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Decentering America

Decentering America

Edited by Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 422
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  • Book Info
    Decentering America
    Book Description:

    "Decentering" has fast become a dynamic approach to the study of American cultural and diplomatic history. But what precisely does decentering mean, how does it work, and why has it risen to such prominence? This book addresses the attempt to decenter the United States in the history of culture and international relations both in times when the United States has been assumed to take center place. Rather than presenting more theoretical perspectives, this collection offers a variety of examples of how one can look at the role of culture in international history without assigning the central role to the United States. Topics include cultural violence, inverted Americanization, the role of NGOs, modernity and internationalism, and the culture of diplomacy. Each subsection includes two case studies dedicated to one particular approach which while not dealing with the same geographical topic or time frame illuminate a similar methodological interest. Collectively, these essays pragmatically demonstrate how the study of culture and international history can help us to rethink and reconceptualize US history today.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-798-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht
  5. List of Contributors
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction Decentering American History
    (pp. 1-20)
    Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht

    This is a book about one of the most recent directions in the research of culture and international history. Specifically, it addresses the attempt to decenter the United States in the history of culture and international relations both in times when the United States has been assumed to take center place. Recent debates among scholars of American history have postulated a critical analysis of the field; we have been asked to broaden our horizons, internationalize our perspective, and adopt analytical techniques where the analysis of national history does not necessarily assume a center position. Decentering is fast becoming a dynamic...

  7. Part I: Inverting Americanization

    • Chapter 1 Who Said “Americanization”? The Case of Twentieth-Century Advertising and Mass Marketing from a British Perspective
      (pp. 23-72)
      Stefan Schwarzkopf

      The twentieth century was characterized by a breathtaking rise of new marketing and advertising techniques and an even more dramatic profusion of new media and material wealth. A large number of social, cultural and business historians have interpreted this success story of modern advertising and consumer culture as originating in the United States and from there “conquering” the rest of the world. The concept of Americanization, the triumphant spread of American products, movies and “consumerist” values, has been at the heart of these accounts. The idea of an all-pervasive Americanization has offered a seemingly self-evident narrative of twentieth-century global cultural...

    • Chapter 2 Die antideutsche Welle: The Anti-German Wave, Public Diplomacy, and Intercultural Relations in Cold War America
      (pp. 73-106)
      Brian C. Etheridge

      On 14 December 1961, Governing Mayor of West Berlin Willy Brandt spoke before an international assemblage of military figures, diplomats, and journalists at the Congress Hall of West Berlin. Although the event was located only a few hundred yards from the newly erected Berlin Wall, Brandt’s speech did not concern international politics or the status of his beleaguered city. Instead, Brandt delivered an address at the world premiere of Stanley Kramer’s controversial film,Judgment at Nuremberg. Warning that “it will be difficult for some of us to watch and hear this film,” Brandt nevertheless argued that “Berlin as the center...

  8. Part II: Internationalism

    • Chapter 3 Chinese Debates on Modernization and the West after the Great War
      (pp. 109-131)
      Dominic Sachsenmaier

      Around the turn of the twentieth century international debates on local order had become intrinsically connected with visions of world order. In an age of imperialism, an internationalizing economy, and mass migration only wishful thinking could assume that local politics operated largely autonomously and independent from the world at large. The political debates within industrialized societies such as the United States, several Western European countries, and Japan were profoundly shaped by the question of what role the nation was supposed to play on a global level. Furthermore, the rising influence of ideologies such anarchism, socialism, and liberalism implied competing visions...

    • Chapter 4 “For the Genuine Culture of the Americas”: Musical Folklore, Popular Arts, and the Cultural Politics of Pan Americanism, 1933–50
      (pp. 132-168)
      Corinne A. Pernet

      In 1942 the Silver Burdett Company, one of the leading textbook and music publishers in the United States, collaborated with the Pan American Union to publish a “Pan American Songbook,” theCancionero Pan Americano. The book contained folklore songs from all countries of the Americas, and was lavishly illustrated with photos and drawings of picturesque rural scenes. Its cover supposedly showed ahuaso, a Chilean cowboy, but the handsome man appeared to be decidedly caucasian and was dressed in the holiday version of ahuasocostume: shiny leather boots, elegant checkered woolen pants, and a colorfulmantaover a white...

  9. Part III: Non-governmental Influences

    • Chapter 5 “The Other Side of the War”: Memory and Meaning at the War Remnants Museum of Vietnam
      (pp. 171-209)
      Scott Laderman

      When George H. W. Bush implored Americans during his inaugural address in 1989 to ignore one of the seminal events of twentieth-century international history, he connected his nation’s greatness to its embrace of collective amnesia. “The final lesson of Vietnam is that no great nation can long afford to be sundered by a memory,” he proclaimed. The president’s plea—that the United States forget its (and, by implication, Vietnam’s) history—would not be the last time he spoke of the Vietnam conflict. When the United States went to war with Iraq two years later, Bush promised that “this will not...

    • Chapter 6 Americanized Protests? The British and West German Protests against Nuclear Weapons and the Pacifist Roots of the West German New Left, 1957–64
      (pp. 210-252)
      Holger Nehring

      Since the break-up of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s, the perception that we live in a “globalized” world has become commonplace. Political and social scientists increasingly discuss the emergence of a “world society.”¹ The perception of a globalized world has been particularly pronounced in the area of protest movements. One German newspaper recently described the protesters at an antiwar rally as “global kids.”² The growth of non-state actors in international relations over the twentieth century is indeed so staggering that the historian Akira Iriye has labelled it the “century of NGOs.”³ While about 135 international non-governmental...

  10. Part IV: Cultural Violence

    • Chapter 7 Misperceptions of Empire: How Berlin and Washington Misread the “Ordinary Germans” of Latin America in World War II
      (pp. 255-276)
      Max Paul Friedman

      Dreams of conquest and nightmares of helplessness fired the imaginations of certain officials in Germany and the United States when their minds turned to Latin America in the 1930s. Legend has it that Adolf Hitler himself indulged in thoughts of Latin America as a juicy, tropical fruit ripe for the picking: The endless, fertile fields of the Argentinepampas. The unexplored jungles of the Amazon. Vast, and undeveloped, a continent ofLebensraum. All it would take would be a well-disciplined band of solid German colonists to transform this torpid paradise into a rich outpost of the Third Reich. And they...

    • Chapter 8 Rape and Murder in the Canal Zone: Cultural Conflict and the US Military Presence in Panama, 1955–56
      (pp. 277-312)
      Michael E. Donoghue

      The years 1955 through 1956 were a time of crisis in US-Panamanian relations. A long and frustrating negotiating process to revise the infamous 1903 Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty that had established the US presence on the isthmus ended in January 1955 with an accord that pleased neither side. By the mid 1950s most Panamanians despised the original 1903 treaty that granted the United States the right to virtual sovereignty “in perpetuity” over the 10-mile-wide strip of the Canal Zone, “to construct, maintain, and defend” a transoceanic canal. The US enclave quickly developed into a “little America” on the isthmus, complete with its...

  11. Part V: Decentering the World?: The Culture of Diplomacy

    • Chapter 9 The Marriage of Thames and Rhine: Reflections on the English-Palatine Relations 1608–32 and the Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe
      (pp. 315-344)
      Magnus Rüde

      After 350 years of secular diplomacy dominated by state interests, religion is back as a central factor on the stage of world affairs. For the first time since the end of the Thirty Years’ War, religious fanatics have shaped international relations with the devastating attacks on 11 September 2001. US authorities have alleged that the conflict had a partly religious logic: After the attacks, the Bush administration publicly declared that they are now fighting the ultimate battle of good versus evil.

      Several studies on international history—such as Seth Jacobs’ and Andrew Rotter’s analysis of US foreign policy in Southeast...

    • Chapter 10 Self-Perception, the Official Attitude toward Pacifism, and Great Power Détente: Reflections on Diplomatic Culture before World War I
      (pp. 345-380)
      Friedrich Kießling

      Count Mensdorff-Pouilly-Dietrichstein expressed this hope in a speech delivered in London in May 1914, a few weeks before the Sarajevo assassinations. Today, he would be disappointed. Historians have not praised diplomatic activity before World War I in the way the Austrian ambassador to Great Britain expected. On the contrary, after the war the secret diplomacy of the years before 1914 was thought to be a major, if not the main reason for World War I. And historical judgement has not turned more positive since then. No doubt, methods of diplomacy used before 1914 proved unfit to handle international relations at...

  12. Index
    (pp. 381-408)