Courtney Q. Shah, Sex Ed, Segregated: The Quest for Sexual Knowledge in Progressive-Era America (Rochester: The U of Rochester P, 2015), 228 pp.
Aug31

Courtney Q. Shah, Sex Ed, Segregated: The Quest for Sexual Knowledge in Progressive-Era America (Rochester: The U of Rochester P, 2015), 228 pp.

Courtney Q. Shah, Sex Ed, Segregated: The Quest for Sexual Knowledge in Progressive-Era America (Rochester: The U of Rochester P, 2015), 228 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   In Sex Ed, Segregated, Courtney Q. Shah examines the early twentieth-century sexual education movement in the United States by exposing the debates surrounding sex ed and curriculum development in schools; how messages pertaining to sexual education were tailored for specific populations (men/women, girls/boys, working/middle class, black/white); and how groups with political agendas (e.g., Progressives, the YMCA, the military, the media, girls’ schools) tried to shape mainstream sex ed. As Shah adeptly illustrates, sexual education was, and still is, contoured by social, cultural, political, economic, religious, and scientific forces, and is never simply about education. More often than not, it is part of the arsenal of props deployed by American society to promote a specific hegemonic racial, gender, moral, or medical discourse. A revised version of Shah’s PhD Dissertation (“‘This Loathsome Subject’: Sex Education in Progressive-Era America,” University of Houston, 2006), Sex Ed, Segregated builds on the existing early twentieth-century sexuality, social hygiene/purity, and reproduction literature by mining under-examined sources, particularly those illustrating how sexual education was modified based on its target audience. In the early twentieth century, sexual education included instruction on a range of topics such as courtship, marriage, sexual intercourse, human anatomy and development, health, wellness, procreation, contraception, and venereal diseases, usually combining practical knowledge with the scientific and morals ideas of the era.  As Shah explicates, sexual education was, and still is, a product of its time. Thus, the sexual education of the first few decades of the twentieth century reflects its social context: Jim Crow, xenophobia, eugenics, class tension, World War I, and rapid social change (urbanization, industrialization, Progressivism, and the rise of the “New Woman” and “New Negro”). As Shah illustrates, sexual education texts were often modified for specific populations (titles, introductions, and illustrations were changed for black and white readers), and such alterations were based on racial assumptions and an unquestioned acceptance of racial difference. For example, while chastity and respectability were emphasized in African American texts, books published for white audiences focused on political and social hierarchies (white racial superiority) and eugenics (improving the national stock by encouraging reproduction among the “fit” and discouraging it among the “unfit”). Such manuals, however, also had certain elements in common: their religious and moral undertones, their emphasis on education and reform, and their faith in science, medicine, and technology. Moreover, they “normalized white male (middle class) sexuality and pathologized any departures from the white male norm” (x). Americans were far more divided when it came to the...

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Pekka Hämäläinen. The Comanche Empire. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2008), 512 pages. Gail D. MacLeitch. Imperial Entanglements: Iroquois Change and Persistence on the Frontiers of Empire. (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2011),  344 pages.  Karl-Hermann Hörner. Die Natchez: Staatenbildung am unteren Mississippi? (Neckenmarkt: Novum Pro, 2011), 238 pages.  Andrew H. Fisher. Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity. (Seattle: U of Washington P, 2010), 320 pages.
Aug31

Pekka Hämäläinen. The Comanche Empire. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2008), 512 pages. Gail D. MacLeitch. Imperial Entanglements: Iroquois Change and Persistence on the Frontiers of Empire. (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2011), 344 pages. Karl-Hermann Hörner. Die Natchez: Staatenbildung am unteren Mississippi? (Neckenmarkt: Novum Pro, 2011), 238 pages. Andrew H. Fisher. Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity. (Seattle: U of Washington P, 2010), 320 pages.

Pekka Hämäläinen. The Comanche Empire. (New Haven: Yale UP, 2008), 512 pages. Gail D. MacLeitch. Imperial Entanglements: Iroquois Change and Persistence on the Frontiers of Empire. (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2011),  344 pages. Karl-Hermann Hörner. Die Natchez: Staatenbildung am unteren Mississippi? (Neckenmarkt: Novum Pro, 2011), 238 pages. Andrew H. Fisher. Shadow Tribe: The Making of Columbia River Indian Identity. (Seattle: U of Washington P, 2010), 320 pages. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   Sovereignty and agency have advanced to become central terms in Native American and Indigenous Studies. With different emphases, both center Native people and peoples as agents in political, social, economic, cultural, and intellectual terms that value, defend, and enact a particular form of autonomy and self-determination in respect to colonial powers or the U.S. settler nation-state. At the same time, particularly the notion of agency draws attention to how Native American nations do not simply occupy positions of resistance, adaptation, or cooperation, but are active in deploying different and variable strategies in maneuvering colonial impositions as well as in shaping the histories of the Americas from first contact to present-day U.S. in ways that are easily effaced by narratives of Euro-American progress. While these foci on autonomy, on the one hand, and active participation in the making of American histories, on the other, suggest different approaches to Native American histories, cultures, and politics—also indicative of differences in disciplinary approaches, since sovereignty is more firmly situated in cultural and literary studies as well as social and political sciences, agency more prominent in history—there is also a significant overlap between these terms. Most importantly, both analytic perspectives share the concern of lifting colonially imposed misconceptions of Native American peoples as apolitical, ahistorical, passive victims of Euro-American progress or unwitting collaborators to their own demise. A look at four selected works in Native American history then not only indicates the varied relations and tensions between forms of sovereignty and agency in practice and thought, but also should help to illuminate the breadth of these concepts and their historical variability. Centering sovereignty and agency in this Native history review essay thus aims at illuminating both the diversity of Native peoplehood and selfhood as well as the complex relations to European colonial powers and the U.S. settler nation-state that these works explore. Reviewing these four books with this emphasis further aims to add new perspectives to their respective individual reception. At the same time, it seeks to show how these four studies can be seen as indicative of a wider spread focus in Native American histories on formations of sovereignty and agency in different contexts that further point to the diversity...

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Elizabeth L. Wollmann, Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 271 pp.
Aug31

Elizabeth L. Wollmann, Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 271 pp.

Elizabeth L. Wollmann, Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013), 271 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   In Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City untersucht Elizabeth Wollman eine Untergattung des amerikanischen Musicals, die Musicalkenner meistens nur von ihrem verruchten Ruf her kennen und die auch nur selten in Studien zum amerikanischen Musical betrachtet werden, obwohl es sich mittlerweile um eine dominierende Untergattung handelt. Die Autorin entführt den Leser auf eine unterhaltsame Zeitreise in die zügellosen 1970er Jahre und gibt einen historischen Abriss über das für Erwachsene komponierte Musical, das spätestens seit der Premiere von Hair (1968) am New Yorker Broadway floriert. Wollmans Studie ist geprägt von einer informativen, sehr detaillierten Darstellung der selten besprochenen Untergattung des Musicals, deren Kontext sie beleuchtet und dabei auf ihre Verdienste im amerikanischen Theater aufmerksam macht. Wollman versteht ihre Untersuchung als kulturhistorische Darstellung des amerikanischen Musicals in den 1970er Jahren, das geprägt war von sexueller Revolution, dem Emanzipationsbestreben der Frau und der Debatte über die Gleichstellung Homosexueller. Was aber das feministische Musical mit dem Adult Musical zu tun hat, bleibt unklar. In I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It on the Road geht es um die Gleichberechtigung der Frau in der Gesellschaft, und beide sind mit Sicherheit familientauglich und haben nichts mit den Musicals der anderen Unterkategorien zu tun, in denen sexuelle Zweideutigkeiten und Pornographie sowie leichtbekleidete oder nackte Akteure das erwachsene Publikum begeistern. Das feministische Musical hat nichts mit dem von Jonathan Ward geprägten Begriff „adult musicals” zu tun, den die Autorin in der Einleitung zu ihrem Buch aufgreift. Sie definiert „adult musicals“ als Musicals mit vollständig unbekleideten Akteuren, angedeuteten freizügigen Aktivitäten, sexuellen Anspielungen oder explizit freizügigen Dialogen bzw. Nummern oder ausdrücklich sexuellen Inhalten in der Handlung. Wollman beleuchtet das amerikanische „adult musical“ in seinem historischen, kulturellen und künstlerischen Zusammenhang durch die verschiedenen Dekaden von seinem goldenen Zeitalter bis zu seinen heutigen Ausprägungen. Dabei versucht sie das Adult Musical aus verschiedenen Perspektiven zu betrachten und auch diverse Vernetzungen aufzuzeigen, indem sie zwei Musicals, nämlich Oh! Calcutta! und Let My People Come, gewissermaßen als rote Fäden die gesamte Studie durchziehen lässt. Auf einer begleitenden Website werden dem Leser Hörbeispiele und zusätzliches Bildmaterial geboten, auf die auch im Buch hingewiesen wird. Wollman ist Lehrbeauftragte für Musik am Baruch College in New York und hat in ihrem Buch The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical, from Hair to Hedwig (2006) eine weitere Untergattung des amerikanischen Musicals untersucht. Auch ihre vielen Besuche des New Yorker Broadway machen sie zu einer Expertin auf dem Gebiet. Das Buch gliedert sich in vier thematisch gegliederte...

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Daniel Stein, Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography and American Jazz, Jazz Perspectives (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2012), 349 pp.
Aug31

Daniel Stein, Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography and American Jazz, Jazz Perspectives (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2012), 349 pp.

Daniel Stein, Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography and American Jazz, Jazz Perspectives (Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2012), 349 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   Based on his award-winning dissertation, Daniel Stein’s book is a timely and innovative addition to the vast amount of scholarly literature on Louis Armstrong. It is a welcomed intervention into the discourses established by biographies and music or jazz histories: Music Is My Life: Louis Armstrong, Autobiography, and American Jazz revolves around the musician’s various forms and practices of life writing and situates them within larger socio-cultural constellations and historical contexts. At the same time, it constitutes a methodologically and theoretically ambitious study that presents an inspiring take on autobiography understood as “a writing practice” (12) and on intermediality. Stein discusses Armstrong’s “autobiographics” (17) not only on the basis of the musician’s two autobiographies (Swing That Music and Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans) but also with regard to Armstrong’s published and unpublished letters, essays, interviews, recordings, articles, and his performances in e.g. music, film, photography, and stage acting. Stein’s approach to this wealth of material from the Armstrong archive as well as secondary sources speaks to both his thorough research and his excellent analytical skills. Armstrong emerges as prolific writer, chronicler of his life, and maybe even “jazz’s most productive autobiographer” (8). Music Is My Life sets out to understand Armstrong as “transmedial artist” and to trace “the intermedial effects of [his] autobiographical performances” (23). Stein lays out four goals for his study: to assess Armstrong’s role in the creation of his public persona, to contribute to the scholarship on “jazz autobiography” (William Kenney), to analyze jazz as an intermedial phenomenon, and to understand the historical constructions of “blackness” from the minstrel stage into the civil rights era (cf. 26-27). Against the backdrop of these objectives, the six chapters cover different aspects of Armstrong’s autobiographics while documenting his career and life writing. Stein starts out (chap. 1) with close readings of Armstrong’s reflections on New Orleans jazz traditions and especially “musicking” (Christopher Small), i.e. music making as activity and practice. He reads Armstrong’s personal account of his New Orleans years as intervention into jazz history, as an assertion of his position as cultural icon, and as a template for the public construction of his life narrative. The following analyses (chap. 2 and 3) focus on the performativity of Armstrong’s writing practices and the stylistic features of his texts and musical performances. Stein traces the musician’s literary influences and references to various traditions and narratives (e.g. the rags-to-riches formula or African American autobiography). He interrogates the tensions between Armstrong’s vernacular style,...

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Rauhut, Michael. Ein Klang Zwei Welten – Blues im geteilten Deutschland, 1945 bis 1990 (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2016), 366 pp.
Aug31

Rauhut, Michael. Ein Klang Zwei Welten – Blues im geteilten Deutschland, 1945 bis 1990 (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2016), 366 pp.

Rauhut, Michael. Ein Klang Zwei Welten – Blues im geteilten Deutschland, 1945 bis 1990 (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2016), 366 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 62.1   This book is the latest addition to Michael Rauhut’s series of publications on the topic of Blues and popular music in cold-war Germany. In contrast to most of the author’s previous works, Ein Klang – Zwei Welten sets out to examine the reception of Blues music not just in a specific area of Germany but seeks to compare the respective scenes in East and West Germany that formed around this music. After a brief introduction, Rauhut dedicates a short chapter to frequent misconceptions about Blues music and where these biases come from. The text’s main part is structured into four chapters, each of which is divided into five thematically linked subchapters, discussing and comparing key players of the German Blues scene, modes of interpretation and their political potential. Even though Rauhut makes clear from the beginning that his angle is very much that of a fan, he largely manages to convert his “subjective experience to scientific insight” (13). Except for the occasional romanticization of key figures like Günther Boas (54), he succeeds in not letting his fandom cloud his vision (13) but uses his exceptional knowledge of the German Blues scene to deliver an abundance of relevant information. The author excels when he compares different interpretations of Blues music; his assessment of the West German authenticity debates is especially interesting. By juxtaposing the various stances on what authentic Blues music is supposed to sound like (and how bizarrely they are intertwined with race) without explicitly voicing his own opinion, Rauhut’s bird’s eye view-style of writing cleverly exposes the absurdity of how a few white, privileged European music critics claimed absolute authority not just over the interpretation of Blues music but black experience as well. He does so by unearthing various Blues magazines and newsletters in order to shed light on the West German scene and by plowing through the vast amount of GDR-surveillance data available to him, thereby demonstrating how massively different and ideologically informed these individual networks of fans and musicians were. For example, the effort the intelligence agency of the Socialist Unity Party put into keeping such a marginal music at bay is quite impressive. Rauhut’s text, then, can be seen as a strong argument for the politically subversive potential of popular music, discarding the idea that it is too standardized and repetitive in order to have  any effect of the sort. However, the meticulous research that must have preceded this book is both its greatest quality and flaw, as it frequently...

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