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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