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American Studies in a Moment of Danger

George Lipsitz
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    American Studies in a Moment of Danger
    Book Description:

    At a critical moment, this book offers a richly textured historical perspective on where our notions of national knowledge-and our sense of American Studies-have come from and where they may lead in a future of new ideas about culture and community.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3541-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-IX)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. XI-XX)

    I stumbled into American studies the way most people do, by accident. There were no American studies programs on the campuses where I took my undergraduate and graduate courses. In retrospect, I now realize that I was assigned books crucial to the American studies tradition in my classes, but I never identified them as such. It was only while working as a labor historian researching the massive strike wave in the United States after World War II that I turned to the study of culture. The standard historical evidence I found in archives told me a great deal about the...

  5. PART I. American Studies and Social Movements

    • CHAPTER 1 In the Midnight Hour American Studies in a Moment of Danger
      (pp. 3-30)

      Senegalese singer Baaba Maal has a theory about midnight. Acknowledging that others view the middle of the night with trepidation and dread, that they think of it as the time when despair reigns and a new dawn is very hard to see, Maal nonetheless encourages us to embrace the midnight hour. For him, “Midnight is the time when the spirit takes stock and looks ahead to the new day. It’s important for every person to have a midnight in their life—to know what you have done and what you have yet to do.”¹

      For millions of people around the...

    • CHAPTER 2 Sent for You Yesterday, Here You Come Today Who Needs the Thirties?
      (pp. 31-56)

      At the first International Conference on Popular Music Research in 1981, one of the world’s most distinguished musicologists, Charles Hamm, began his presentation with a startling admission. Gesturing toward the elusiveness of the term “popular music” and acknowledging the difficulty of identifying exactly what makes any particular piece of music “popular,” Hamm told the gathering that they began their deliberations under a severe handicap. The handicap, he explained, was that “we’re not sure what we’re talking about.”¹

      Probably all academic conferences and all scholarly books (including this one) should begin with a similar confession, especially in an amorphous field like...

    • CHAPTER 3 Dancing in the Dark Who Needs the Sixties?
      (pp. 57-82)

      In an eloquent and moving reminiscence about the 1960s, Marshall Berman recalls that decade as atimethat produced new kinds ofspaces. For Berman, civil rights and antiwar demonstrations created a new kind of public life that brought to “many of us an ease and confidence in public spaces that we had never had before, and never expected to have at all.”¹ He remembers that public gatherings at that time had a special charge to them because they served as important sites for the transformation of individual and collective consciousness.

      I understand what Berman means. I have a few...

    • CHAPTER 4 Listening to Learn and Learning to Listen Who Needs the Eighties?
      (pp. 83-114)

      American studies scholars today face a culture characterized both by continuity with the cultures that emerged during the Age of the CIO and the Age of the Civil Rights Movement and by dramatic ruptures from them. During the 1970s and 1980s, conservatives in the United States fashioned a powerful coalition that united executives from multinational corporations, suburban small property holders, independent entrepreneurs, and religious fundamentalists to mobilize around a broad range of economic, political, and cultural concerns. Support from some of the wealthiest families (Coors, Mellon) and some of the most richly endowed foundations (John M. Olin, Bradley, Scaife) enabled...

  6. PART II. Race, Culture, and Collective Struggle

    • CHAPTER 5 Like Crabs in a Barrel Why Interethnic Anti-Racism Matters Now
      (pp. 117-138)

      In places near the ocean where merchants sell live crabs, they display their wares in open barrels without tops. When the crabs try to escape by climbing up the sides of the barrel they always fail. As soon as one starts to climb up, the others who are also trying to escape pull it back down.

      When we try to overcome racism, sexism, homophobia, or class oppression, we often find ourselves in the position of crabs in a barrel. We work as hard as we can, but all our efforts fail to free us. We cannot get at the people...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Lion and the Spider Mapping Sexuality, Space, and Politics in Miami Music
      (pp. 139-168)

      Diverse ethnic, racial, regional, and national traditions come together in Miami, and they inflect the city’s musical culture with a dazzling array of distinctive styles, figures, and forms. As a key crossroads for trade between the United States and Latin America, and as a magnet for migration from all over the hemisphere, Miami has become a privileged place for the generation of music marked by transnational networks, affiliations, and identifications. From rap to reggae, from disco to dance-hall, from salsa to soft rock, and from jazz to junkanoo, Miami’s popular music provides a rich catalogue of the different histories and...

    • CHAPTER 7 Not Just Another Social Movement Poster Art and the Movimiento Chicano
      (pp. 169-184)

      Early in January 2001, the University Art Museum at the University of California–Santa Barbara opened the exhibition “Just Another Poster,” celebrating thirty years of Chicano poster art. The posters on display revealed a hidden history of the Chicano movement. They documented the struggles ofbracerosand Brown Berets, of boycotts and ballot initiatives, of antiwar activism and immigrant self-defense. They presented a permanent record of mass mobilizations and community coalitions against police brutality, educational inequality, and economic exploitation. They evoked the Movimiento Chicano in all its rich complexities and contradictions, a movement both nationalistandinternationalist, class consciousand...

    • CHAPTER 8 As Unmarked as Their Place in History Genre Anxiety and Race in Seventies Cinema
      (pp. 185-210)

      Generic pleasures are familiar pleasures. Genre conventions encourage the repetition, reconfiguration, and renewal of familiar forms in order to cultivate audience investment and engagement. Created mostly for the convenience of marketers anxious to predict exact sales figures by selling familiar products to clearly identifiable audiences, genres also have ideological effects. Their conventions contribute to an ahistorical view of the world as always the same. The pleasures of predictability encourage an investment in the status quo. Yet genres can also have affinities with certain social positions. The serio-comic novel speaks to aggrieved groups because it reverberates with a carnival-like laughter that...

  7. PART III. Facing Up to What′s Killing You

    • CHAPTER 9 "Facing Up to What's Killing You" Urban Art and the New Social Movements
      (pp. 213-234)

      In Toni Cade Bambara’s story “The Organizer’s Wife,” members of a radical commune compress their beliefs into a simple slogan emblazoned across the front of a mural—“Face Up to What’s Killing You.”¹ The indecent social order of our own day renders the urgent anxiety encapsulated in that slogan relevant to grassroots cultural creation all across the globe. Performance artists and poets, graffiti writers and rappers, photographers and filmmakers, car customizers and computer artists create sights and sounds, poetry, prose, and performance art that turns talking back into an art form and enables their audiences to confront the new conditions...

    • CHAPTER 10 In the Sweet Buy and Buy Consumer Culture and American Studies
      (pp. 235-270)

      During the fall semester of the 2000–2001 academic year, Native American students at San Diego State University mobilized against their school’s use of the nickname Aztecs for university athletic teams and against the symbolism encoded in the school mascot—Monty Montezuma, a half-naked warrior in battle regalia. The protestors argued that marketing the school through this kind of imagery demeaned the actual Aztec people, reinforced negative stereotypes about Indians, and insulted the Native Americans in the SDSU student population by putting one of their cultures in a place that other schools usually reserved for animals.

      One protestor found a...

    • CHAPTER 11 Taking Positions and the War of Position The Politics of Academia
      (pp. 271-292)

      It is perhaps a measure of the inescapable irony of our time that the ideas of Antonio Gramsci have gained popularity among scholars largely as a means of explaining the futility of efforts to change past and present capitalist societies. Above all else, Gramsci was a revolutionary strategist, an individual who instructed others to temper their “pessimism of the intellect” with an “optimism of the will.” He knew about defeat and domination from personal experience and systematic study, yet Gramsci still championed a political and ideological struggleforhegemony. He described “a war of position,” in which aggrieved populations seek...

    • CHAPTER 12 Don't Cry for Me, Ike and Tina American Studies at the Crossroads
      (pp. 293-316)

      On a December night in 1992, I sat awake all night on board a jetliner traveling to Frankfurt, Germany. The crew kept the cabin lights dim for most of the flight. Nearly everyone else seemed to be sleeping, but I sat up straight in my seat with my eyes wide open. Images, ideas, and arguments raced through my mind, making it impossible for me to sleep.

      My trip to Germany came about in response to an invitation to participate in an international conference on racist violence, assimilation, and otherness. Three young editors from a German publishing house organized the conference...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 317-352)
  9. Permissions
    (pp. 353-354)
  10. Index
    (pp. 355-384)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 385-385)