This book attempts to grasp the recent paradigm shift in American politics through the lens of satire. It connects changes in the political and cultural landscape to corresponding shifts in the structure and organization of the media, in order to shed light on the evolution of political satire on late-night television. Satire is situated in its historical background to comprehend its movement away from the fringes of discourse to the very center of politics and the media. Beginning in the 1990s, certain trends such as technological advances, media consolidation, and the globalization of communications reinforced each other, paving the way for satire to claim a prized spot in the visual media—a tendency that only gained strength after September 11. While the Bush presidency presented itself as an apposite target for satirists, their stronghold on American television was made possible by a number of transitions in broader culture, which are encapsulated in the shrinking space available for political engagement under neoliberalism. This largely underestimated development can be understood through the framework of postmodernism, which focuses on the relationship between language, power, and the presentation of reality. These trends and transitions reached a climax in the 2016 election where President Trump was elected, embodying what can only be considered a significant turning point in American politics. The bigger narrative contains various subplots represented in the rise of the neoliberal economy, the acceptance of postmodernism as the dominant cultural code, and the role of the voyeur superseding that of the engaged citizen. It is only through understanding each of these pieces and connecting them that we can comprehend the current political transformation. The present moment may feel like a golden age of satire, and it may well be, but this book addresses the hardest questions about the realities behind such a claim: what can we conclude about when and how satire is effective, judging by the history of this genre in its various incarnations, and how can the “apolitical” postmodern media landscape be reconciled with what the best of this genre has had to offer during times of political duress?
“This remarkable book does the unusual: it embeds its focus in a larger complex operational space. The migrant, the refugee, the citizen, all emerge from that larger context. The focus is not the usual detailed examination of the subject herself, but that larger world of wars, grabs, contestations, and, importantly, the claimers and resisters.”— Saskia Sassen, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, USA
This thought-provoking book begins by looking at the incredible complexities of “American identity” and ends with the threats to civil liberties with the vast expansion of state power through technology. A must-read for anyone interested in the future of the promise and realities of citizenship in the modern global landscape.— Kevin R. Johnson, Dean, UC Davis School of Law, USA
Momen focuses on the basic paradox that has long marked national identity: the divide between liberal egalitarian self-conception and persistent practices of exclusion and subordination. The result is a thought-provoking text that is sure to be of interest to scholars and students of the American experience. — Aziz Rana, Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, USA
This book is an exploration of American citizenship, emphasizing the paradoxes that are contained, normalized, and strengthened by the gaps existing between proposed policies and real-life practices in multiple arenas of a citizen’s life. The book considers the evolution of citizenship through the journey of the American nation and its identity, its complexities of racial exclusion, its transformations in response to domestic demands and geopolitical challenges, its changing values captured in immigration policies and practices, and finally its dynamics in terms of the shift in state power vis-à-vis citizens. While it aspires to analyze the meaning of citizenship in America from the multiple perspectives of history, politics, and policy, it pays special attention to the critical junctures where rhetoric and reality clash, allowing for the production of certain paradoxes that define citizenship rights and shape political discourse.
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