Popular Stories and Promised Lands enters a conversation about who we are, where we've been, and where we might be going by suggesting that possible answers to those questions can be found in the popular stories we encounter at the movies, on television, in popular magazines, and even on the funny pages.
As countless scholars and popular writers have noted, those of us living in the United States find ourselves at a cultural crossroads. We are increasingly aware that the stories that once permeated life in these United States, stories that tell us that social and economic progress comes from working hard, that everyone has an equal opportunity to experience
such progress, do not resonate to the degree they once did. Because many Americans have traditionally defined themselves, others, and their unique sense of place through these stories, we find ourselves displaced socially, economically, politically, and/or culturally.
So, Roger Aden says, we go to places of our own making. Fans of the television series The X-Files return to the Funhouse each week for a dose of frightening fun. Fans of the weekly magazine Sports Illustrated play in the American Elysian Fields where democratic efforts at balancing work and play are valued. Fans of the movie Field of Dreams work as altruistic producers in an alternative garden spot.
Grounded in the author's own experiences and reinforced by the voices of approximately two hundred additional fans of the four popular stories, this book offers a compelling case for understanding the alleged wasteland of popular culture as a fertile site of individually and communally created sacred places.
The 2002 revelation that George Washington kept slaves in his executive mansion at Philadelphia's Independence National Historical Park in the 1790s prompted an eight-year controversy about the role of slavery in America's commemorative landscape. When the President's House installation opened in 2010, it became the first federal property to feature a slave memorial.
In Upon the Ruins of Liberty, Roger Aden offers a compelling account that explores the development of this important historic site and how history, space, and public memory intersected with contemporary racial politics. Aden constructs this engrossing tale by drawing on archival material and interviews with principal figures in the controversy-including historian Ed Lawler, site activist Michael Coard, and site designer Emanuel Kelly.
Upon the Ruins of Liberty chronicles the politically-charged efforts to create a fitting tribute to the place where George Washington (and later, John Adams) shaped the presidency while denying freedom to the nine enslaved Africans in his household. From design to execution, the plans prompted advocates to embrace stories informed by race, and address difficulties that included how to handle the results of the site excavation. As such, this landmark project raised concerns and provided lessons about the role of public memory and how places are made to shape the nation's identity.