The United States has always imagined that its identity as a nation is insulated from violent interventions abroad, as if a line between domestic and foreign affairs could be neatly drawn. Yet this book argues that such a distinction, so obviously impracticable in our own global era, has been illusory at least since the war with Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century and the later wars against Spain, Cuba, and the Philippines. In this book, Amy Kaplan shows how U.S. imperialism--from "Manifest Destiny" to the "American Century"--has profoundly shaped key elements of American culture at home, and how the struggle for power over foreign peoples and places has disrupted the quest for domestic order.
The neatly ordered kitchen in Catherine Beecher's household manual may seem remote from the battlefields of Mexico in 1846, just as Mark Twain's Mississippi may seem distant from Honolulu in 1866, or W. E. B. Du Bois's reports of the East St. Louis Race Riot from the colonization of Africa in 1917. But, as this book reveals, such apparently disparate locations are cast into jarring proximity by imperial expansion. In literature, journalism, film, political speeches, and legal documents, Kaplan traces the undeniable connections between American efforts to quell anarchy abroad and the eruption of such anarchy at the heart of the empire.
Kaplan does a beautiful job of reintegrating the "domestic" with the "foreign" in American history, and of demonstrating the persistent, ubiquitous imperialist logic which has informed, inflected, or sometimes fully shaped "domestic" social relations, cultural productions, and utterances of all sorts. In moving from Beecher to Twain to Theodore Roosevelt to Griffith to Du Bois, Kaplan not only offers up original and provocative readings of some very familiar texts (across a number of genres), but she highlights an important thread which runs through the entire period from Manifest Destiny to the WWI years. Texts like Huckleberry Finn and Citizen Kane will never look quite the same.
Over the past decade, Amy Kaplan has led the way in integrating the field of empire into our understanding of American literature and culture. The contributions of this superb book are many. It compels us to reexamine dominant paradigms and topics in American Studies--from sentimental domesticity, to Twain's stature as a national icon, to the "splendid little war" of 1898, to the rise of modern film--all in the light of empire. Each and every chapter has an eye-opening prospect, but the cumulative view is breathtaking.
In six carefully crafted case studies--ranging from American notions of Manifest Destiny in the 1840s through Mark Twain's international travels to late-19th-century popular romances like Charles Major's "When Knighthood Was in Flower" and Mark Johnson's "To Have and To Hold"; journalistic accounts of the Spanish-American War; and a concluding account of Du Bois's incisive remapping of the imperial world in his 1920 book "Darkwater"--Kaplan travels freely over a wide swath of American cultural history. Along the way she casts a theoretically sophisticated eye on disparate texts--some familiar to American readers, many not...The result is a challenging, provocative work that makes a persuasive case for the inextricable--and complicated--connections between American notions of national identity and US foreign policy.
[Kaplan] has a big important idea: the outside world mattered intensely and intimately to Americans from the nineteenth century onward. Through writings such as Harriet Beecher Stowe's writing for housewives, Mark Twain's dispatches fm Hawaii, and W. E. B. Du Bois's fiction, Kaplan traces how America's foreign relations shaped popular consciousness at a time when conventional wisdom has Americans slumbering in isolation and ignorance of the wider world. Kaplan is rightly fascinated with the contradictory impulses in American culture: we want the whole world to be like us, but being different and unique is part of who we are. We cannot have it both ways, but we endlessly try, and Kaplan provides real insight into the ways this conflicted agenda continues to shape American identity.
Through insightful readings of texts from film to fiction, travelogue to memoir, Kaplan writes empire into the cultural history of the U.S., and America into the transnational history of empire. With a keen eye for contradiction, Kaplan shows how the endeavour to maintain boundaries--between U.S. and world, domestic and foreign--works constantly against its own undoing.
Amy Kaplan’s groundbreaking The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture reveals in all sorts of subtle ways how modern American overseas imperial expansion and rule are tied directly to domestic issues like segregation, domesticity, the attack on Reconstruction, and the gender ideals of manhood. With great refinement and an impressive command of legal, political, and military history, she explores cultural documents whose contributions to American national identity are as profound as they are usually overlooked. This is a book of exceptional interest for all scholars of imperialism and its cultural correlatives at home.
Kaplan pulls back the curtain on the imperial spectacle. In doing so, however, she shows the the ‘real’ nature of events is often not what is at stake: the problem is as much how imperialism gets imbedded in our heads. Few scholars in the last decade have done more than Kaplan has to advance critical reading practices that cultivate anti-imperialist intellectual reflexes. The publication of The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture affirms Kaplan's reputation as one of the most insightful readers of the violent lineaments and effects of that culture.
- 272 pages
- 0-5/8 x 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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