Materializing Democracy: Toward a Revitalized Cultural Politics

Duke University Press
Free sample

For the most part, democracy is simply presumed to exist in the United States. It is viewed as a completed project rather than as a goal to be achieved. Fifteen leading scholars challenge that stasis in Materializing Democracy. They aim to reinvigorate the idea of democracy by placing it in the midst of a contentious political and cultural fray, which, the volume’s editors argue, is exactly where it belongs. Drawing on literary criticism, cultural studies, history, legal studies, and political theory, the essays collected here highlight competing definitions and practices of democracy—in politics, society, and, indeed, academia.

Covering topics ranging from rights discourse to Native American performance, from identity politics to gay marriage, and from rituals of public mourning to the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the contributors seek to understand the practices, ideas, and material conditions that enable or foreclose democracy’s possibilities. Through readings of subjects as diverse as Will Rogers, Alexis de Tocqueville, slave narratives, interactions along the Texas-Mexico border, and liberal arts education, the contributors also explore ways of making democracy available for analysis. Materializing Democracy suggests that attention to disparate narratives is integral to the development of more complex, vibrant versions of democracy.

Contributors. Lauren Berlant, Wendy Brown, Chris Castiglia, Russ Castronovo, Joan Dayan, Wai Chee Dimock, Lisa Duggan, Richard R. Flores, Kevin Gaines, Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, Michael Moon, Dana D. Nelson, Christopher Newfield, Donald E. Pease

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About the author

Russ Castronovo is Jean Wall Bennett Professor of English and American Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States, published by Duke University Press.

Dana D. Nelson is Professor of English and Social Theory at the University of Kentucky and author of National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men, also published by Duke University Press.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Jun 21, 2002
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Pages
440
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ISBN
9780822383901
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / Political Ideologies / Democracy
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Exceptional State analyzes the nexus of culture and contemporary manifestations of U.S. imperialism. The contributors, established and emerging cultural studies scholars, define culture broadly to include a range of media, literature, and political discourse. They do not posit September 11, 2001 as the beginning of U.S. belligerence and authoritarianism at home and abroad, but they do provide context for understanding U.S. responses to and uses of that event. Taken together, the essays stress both the continuities and discontinuities embodied in a present-day U.S. imperialism constituted through expressions of millennialism, exceptionalism, technological might, and visions of world dominance.

The contributors address a range of topics, paying particular attention to the dynamics of gender and race. Their essays include a surprising reading of the ostensibly liberal movies Wag the Dog and Three Kings, an exploration of the rhetoric surrounding the plan to remake the military into a high-tech force less dependent on human bodies, a look at the significance of the popular Left Behind series of novels, and an interpretation of the Abu Ghraib prison photos. They scrutinize the national narrative created to justify the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the ways that women in those countries have responded to the invasions, the contradictions underlying calls for U.S. humanitarian interventions, and the role of Africa in the U.S. imperial imagination. The volume concludes on a hopeful note, with a look at an emerging anti-imperialist public sphere.

Contributors. Omar Dahbour, Ashley Dawson, Cynthia Enloe, Melani McAlister, Christian Parenti, Donald E. Pease, John Carlos Rowe, Malini Johar Schueller, Harilaos Stecopoulos

National Manhood explores the relationship between gender, race, and nation by tracing developing ideals of citizenship in the United States from the Revolutionary War through the 1850s. Through an extensive reading of literary and historical documents, Dana D. Nelson analyzes the social and political articulation of a civic identity centered around the white male and points to a cultural moment in which the theoretical consolidation of white manhood worked to ground, and perhaps even found, the nation.
Using political, scientific, medical, personal, and literary texts ranging from the Federalist papers to the ethnographic work associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition to the medical lectures of early gynecologists, Nelson explores the referential power of white manhood, how and under what conditions it came to stand for the nation, and how it came to be a fraternal articulation of a representative and civic identity in the United States. In examining early exemplary models of national manhood and by tracing its cultural generalization, National Manhood reveals not only how an impossible ideal has helped to form racist and sexist practices, but also how this ideal has simultaneously privileged and oppressed white men, who, in measuring themselves against it, are able to disavow their part in those oppressions.
Historically broad and theoretically informed, National Manhood reaches across disciplines to engage those studying early national culture, race and gender issues, and American history, literature, and culture.


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