Jordan Carson’s American Exceptionalism as Religion looks at how American nationalist ideologies intersect with religious ones in contemporary literature. Carson traces out how an exceptionalist belief system began to emerge historically with a distorted picture of religious commitment. He then connects this trend to writers such as Don DeLillo, Ana Castillo, Thomas Pynchon, George Saunders, and Marilynne Robinson to argue that these authors dismantle the privatization of religion in their writing and then offer their own alternatives. Their work, he argues, redefines religion in terms of practice and discipline, gauging it by its power to ground and guide behavior, morality, and sociality.
As American exceptionalism resurfaces in public discourse, Carson’s timely work invites readers to reconsider the nexus of religion, politics, and culture. Carson argues that defining religion according to secularist criteria has insulated ostensibly secular ideologies as well as traditional religion from public scrutiny. DeLillo’s, Castillo’s, Pynchon’s, Saunders’s, and Robinson’s redefinitions of religion result in a better grasp of how individuals actually live out their religious lives. More importantly, these authors help erect a framework for constructively engaging American exceptionalism and the ideas that support it.
Until now, the critical shift in Southern political allegiance from Democratic to Republican has been explained, by scholars and journalists, as a white backlash to the civil rights revolution. In this myth-shattering book, Byron Shafer and Richard Johnston refute that view, one stretching all the way back to V. O. Key in his classic book Southern Politics. The true story is instead one of dramatic class reversal, beginning in the 1950s and pulling everything else in its wake.
For decades the United States has been the most dominant player on the world’s stage. The country’s economic authority, its globally forceful foreign policy, and its leading position in international institutions tend to be seen as the result of a long-standing, deliberate drive to become a major global force. Furthermore, it has become widely accepted that American exceptionalism—the belief that America is a country like no other in history—has been at the root of many of the country’s political, military, and global moves. Frank Ninkovich disagrees.
One of the preeminent intellectual historians of our time, Ninkovich delivers here his most ambitious and sweeping book to date. He argues that historically the United States has been driven not by a belief in its destiny or its special character but rather by a need to survive the forces of globalization. He builds the powerful case that American foreign policy has long been based on and entangled in questions of global engagement, while also showing that globalization itself has always been distinct from—and sometimes in direct conflict with—what we call international society.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the United States unexpectedly stumbled into the role of global policeman and was forced to find ways to resolve international conflicts that did not entail nuclear warfare. The United States's decisions were based less in notions of exceptionalism and more in a need to preserve and expand a flourishing global society that had become essential to the American way of life.
Sure to be controversial, The Global Republic compellingly and provocatively counters some of the deepest and most common misconceptions about America’s history and its place in the world.
Globalizing American Studies
Edited by Brian T. Edwards and Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar University of Chicago Press, 2010 Library of Congress E169.1.G545 2010 | Dewey Decimal 973.071
The discipline of American studies was established in the early days of World War II and drew on the myth of American exceptionalism. Now that the so-called American Century has come to an end, what would a truly globalized version of American studies look like? Brian T. Edwards and Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar offer a new standard for the field’s transnational aspiration with Globalizing American Studies.
The essays here offer a comparative, multilingual, or multisited approach to ideas and representations of America. The contributors explore unexpected perspectives on the international circulation of American culture: the traffic of American movies within the British Empire, the reception of the film Gone with the Wind in the Arab world, the parallels between Japanese and American styles of nativism, and new incarnations of American studies itself in the Middle East and South Asia. The essays elicit a forgotten multilateralism long inherent in American history and provide vivid accounts of post–Revolutionary science communities, late-nineteenth century Mexican border crossings, African American internationalism, Cold War womanhood in the United States and Soviet Russia, and the neo-Orientalism of the new obsession with Iran, among others.
Bringing together established scholars already associated with the global turn in American studies with contributors who specialize in African studies, East Asian studies, Latin American studies, media studies, anthropology, and other areas, Globalizing American Studies is an original response to an important disciplinary shift in academia.
The Guise of Exceptionalism compares the historical origins of Haitian and American exceptionalisms. It also traces how exceptionalism as a narrative of uniqueness has shaped relations between the two countries from their early days of independence through the contemporary period. Exceptionalism is at the core of every national founding narrative. It allows countries to purge history of injurious stains, and embellish it with mythical innocence and claims of distinction. Exceptionalism also builds the bonds of solidarity that forge an imagined national fellowship of the chosen, but it excludes those deemed unfit for membership because of their race, ethnicity, gender, or class. Exceptionalism, however, is not frozen. As a social invention, it changes over time, but always within the parameters of its original principles. Our capacity to reinvent it is dependent on the degree of hegemony achieved by the ruling class, and if this class has the infrastructural power to gradually co-opt and include the groups it had once excluded.
Horizons of Enchantment is about the peculiar power and exceptional pull of the imaginary in American culture. Johannessen’s subject here is the almost mystical American belief in the promise and potential of the individual, or the reliance on a kind of “modern magic” that can loosely be characterized as a fundamental and unwavering faith in the secular sanctity of the American project of modernity. Among the diverse topics and cultural artifacts she examines are the Norwegian American novel A Saloonkeeper’s Daughter by Drude Krog Janson, Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, Rodolfo Gonzales’s I Am Joaquín, Richard Ford’s The Sportwriter, Ana Menéndez’s In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd, essays by Samuel Huntington and Richard Rodriquez, and the 2009 film Sugar, about a Dominican baseball player trying to make it in the big leagues. In both her subject matter and perspective, Johannessen reconfigures and enriches questions of the transnational and exceptional in American studies.
Border security and illegal immigration along the U.S.–Mexico border are hotly debated issues in contemporary society. The emergence of civilian vigilante groups, such as the Minutemen, at the border is the most recent social phenomenon to contribute new controversy to the discussion. The Law Into Their Own Hands looks at the contemporary nativist, anti-immigrant movement in the United States today.
Doty examines the social and political contexts that have enabled these civilian groups to flourish and gain legitimacy amongst policy makers and the public. The sentiments underlying the vigilante movement both draw upon and are channeled through a diverse range of organizations whose messages are often reinforced by the media. Taking action when they believe official policy is lacking, groups ranging from elements of the religious right to anti-immigrant groups to white supremacists have created a social movement.
Doty seeks to alert us to the consequences related to this growing movement and to the restructuring of our society. She maintains that with immigrants being considered as enemies and denied basic human rights, it is irresponsible of both citizens and policy makers to treat this complicated issue as a simple black or white reality.
In this solid and theoretically grounded look at contemporary, post-9/11 border vigilantism, the author observes the dangerous and unproductive manner in which private citizens seek to draw firm and uncompromising lines between who is worthy of inclusion in our society and who is not.
Russia: The Story of War
Gregory Carleton Harvard University Press, 2017 Library of Congress DK18.C37 2017 | Dewey Decimal 303.660947
Outsiders view Russia as an aggressor, but Russians see themselves as surrounded by enemies, defensively fighting off invader after invader, or called upon by history to be the savior of Europe, or Christianity, or civilization itself, often at immense cost. As Gregory Carleton shows, war is the unifying thread of Russia’s national epic.