During the Cold War, the editor of Time magazine declared, "A good citizen is a good reader." As postwar euphoria faded, a wide variety of Americans turned to reading to understand their place in the changing world. Yet, what did it mean to be a good reader? And how did reading make you a good citizen?
In Reading America, Kristin L. Matthews puts into conversation a range of political, educational, popular, and touchstone literary texts to demonstrate how Americans from across the political spectrum—including "great works" proponents, New Critics, civil rights leaders, postmodern theorists, neoconservatives, and multiculturalists—celebrated particular texts and advocated particular interpretive methods as they worked to make their vision of "America" a reality. She situates the fiction of J. D. Salinger, Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, and Maxine Hong Kingston within these debates, illustrating how Cold War literature was not just an object of but also a vested participant in postwar efforts to define good reading and citizenship.
Celebrity culture today teems with stars who challenge long-held ideas about a “normal” body. Plus-size and older actresses are rebelling against the cultural obsession with slender bodies and youth. Physically disabled actors and actresses are moving beyond the stock roles and stereotypes that once constrained their opportunities. Stars of various races and ethnicities are crafting new narratives about cultural belonging, while transgender performers are challenging our culture’s assumptions about gender and identity. But do these new players in contemporary entertainment media truly signal a new acceptance of body diversity in popular culture?
Focusing on six key examples—Melissa McCarthy, Gabourey Sidibe, Peter Dinklage, Danny Trejo, Betty White, and Laverne Cox—Rebellious Bodies examines the new body politics of stardom, situating each star against a prominent cultural anxiety about bodies and inclusion, evoking issues ranging from the obesity epidemic and the rise of postracial rhetoric to disability rights, Latino/a immigration, an aging population, and transgender activism. Using a wide variety of sources featuring these celebrities—films, TV shows, entertainment journalism, and more—to analyze each one’s media persona, Russell Meeuf demonstrates that while these stars are promoted as examples of a supposedly more inclusive industry, the reality is far more complex. Revealing how their bodies have become sites for negotiating the still-contested boundaries of cultural citizenship, he uncovers the stark limitations of inclusion in a deeply unequal world.
In the years before the Civil War, many Americans saw the sea as a world apart, an often violent and insular culture governed by its own definitions of honor and ruled by its own authorities. The truth, however, is that legal cases that originated at sea had a tendency to come ashore and force the national government to address questions about personal honor, dignity, the rights of labor, and the meaning and privileges of citizenship, often for the first time. By examining how and why merchant seamen and their officers came into contact with the law, Matthew Taylor Raffety exposes the complex relationship between brutal crimes committed at sea and the development of a legal consciousness within both the judiciary and among seafarers in this period.
The Republic Afloat tracks how seamen conceived of themselves as individuals and how they defined their place within the United States. Of interest to historians of labor, law, maritime culture, and national identity in the early republic, Raffety’s work reveals much about the ways that merchant seamen sought to articulate the ideals of freedom and citizenship before the courts of the land—and how they helped to shape the laws of the young republic.
Many localities in America resisted integration in the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education rulings (1954, 1955). Virginia’s Prince Edward County stands as perhaps the most extreme. Rather than fund integrated schools, the county’s board of supervisors closed public schools from 1959 until 1964. The only formal education available for those locked out of school came in 1963 when the combined efforts of Prince Edward’s African American community and aides from President John F. Kennedy’s administration established the Prince Edward County Free School Association (Free School). This temporary school system would serve just over 1,500 students, both black and white, aged 6 through 23.
Drawing upon extensive archival research, Resisting Brown presents the Free School as a site in which important rhetorical work took place. Candace Epps-Robertson analyzes public discourse that supported the school closures as an effort and manifestation of citizenship and demonstrates how the establishment of the Free School can be seen as a rhetorical response to white supremacist ideologies. The school’s mission statements, philosophies, and commitment to literacy served as arguments against racialized constructions of citizenship. Prince Edward County stands as a microcosm of America’s struggle with race, literacy, and citizenship.
This collection of eighteen articles shows how conceptions of the political are expanded and revised when viewed through the lens of gender. Carefully organized to serve scholars and students across the social sciences, this book reexamines such basic notions as citizenship, collectivity, political resistance, and the state, drawing on examples with important historical and national variations.
Section One, "Gender, Citizenship, and Collectivity," includes Nancy Frazer and Linda Gordon's critique of dependency and citizenship; Iris Young on women as a social collective; Ruth Bloch on the feminization of public virtue in revolutionary America; Trisha Franzen on feminism and lesbian community, and Sonia Kruks on de Beauvoir and contemporary feminism.
"Collective Action and Women's Resistance," Section Two, features Louis Tilly's "Paths of Proletarianization"; Temma Kaplan's "Female Consciousness and Collective Action"; and five assessments of women's collective action worldwide: Samira Haj on Palestine, Arlene McLeod on Egypt, Gay Seidman on South Africa, Nancy Sternbach et al. on Latin America, and Anne Walthall on Japan.
Concluding with a section on gender and the state, Rethinking the Political also features Bronwyn Winter on the law and cultural relativism; Sherene Razack on sexual violence; Wendy Luttrell on educational institutions; Patricia Stamp on ethnic conflict in postcolonial Kenya; Elizabeth Schmidt on patriarchy and capitalism in Zimbabwe; and Muriel Nazzari on the "woman question" in post-revolutionary Cuba.
In River of Hope, Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez examines state formation, cultural change, and the construction of identity in the lower Rio Grande region during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He chronicles a history of violence resulting from multiple conquests, of resistance and accommodation to state power, and of changing ethnic and political identities. The redrawing of borders neither began nor ended the region's long history of unequal power relations. Nor did it lead residents to adopt singular colonial or national identities. Instead, their regionalism, transnational cultural practices, and kinship ties subverted state attempts to control and divide the population.
Diverse influences transformed the borderlands as Spain, Mexico, and the United States competed for control of the region. Indian slaves joined Spanish society; Mexicans allied with Indians to defend river communities; Anglo Americans and Mexicans intermarried and collaborated; and women sued to confront spousal abuse and to secure divorces. Drawn into multiple conflicts along the border, Mexican nationals and Mexican Texans (tejanos) took advantage of their transnational social relations and ambiguous citizenship to escape criminal prosecution, secure political refuge, and obtain economic opportunities. To confront the racialization of their cultural practices and their increasing criminalization, tejanos claimed citizenship rights within the United States and, in the process, created a new identity.
Published in cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.
Between 2000 and 2011, eight million immigrants became American citizens. In naturalization ceremonies large and small these new Americans pledged an oath of allegiance to the United States, gaining the right to vote, serve on juries, and hold political office; access to certain jobs; and the legal rights of full citizens.
In The Road to Citizenship, Sofya Aptekar analyzes what the process of becoming a citizen means for these newly minted Americans and what it means for the United States as a whole. Examining the evolution of the discursive role of immigrants in American society from potential traitors to morally superior “supercitizens,” Aptekar’s in-depth research uncovers considerable contradictions with the way naturalization works today. Census data reveal that citizenship is distributed in ways that increasingly exacerbate existing class and racial inequalities, at the same time that immigrants’ own understandings of naturalization defy accepted stories we tell about assimilation, citizenship, and becoming American. Aptekar contends that debates about immigration must be broadened beyond the current focus on borders and documentation to include larger questions about the definition of citizenship.
Aptekar’s work brings into sharp relief key questions about the overall system: does the current naturalization process accurately reflect our priorities as a nation and reflect the values we wish to instill in new residents and citizens? Should barriers to full membership in the American polity be lowered? What are the implications of keeping the process the same or changing it? Using archival research, interviews, analysis of census and survey data, and participant observation of citizenship ceremonies, The Road to Citizenship demonstrates the ways in which naturalization itself reflects the larger operations of social cohesion and democracy in America.
Russian Citizenship is the first book to trace the Russian state’s citizenship policy throughout its history. Focusing on the period from the mid-nineteenth century to the consolidation of Stalin’s power in the 1930s, Eric Lohr considers whom the state counted among its citizens and whom it took pains to exclude. His research reveals that the Russian attitude toward citizenship was less xenophobic and isolationist and more similar to European attitudes than has been previously thought—until the drive toward autarky after 1914 eventually sealed the state off and set it apart.
Drawing on untapped sources in the Russian police and foreign affairs archives, Lohr’s research is grounded in case studies of immigration, emigration, naturalization, and loss of citizenship among individuals and groups, including Jews, Muslims, Germans, and other minority populations. Lohr explores how reform of citizenship laws in the 1860s encouraged foreigners to immigrate and conduct business in Russia. For the next half century, citizenship policy was driven by attempts to modernize Russia through intensifying its interaction with the outside world. But growing suspicion toward non-Russian minorities, particularly Jews, led to a reversal of this openness during the First World War and to a Soviet regime that deprived whole categories of inhabitants of their citizenship rights.
Lohr sees these Soviet policies as dramatically divergent from longstanding Russian traditions and suggests that in order to understand the citizenship dilemmas Russia faces today—including how to manage an influx of Chinese laborers in Siberia—we must return to pre-Stalin history.