Birgit Däwes, Alexandra Ganser, and Nicole Poppenhagen, eds., Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH Heidelberg, 2015), 358 pp.
Apr11

Birgit Däwes, Alexandra Ganser, and Nicole Poppenhagen, eds., Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH Heidelberg, 2015), 358 pp.

Birgit Däwes, Alexandra Ganser, and Nicole Poppenhagen, eds., Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag Winter GmbH Heidelberg, 2015), 358 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   Since the 1940s, television series have gradually become an experimental site to cross boundaries and break taboos in American culture. Contemporary American television series such as House of Cards, Veep, The Wire, Cashing In, Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Hannibal have started a new trend which no longer follows the cultural traditions and social expectations, and have constructed a new beginning in visualizing and depicting transgression on cultural, political, ethnical, and technological levels. Nowadays, American transgressive television series can be considered as important sources for the research on American television and popular culture. Current research on transgressive television not only negotiates its relations with American quality television serials and its cross-field connections with the big screen as well as the Internet, but also draws attention to the changes and developments that transgressive television series have made in presenting politics and crime in the changing cultural and technological contexts. Transgressive Television: Politics and Crime in 21st-Century American TV Series is an up-to-date collection of sixteen essays presented at the conference “Transgressive Television: Politics, Crime, and Citizenship in Twenty-First-Century American TV Series” in Vienna (Däwes, Ganser, and Poppenhagen 9). The first section, “Paving Pathways,” lays out the foundation for the analysis of contemporary American transgressive television series. Birgit Däwes’s article “Transgressive Television: Preliminary Thoughts” addresses the transformations that American transgressive television series have made in recent years, not only in terms of plot and character complexity, but also in the transgression of the boundaries of “Self and Other,” “genre” and “form,” “reality and fiction” (24-26). By breaking cultural taboos with direct presentations of “violence, sex, and death,” and putting the “position of politics” at the core, transgressive television serials have become “an ideal laboratory” of American culture and “an operational principle of border-crossing and intersection” to reflect socio-cultural realities and to provide more possibilities for interpreting “cultural codes, norms,” “values,” and “transgressive identities” (24-28). In “The Countdown to Y2KTV and the Arrival of the New Serialists,” Gary R. Edgerton gives an overview of the evolution of American television series from the Network Era and the Cable Era to the Digital Era, and discusses the “technological, commercial, and social” changes in the development of the American television industry, focusing on the “show-runner model” of David Chase’s The Sopranos known for its transgression to cinematic presentations and its innovative market/customer-oriented model (36-40). As Edgerton points out, the development of a television series like The Sopranos has made television more “personalized, interactive, mobile, and...

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Jens Kabisch, Innocent Nation: Barack Obama und die Politik der Authentizität (Wien: Turia and Kant, 2013), 381 pp.
Apr11

Jens Kabisch, Innocent Nation: Barack Obama und die Politik der Authentizität (Wien: Turia and Kant, 2013), 381 pp.

Jens Kabisch, Innocent Nation: Barack Obama und die Politik der Authentizität (Wien: Turia and Kant, 2013), 381 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   In Innocent Nation, Jens Kabisch examines how President Barack Obama’s quest for “authenticity” has influenced American politics, while also shedding light on the country’s cultural history of what he regards as the longstanding virtue of authenticity in U.S. society. Regarding authenticity as a “dispositive” that revolves around such characteristics as honesty, truthfulness, and uniqueness, Kabisch argues that it was especially President Obama who rekindled the old topos of authenticity and made it the center piece of his political program as a candidate and as President. According to Kabisch, the struggle against the “inauthentic” and the evocation of “true” authenticity is as old as the American nation itself and entered the country’s political discourse in the Early Republic. During the presidential election of 1824, for instance, Andrew Jackson accused his opponent John Quincy Adams of being an aristocratic elitist, who did not care for the welfare of the common man. This denunciation of what many Americans deemed a form of artificiality that smacked of corrupt European noblemen echoed the political rhetoric of the American Revolution and has been part of U.S. political discourse throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Evocations of the authentic, however, were highly ambiguous and were claimed by many different groups, including socialists, conservatives, and neoliberal capitalists. But it was especially at the turn of the twenty-first century, Kabisch argues, that the discourse of the authentic became particularly powerful. Due to a combination of a number of developments, including changes in America’s consumer society, where “authenticity” began to trump quality, and the impact of 9/11, whose political aftermath called into question the sincerity and integrity of President George W. Bush, a new “politics of truthfulness” emerged after 2001. First focusing on the election of 2008, Kabisch examines which political and ideological premises undergirded Barack Obama’s uses of this new popularity of authenticity. In subsequent chapters, Kabisch analyzes the ways in which President Obama used the topos of authenticity to legitimize his administration, while also shedding light on its uses in America’s “war on terror” between 2000 and 2010. Kabisch’s phenomenological descriptions of America’s political culture of authenticity and its intellectual origins make for a fascinating read, and the focus on President Obama—in particular on his autobiographies and political statements as well as his body as text—is well chosen. However, even though Kabisch explains early on that it was not his aim to write a general history of authenticity in U.S. politics, one would have wished to learn more about the ways in which this...

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Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul, eds. Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ‘America’s Germany’ (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 303 pp.
Apr11

Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul, eds. Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ‘America’s Germany’ (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 303 pp.

Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul, eds. Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ‘America’s Germany’ (Bielefeld: transcript, 2015), 303 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   In the epilogue to Katharina Gerund and Heike Paul’s edited volume Die Amerikanische Reeducation-Politik nach 1945: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven auf ‘America’s Germany’ Winfried Fluck writes: “Reeducation and Americanization cannot be viewed separately” (291; my translation). Fluck’s statement fittingly reflects the content, agenda, and structure of the volume. At the same time, it phrases a task and challenge for a book that aims at an interdisciplinary exploration of US reeducation politics. On the one hand, the volume needs to tackle the tension between focusing and zooming in while, on the other hand, catering to the awareness that reeducation and/or reorientation opens up a broad and complex range of multi-layered and multi-disciplinary trajectories. The volume approaches this task by collecting contributions from different disciplines such as history, cultural studies, film and media studies, literary studies, and didactics as well as from a likewise broad array of concepts, theories, and methods. These voices highlight different modes of cultural transfer and processes of political, social, and cultural entanglement and thereby focus on different agents and different time frames after 1945. The articles engage in an investigation of cultural (and ideological) transfer, contextualize and explain both the institutions and agents of transfer themselves as well as perspectives on them with larger political, social, and cultural desires of these times—a desideratum also phrased by Fluck in the epilogue. Phenomena and especially their conceptualizations (be they political, cultural, or scholarly) depend on, and are shaped by, the respective time of production—an awareness that, within American Studies, became widely circulated at the latest with the advent of memory studies to the discipline. In the introduction to their volume, Gerund and Paul state that reeducation has “in political and scholarly discourse unfolded lasting impact and received manifold attention” (7). The editors not only justify the publication of a volume tackling a field that continues to have relevance in contemporary political, social, and cultural German and American realities. They also—and refreshingly so—point to the fact that the volume does not claim to fill a full-fledged research gap but locates itself in a field that has already produced substantial research. Gerund and Paul’s introduction provides a precise and comprehensive research report, which despite its adequate brevity, succeeds in embedding the volume within scholarly debates about prominent concepts ranging from Americanization vs. Westernization and Americanization from above and below to, among others, Stunde Null as radical break vs. focal point within longer developments, cultural diplomacy, and agency. The editors thus locate the volume within the well-established field...

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Konrad Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2014), 276 pp.
Apr11

Konrad Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2014), 276 pp.

Konrad Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, 2014), 276 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   In February of 1942, two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing the forced relocation and incarceration of about 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living on the Pacific Coast of the United States. The internees lost most of their property and many spent more than four years in the camps, even though the majority of them (62%) were American citizens. This so-called Japanese-American Internment during World War II is generally viewed today as one of the greatest injustices committed by the U.S. government in the twentieth century. Yet it took the government more than four decades to formally apologize for this action. President Ronald Reagan finally signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 admitting that the internment had been based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” and granted a small monetary compensation to individual internment camp survivors. With his book Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Konrad Linke furnishes us with a new contribution to the rich body of scholarship on the Japanese-American Internment that has been developing since the 1950s. In his historiographical review, the author elucidates the many topics previous studies have addressed, including the measure’s constitutionality, the role of Congress and the courts, the executive branch, and the military, as well as the significance of race and ethnicity, forms of accommodation and resistance, and the part anthropologists played in documenting it (2-7). What makes Linke’s study new and different is both its focus on Tulare, a previously rather unexplored internment camp in California,[1] and his methodology. His approach consists of a combination of Alltagsgeschichte (Lüdtke) and microhistory (Ginzburg), along with “thick description” (Geertz) and a decentralized analysis of power structures (Foucault) and social force fields (Thompson) (9-18). His declared goal is “to examine the complex interrelation of normative structures and objective circumstances, on the one hand, with subjective perception and action, on the other”[2] (1). The author does not want to downplay the power of the military in controlling the internees’ life and also takes a close look at the role of the so-called civilian property manager, Nils Aanonsen—a Norwegian American who was appointed to manage the camp on behalf of the Western Defense Command (WDC). Nonetheless, his main focus is on the agency of the confined Japanese Americans themselves. According to the evidence he found, the internees were not passive victims but constantly tried and to some...

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Michael Patrick Cullinane and David Ryan, eds., U.S. Foreign Policy and the Other (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015), vi + 244 pp.
Apr11

Michael Patrick Cullinane and David Ryan, eds., U.S. Foreign Policy and the Other (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015), vi + 244 pp.

Michael Patrick Cullinane and David Ryan, eds., U.S. Foreign Policy and the Other (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015), vi + 244 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4     Michael Cullinane and David Ryan’s U.S. Foreign Policy and the Other is a welcome contribution to a growing body of literature on the importance of views of the other in American history. In U.S. diplomatic history, this approach constitutes an important facet of an ideological and cultural turn, which has been in the ascendancy at least since Michael Hunt’s Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy and which effectively tries to assess in how far cultural attitudes and views—in contrast to more quantifiable national security interests—influence foreign policy making.[1] The contributions to this volume cover the entire span of American history, from the colonial period to the war on terror. Within that timeframe, the articles single out seminal events and periods in U.S. domestic history, but more consistently in its foreign policy, including the American Revolution, the nineteenth century focus on the Western Hemisphere, the Spanish-American War and its aftermath, both World Wars, and the Cold War. As often with such collections, the quality of the articles varies slightly. Several pieces are broad, sweeping, and conceptual, whereas others focus on more closely delimited historical examples. On the whole, however, the editors have managed to recruit an impressive array of specialists, many of them established specialists in their respective fields. While readers who know their works will undoubtedly be familiar with their arguments, it is still worth re-encountering these contributions in the context of this collection because it is so focused on the issue of hetero-stereotypes, i.e. images of the other, and therefore allows for interesting comparisons. It is also obvious that the editors have taken care to select contributions on some of the key topics and themes that one might expect in such a volume. Thus, Walter Hixson returns to the origins of the American experience, explaining how “the formation of American national identity depended in part on [the] identification of Indians as a unitary and savage foe. Indian removal and indiscriminate warfare thus became synonymous with the formation and achievement of U.S. nationalist aspirations.” (28) Hixson also acknowledges that “opposition to British authority” was the second source of early American national identity, a theme that is further explored in Jack P. Greene’s contribution. Greene argues that British settlers in North America were pushed to enact their own national identity because the citizens of the metropole were “othering” them as uncultured and uncouth. This reading complements the work of T. H. Breen and others who have argued that the development of...

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Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (Durham: Duke UP, 2013), 365 pp.
Apr11

Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (Durham: Duke UP, 2013), 365 pp.

Ann Laura Stoler, ed., Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination (Durham: Duke UP, 2013), 365 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies, 61.4   Ruins are traditionally seen as the sublime remains of empires such as ancient Greece, Rome, or the Maya. This collection takes a slightly different look at ruins. Rather than emphasizing the romantic nostalgia evoked by sublimely framed edifices, the authors of this volume are interested in ruins as “petrified life,” as “traces that mark the fragility of power and the force of destruction.” They want to analyze ruins “as sites that condense alternative senses of history,” and they add to this the term “ruination” to describe the “ongoing corrosive process” of imperial formations “that weighs on the future” (9). The term is inspired by Michelle Cliff’s use of it as referring to the process by which vegetation reconquers former human habitations in the (post)colonial climate of the Caribbean (19-20). Stoler’s most recent edition, which follows upon collections that similarly subject the postcolonial world to critical ethnographic scrutiny (Haunted by Empire; Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power), settles squarely between various vibrant critical fields such as the postcolonial study of the colonial past, critical heritage studies, and ecocriticism, to name the three most important ones. Written under the impact of the recent military ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the scandalous violations of human rights at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the essays in this volume are dedicated to showing, as Stoler writes in her introduction, both “the enduring quality of imperial remains” and the status of these imperial leftovers as cultural heritage, but even more so to showing “what people are left with”: the “aftershocks of imperial assault” (9). How, she asks, “do imperial formations persist in their material debris, in ruined landscapes and through the social ruination of people’s lives?” (10). The nine essays which cover a geographical range from the Americas to India, the Congo, South Africa, and Palestine are headed by Stoler’s theoretically and politically incisive introduction in which she spells out the concerns of the volume: “to broach the protracted quality of decimation in people’s lives” and to document “the grossly uneven distribution of pollution, waste disposal, and biowaste among impoverished populations in the United States and worldwide” (11). The perhaps most original critical work of this timely scholarly intervention consists in its disentanglement of the complicity of world heritage practices with what the authors call the “ruination” of human beings. While “colonialisms have been predicated on guarding natural and cultural patrimonies for populations assumed to need guidance in how to value and preserve them,” this book suggests nothing less than that the deep-felt...

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