamo, I offer, is a facile effort at preserving a modernist, post–World War II sensibility before the social rumblings of that era erupted into the tumultuous years of the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights and feminist movements. Wayne’s aseptic portrayal of Mexicans, we now see, emerges not only from his personal views but also from the changing, historically conditioned racial politics of this era. And yet, as noted in chapter 5, the symbolic logic of the modern could not but portray Mexicans as Other, witnessed in Wayne’s portrayal of the Mexican women and Juan Seguín. Wayne’s film, then, marks the twilight of the Alamo as master symbol before the coming years would see critiques, demonstrations, and parodies not only of the Alamo itself but also of the modern project more generally.1 modernity and symbol making By way of conclusion, I want to elaborate more fully the relationship between modernity and the making of symbols. This is necessary, I offer, because the general orientation of the Alamo, as master symbol, is one of a token to a type. I suggest that while the historical and social particularities of the Alamo, and its place in cultural memory, may be unique, it follows a general pattern that I believe is endemic to modernity. To fully come to 153 07-T2008-CNC 2/25/02 11:45 AM Page 153 terms with the Alamo as master symbol, therefore, we need to underscore the process of meaning making more generally. In my discussion of the Texas Modern I underscored the historical specificity, an always necessary aspect, of the modern in relation to its Texas manifestation. I have showed how the forces of modernity wreaked havoc on Mexicans and Mexican Americans as they were displaced through the forces of technology, industrialization, and capitalism, or social production more generally. At this point I want to undertake a more general discussion of modernity in relation to the consequences of its selective forces on symbolic practice. By way of definition, I use the similar yet distinctive understandings of modernity proffered by Anthony Giddens and Fredric Jameson. For Giddens (1990:21), a critical marker of modernity is “disembedding ”: “the ‘lifting out’ of social relations from local contexts of interaction and their restructuring across indefinite spans of time-space.” One of the means by which local contexts are lifted out and replaced is what Giddens (1990:22) refers to, not coincidentally, as “symbolic tokens”: “the media of interchange that can be ‘passed around’ without regard to the specific characteristics of individuals or groups that handle them at any particular junction.” While Giddens takes money as his example, informed more perceptively for him by Simmel, not Marx, the process through which specific, historical features or “tokens” are disembedded from the events of their making and reconstructed in radically distinct spatial-temporal locations is emblematic of modernity and its associated practices. Let me be clear on what I believe Giddens means. First, he is not suggesting that “disembedding” is unique to modernity; in fact, numerous anthropologists and folklorists, informed by models of diffusion, have examined in detail the movement of cultural forms from one site to another. But diffusion entails cultural contact. Giddens, by contrast, suggests that modernity is marked by a disjuncture between space and time so that, for example , a local place like the Alamo or the person of Davy Crockett no longer signifies the conditions of their making but represents values and meanings that were nonexistent in 1836. Jameson’s formulation of modernity, informed by his nuanced and finely honed Marxian hermeneutic, is one inseparable from a capitalist cultural logic. Critical to his understanding is the process of differentiation —distinct but not unlike Giddens’s notion of disembedding—that is fueled by the effects of reification. For Jameson (1981:63), rei...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780292796478
Related ISBN
9780292725393
MARC Record
OCLC
191662170
Pages
216
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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