FRANCES H. KENNEDY, The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2014),  416 pp.
Nov02

FRANCES H. KENNEDY, The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2014), 416 pp.

FRANCES H. KENNEDY, The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2014),  416 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   As you hold The American Revolution: A Historical Guidebook in your hands and flip through its pages, you will quickly ask yourself the questions, for whom was this book written and for what purpose. The publisher’s catalogue provides an explanation: Oxford University Press advertises the book, which is edited by Frances H. Kennedy and the Conservation Fund, as the “the ultimate historical traveler’s guide to the American Revolution, written for the vast and ever-growing crowd of history tourists.” I have my doubts that a large part of this crowd would find this guidebook to be at all useful. In preparing the guide, the author utilizes the list of 400 sites and landmarks connected with the American Revolution that the National Park Service compiled in 1996. One hundred and forty-seven of them are highlighted. Kennedy arranges the entries chronologically, starting with Boston Common, jumping from Bunker Hill to Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and concluding with Fraunces Tavern in New York. Among Kennedy’s selections are the well-known and popular destinations every American student will recognize from standard history textbooks like the already mentioned Independence Hall, Saratoga Battlefield, or Yorktown. Then you will also find places you have probably never heard of, and there may be sites you would miss. Kennedy’s list mainly includes battlefields and forts, and she concentrates on presenting the Revolution as a primarily military event. The guide would have been better balanced if Kennedy had complemented the focus on the military sites with more historic places where you could learn about daily life during the Revolution. But the question of selection is not my point of criticism. What makes this guidebook really useless is the manner in which it has been organized and the conception of its entries. Presenting the information chronologically is not at all helpful for a guidebook format. A good guidebook should be organized to allow tourists to locate sites of interest within a region and provide them with guidance on how to travel from place to place within that region.  In order to make use of the book as it is designed, you would have to know a specific date associated with a place of interest even before you opened the book. The entries themselves do not provide any guidance about what a visitor will find at the identified historic sites today. There is no practical information such as directions, visitor amenities, hours of operation, or entrance fees. Instead, the entries consist of abstracts compiled from scholarly works. Kennedy quotes such luminaries...

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WOLFGANG HOCHBRUCK, Die Geschöpfe des Epimetheus: Veteranen, Erinnerung und die Reproduktion des amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2011), 560pp. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬
Nov02

WOLFGANG HOCHBRUCK, Die Geschöpfe des Epimetheus: Veteranen, Erinnerung und die Reproduktion des amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2011), 560pp. ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

WOLFGANG HOCHBRUCK, Die Geschöpfe des Epimetheus: Veteranen, Erinnerung und die Reproduktion des amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2011), 560pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.4   This deeply informed and richly layered study starts out from essentially one key question: How has it been possible that an overall positive image of idealized southern “rebels” holds such a prominent place in America’s cultural history, given that the secession almost destroyed the nation’s democratic union? As Wolfgang Hochbruck unfolds his answer, he traces the ways in which a wide range of cultural expressions have constructed, reconstructed and, in fact, pre-constructed the American Civil War between 1845 and the 1960s. Reaching back before the beginning of the actual military conflict, and forward to its centennial, his book offers illuminating discussions of popular songs, poems, plays and magazine fiction; veterans’ letters, diaries, and photographs; battle souvenirs, military service records, and uniforms; exhibitions, memorials, and battlefield parks; and a number of canonical and lesser known short stories, novels, and films. According to Hochbruck, the dynamics that have been at play in the construction of a romantic image of southern “rebels” are linked to the peculiar character of Civil War veterans’ memory, to the shaping power of a modern cultural industry, and to the practice of structuring the memory of an event by reaching back to a time before the event took place, resulting in what he calls an “epimetheic” process. The argument is essentially three-fold: 1) the Civil War was the first military conflict whose participants, due to their discursive position, have actively constructed their own memorialization on a massive scale, 2) the veterans’ memories stand not so much in tension with as they become part of a pervasive industrial productionof the Civil War and its subjects, characterized by a remarkable alliance between the cultural industries of North and South, and 3) the prominence of “positive” images of the “rebels,” including a range of racist, undemocratic positions, has been shaped by the (public memory of the) pre–war period, channeling individual and collective expectations for decades to come. Die Geschöpfe des Epimetheus (Epimetheus’ Creatures: Veterans, Memory, and the Reproduction of the American Civil War) shows how processes of memory and industrial reproduction have reduced recollections of the war to a progressively smaller number of events and ideological interpretations and how veteran experiences have been incorporated and streamlined in the process; the veterans are turned into quasi-mythical figures that embody the trans-sectional nostalgia for the “Old South” and the ideal of national reconciliation at the price of (remembering) more differentiated and critical positions towards slavery, secession, and war. The study is as committed to theory as it is...

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EDITH M. ZIEGLER, Harlots, Hussies & Poor Unfortunate Women. Crime, Transportation & the Servitude of Female Convicts (Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama P. 2014), 228 pp.
Nov02

EDITH M. ZIEGLER, Harlots, Hussies & Poor Unfortunate Women. Crime, Transportation & the Servitude of Female Convicts (Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama P. 2014), 228 pp.

EDITH M. ZIEGLER, Harlots, Hussies & Poor Unfortunate Women. Crime, Transportation & the Servitude of Female Convicts (Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama P. 2014), 228 pp.  Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   Die Quellenlage zum Inhalt des Untertitels ist einerseits hervorragend, andererseits ausgesprochen schlecht. Hervorragend, weil – meist auf beiden Seiten des Atlantik  – zahllose Gerichtsakten, Zeitungen, Memoiren, Berichte, Verordnungen, Gesetze, politische Demarchen, Schiffspapiere, Ego-Dokumente etc. mehr als ausreichend sind, um zahllose Fallstudien, Anekdoten, Genre-Skizzen, Kriminalgeschichte und vielerlei Informationen zu belegen; ausgesprochen schlecht, weil diese Quellen derart lückenhaft sind, dass so etwas Elementares wie die Anzahl der Deportierten, hier speziell zwischen 1718 (Transportation Act) und 1776, höchst umstritten ist.   Die Schätzungen liegen zwischen 25.000 und mehr als 50.000 Sträflingen, die zwangsweise von Britannien in die amerikanischen Kolonien spediert wurden, der Löwenanteil nach Virginia und Maryland. Davon sollen 20% bis 30% Frauen gewesen sein. Edith Ziegler glaubt an über 50.000 mit einem weiblichen Anteil von 15.000. Die niedrigeren Zahlen könnten unter anderem darauf zurückgehen, dass Historiker im 19. Jahrhundert (auch George Bancroft) auf den Druck der Pflanzer-Aristokratie reagierten, deren Albtraum es war, unter ihren Vorfahren könnten Kriminelle sein; es schien also ratsam, deren Existenz zu leugnen oder jedenfalls zu minimieren.   Ziegler widmet zwei der acht Kapitel der Kriminalität und dem Gerichtswesen vor allem in den großen britischen Städten, zwei der Überfahrt und dem Verkauf der Sträflinge in Maryland (Hauptuntersuchungsgebiet der Verfasserin). Das fünfte Kapitel behandelt Stellung und Tätigkeit der Frauen in Maryland, das sechste die Flucht aus dem Dienstverhältnis innerhalb der Kolonien. Im vorletzten geht es um die (geringe) Kriminalität der zu 7 oder 14 Jahren oder lebenslänglichem Aufenthalt verurteilten Frauen und die vorzeitige Rückkehr nach Britannien von einigen – ungeachtet der angedrohten (und selten ausgeführten) Todesstrafe. Im letzten Kapitel wird das Schicksal der weiblichen Sträflinge in den Jahren des Unabhängigkeitskrieges beschrieben.   Es war noch der Continental Congress, der 1788 eine Resolution verabschiedete, die den Einzelstaaten empfahl, „to pass proper laws for preventing the transportation of convicted malefactors from foreign countries to the United States” – eine Maßnahme, die den Sträflings-Import aus dem ehemaligen Mutterland endgültig abschloss, der jedoch 40 Jahre später eine neue Etappe der Kriminellen-Abschiebung in die USA folgte, diesmal aus etwa 30 anderen europäischen Ländern, darunter gut 20 deutsche Staaten. Bis Ende der 1860er Jahre liefen die getarnten Sträflings-Verschickungen der Kontinentaleuropäer nach Nordamerika mit den britischen völlig öffentlichen Deportationen nach Australien parallel. Die Zahlen allerdings lagen weit auseinander: etwa 4.000 in die USA, 163.000 oder gut 40-mal so viele nach Australien.   Eine Conclusion fehlt, aber es folgen sechs Appendices auf 20 Seiten, die nützliche Tabellen und Gesetzestexte enthalten. Das Buch hat Schwächen. Das vermutlich...

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MARC PRIEWE, Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England 1620-1730, American Studies Monograph Series (vol 249) (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, 2014), 408 pp.
Nov01

MARC PRIEWE, Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England 1620-1730, American Studies Monograph Series (vol 249) (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, 2014), 408 pp.

MARC PRIEWE, Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England 1620-1730, American Studies Monograph Series (vol 249) (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag, 2014), 408 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   Marc Priewe’s Textualizing Illness: Medicine and Culture in New England 1620-1730 offers an encyclopedic study of early American medicine through an analysis that intersects literary, historical, and medical works. Priewe seeks to identify the “eclectic fusion” of contesting and conflicting perspectives on health, disease, and healing as they are shaped by belief systems, attitudes toward the natural world, and scientific knowledge (68). Because, as he demonstrates, the New World provided a unique opportunity for hybrid knowledge about disease and healing, the works of often-anthologized early American authors (i.e. Anne Bradstreet, Cotton Mather, Edward Taylor, Michael Wigglesworth, etc.) should be reexamined for a better understanding of colonial views on health and disease. Central to Priewe’s discussion are the amalgamated views of health and healing in colonial New England. In addition to the traditional Galenic system of the body where health is achieved by balance of the humors and sickness indicates an imbalance, early Americans integrated Native American cures, European folk healing practices, and new emerging medical science.  However, as Priewe points out, these were always tempered by the reigning medical theory: Christianity. Ministers and laypeople alike believed in divine pathogenesis, the notion that the body was affected by one’s spiritual condition.         For the seventeenth century and the early decades of the eighteenth, most colonists recognized illness “as complicated yet potentially legible signs from God” (351), but as science and religion became more discrete, this medical providentialism became more and more secularized, an evolution that Priewe traces throughout the text. As Priewe explains, his work is concerned with the “shuttling […] between God and Galen” (Galen’s principles of humoral medicine dominated medical science for centuries) in colonial America (14). This negotiation of the spiritual and the natural or scientific was ongoing and varied from person to person and even from case to case. For instance, Cotton Mather’s writings about medicine show a constant conflict between reason and faith. Nonetheless, as Priewe shows, the competition between medicine and science that had divisive effects in England in the seventeenth century was less of a problem in early America where the potential for hybrid knowledge and care was possible and even necessary with the dearth of physicians. In addition, the cures described in the authors Priewe studies are a product of transnational information circulation where Paraclesian iotrochemistry (wherein chemical means were used to treat diseases) was mixed with dream healing (the belief that cures could be revealed in dreams). These and other methods were “coexisting, contesting...

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JOHN CYRIL BARTON, Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), pp. 330.; PAUL CHRISTIAN JONES, Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011), pp. 230.
Nov01

JOHN CYRIL BARTON, Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), pp. 330.; PAUL CHRISTIAN JONES, Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011), pp. 230.

JOHN CYRIL BARTON, Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2014), pp. 330. PAUL CHRISTIAN JONES, Against the Gallows: Antebellum American Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment (Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2011), pp. 230. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4     From a Western European perspective, the US American death penalty in the twenty-first century often stands as the icon of a penal system characterized by judicial error, racial bias, capitalist exploitation and, not least, by an almost medieval inhumanity—a fatal backwardness that marks America’s difference from Western Europe. This perspective easily occludes that in the nineteenth century, the US was at the forefront of penal reform and the abolition of the death penalty. In fact, the state of Pennsylvania was the first to introduce murder in two degrees, and many other states—in contrast to Western European nations— drastically reduced the number of capital crimes on their statutes; the antebellum period, moreover, saw a privatization of executions throughout the American northeast and a sustained campaign for the abolition of capital punishment led by state and national societies.             Historians such as Louis P. Masur, Stuart Banner, Philip English Mackey, and Alan Rogers have documented the activities of this “other” abolitionist movement in the age of reform, yet the role that an imaginative literature played within the battle against capital punishment has been largely overlooked. With Against the Gallows: Antebellum Writers and the Movement to Abolish Capital Punishment and Literary Executions: Capital Punishment and American Culture, 1820-1925, Paul Christian Jones and John Cyril Barton, who have both been publishing on the issue in journals throughout the 2000s, have now offered the first monographs to address this neglected body of texts. Yet Jones’s and Barton’s takes on how literature participates in the debate about the death penalty are very different, and in that sense, Against the Gallows and Literary Executions complement each other well and provide us with a broad understanding of the engagement of literary writing and writers in the discourse about capital punishment in the antebellum period and beyond.             Jones, who published his study in 2011, can be said to have opened up the investigation of nineteenth-century death penalty texts by focusing on a great variety of genres and authors of the 1840s and 1850s—building on Barton’s 2006 call to “understand[…] the American Renaissance in terms of that ‘other’ abolitionist movement.”[1]Against the Gallows focuses on explicit anti-gallows writing and seeks to reconstruct “various cases of intriguing cooperation between America’s literary figures […] and the reformers, politicians, clergymen, and periodical editors who were attempting to end the practice of capital punishment...

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STEFFEN HAGEMANN, WOLFGANG TÖNNESMANN, und JÜRGEN WILZEWSKI, eds. Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen. Die Außenpolitik der USA in der Ära Obama  (Atlantische Texte. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2014), 476pp.
Nov01

STEFFEN HAGEMANN, WOLFGANG TÖNNESMANN, und JÜRGEN WILZEWSKI, eds. Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen. Die Außenpolitik der USA in der Ära Obama (Atlantische Texte. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2014), 476pp.

STEFFEN HAGEMANN, WOLFGANG TÖNNESMANN, und JÜRGEN WILZEWSKI, eds. Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen. Die Außenpolitik der USA in der Ära Obama  (Atlantische Texte. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2014), 476pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   In the preface to this collection of essays, the editors lament that research on the United States has become marginal at German political science departments (IX). Maybe so, but, fortunately, their institutional marginality has not prevented German-speaking political scientists (it should be noted that several contributors to this volume are based in Austria) from producing excellent work grounded in empirical research and theoretical frameworks. Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen (A World Power Facing New Challenges: U.S. Foreign Policy in the Obama Era) is the latest publication in a series of conference volumes aimed at analyzing American world power in its domestic and international settings. As the title suggests, the book focuses on the efforts of the Obama administration to renew America‘s claim to world leadership as well as its international credibility, which had suffered significantly during the presidency of George W. Bush. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had led to what many observers considered “imperial overstretch” even before the financial crisis of 2007/8 dealt a serious blow to American economic power. When he assumed office in 2009, President Barack Obama faced a grave domestic crisis and a populace tired of military interventions and increasingly skeptical of international commitments. Internationally, the rise of China and Russia’s anti-Western turn posed momentous challenges to American leadership. At the beginning of his first term, Obama not only promised to restore American power but also to reduce its costs, pursue multilateral approaches, and abide by international rules. To what extent has he been able to deliver on his promises and to what extent has he succeeded in restoring America’s global leadership role? Six years into the Obama presidency, the authors of this book offer tentative answers to these questions.               Weltmacht vor neuen Herausforderungen contains thirteen essays divided into three major parts. Part one addresses the domestic constraints on Obama’s attempt to implement a foreign policy based on smart power, that is on a prudent mix between elements of hard military and economic power, on the one hand, and soft power that includes commitments to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law on the other. Jürgen Wilzewski concedes that Obama has been genuinely committed to smart power but also notes the failure to close the detainment camp at Guantanamo and the policy of “targeted killings” as conspicuous violations of a foreign policy based on values; Congress, the author finds, is only partly to blame for that failure. In their...

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ASTRID HAAS, Stages of Agency: The Contribution of American Drama to the AIDS Discourse (Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 334 pp. ; PIA WIEGMINK, Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States(Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 434 pp. + 18 ill.
Nov01

ASTRID HAAS, Stages of Agency: The Contribution of American Drama to the AIDS Discourse (Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 334 pp. ; PIA WIEGMINK, Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States(Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 434 pp. + 18 ill.

ASTRID HAAS, Stages of Agency: The Contribution of American Drama to the AIDS Discourse (Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 334 pp. PIA WIEGMINK, Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States(Heidelberg: Winter, 2011), 434 pp. + 18 ill. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   According to Susan Smith Harris, drama—and, one might add, the performing arts in general—have always been treated as the “bastard child” of the American literary family, i.e. “[they have] been marginalized, excluded, or ‘disciplined’ in the culture in general and the university in particular.”[1] She identifies the reasons for the neglect and dismissal of American drama and performances as being both historical and ideological. They range from the contested history of drama and theater in the United States, the alleged “unworthiness” or “non-literariness” of this kind of literature, and the ensuing generic hegemony of poetry and prose, to the increasing professionalization of the field of American Studies. Given this, the persistence of an anti-theatrical sentiment in academia manifests itself in the conspicuous absence of American drama from various anthologies, critical and literary histories, college texts and curricula, literary magazines, scholarly journals, or individual studies.[2]         Both studies under review, Astrid Haas’s Stages of Agency: The Contributions of American Drama to the AIDS Discourse and Pia Wiegmink’s Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States, are most welcome exceptions to this (unwritten) rule as they not only focus on (activist) plays and performances, respectively, but, they also demonstrate how American Studies can generally benefit, methodologically and in terms of subject matter, from opening up to “performative expressions of American culture” (Wiegmink 391). While Haas’s study is the more traditional one of the two in that it offers a “text-centered approach […] grounded in literary rather than performance studies” (14), Wiegmink deliberately concentrates on performative rather than textual expressions of activism and political engagement. What both authors have in common, however, is their strong belief in the fact that, as Haas rightfully puts it, “art can […] serve as a corrective to hegemonic views” (7) and, even more importantly, that politically engaged art is not obsolete but alive and kicking. Stages of Agency is, according to the author Astrid Haas,   the first to analyze U.S.-American AIDS drama produced on the country’s mainstream stage between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s with a focus on the role of theater and drama as social agents in the societal perception and signification of the epidemic through their interaction with and contribution to the diverse medical, socio-political, media, and artistic discourses on AIDS in the United States. (9-10)   Indeed, Haas’s is a pioneering study as it exclusively focuses on representations of...

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PHILIP GOULD, Writing the Rebellion: Loyalists and the Literature of Politics in British America (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2013), 217 pages.
Nov01

PHILIP GOULD, Writing the Rebellion: Loyalists and the Literature of Politics in British America (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2013), 217 pages.

  PHILIP GOULD, Writing the Rebellion: Loyalists and the Literature of Politics in British America (Oxford and New York: Oxford UP, 2013), 217 pp. Amerikastudien/American Studies 60.4   “Of the reasons which influenced, of the hopes and fears which agitated, and of the miseries and records which are left of the Loyalists—or, as they were called in the politics of the time, the ‘Tories’—of the American Revolution, but little is known. The most intelligent, the best informed among us, confess the deficiency of their knowledge.”[1] To say that nothing has changed since Whig politician and historian Lorenzo Sabine (1803-1877) wrote those lines would be stretching the point. From the early 1820s when he moved to Maine, Sabine devoted himself to the history of the other side of the American Revolution. His publications were extremely controversial, for prior to that time it was an undisputed and common understanding that there was only one story to be told about the American Revolution, and that the good and the bad characters in this story were to be easily identified as the Patriots and the Loyalists.  More recent studies on the Loyalists, like those of Mary Beth Norton or Maya Jasanoff,[2] have definitely influenced our understanding of this marginalized group and may even have raised awareness of the importance of studying Loyalists within the context of the American Revolution. However, there is no doubt that the Loyalists continue to be relegated to the shadows when it comes to historical research of this period. In Writing the Rebellion, Philip Gould, the Nicholas Brown Professor of Oratory and Belles Lettres at Brown University, tries to shed some light upon this shadowy topic from the perspective of literary history. He begins his brief and very readable study by posing the question why has “Revolutionary literary studies largely ignored the writings that opposed the American rebellion” (6)—especially since those writings have not been the work of a small group of misfits, but rather represent the thoughts of a significant minority of political dissenters, who are estimated to have comprised 20 to 30 percent of the British Americans in the Thirteen Colonies. Gould’s answer is as simple as it is striking: “The winning side stands in as a synecdoche for the whole” (6). According to Gould, for generations, American literary history contributed to the development of a national narrative of “truly American” values and culture.  At the core of this narrative is the year 1776, which constitutes the starting point and the manifestation of the principles of independence as the principles of the United States.  Those who fought for and eventually gained independence were—of course—the Patriots.  The dissenting...

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ALEXANDER EMMERICH and PHILIPP GASSERT, Amerikas Kriege (Darmstadt: Theiss, 2014), 264 pp.
Nov01

ALEXANDER EMMERICH and PHILIPP GASSERT, Amerikas Kriege (Darmstadt: Theiss, 2014), 264 pp.

ALEXANDER EMMERICH and PHILIPP GASSERT, Amerikas Kriege (Darmstadt: Theiss, 2014), 264 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4     Es gibt bereits einige umfassende Überblickswerke zur amerikanischen Geschichte in deutscher Sprache (Sautter, 1976 [8. Aufl. 2013]; Heideking/Mauch, 2008; Dippel, 2010; Stöver, 2012; Berg, 2013;). Alexander Emmerich und Phillip Gassert strukturieren ihre US-Geschichte entlang „Amerikas Kriege[n]“. Diese Prämisse, die vielleicht gerade dem Kultur- oder Gesellschaftshistoriker zunächst etwas eng erscheinen mag, erweist sich als ausgesprochen zielführend. Nicht zuletzt ist das öffentliche Image der USA heute durchaus ein kriegerisches. Die Autoren halten es in ihrer Analyse keineswegs mit Heraklit und stellen den Krieg als „Vater aller Dinge“ dar, sondern spannen überzeugend den größeren Zusammenhang der verschiedenen Konflikte auf. Zu den diachronen Verflechtungen, die zuweilen über mehrere Jahrzehnte oder länger verfolgt werden, gehören Erinnerungskultur und nationale Mythen ebenso wie Argumentationsmuster für und wider den Krieg. Gezwungenermaßen können die einzelnen Konflikte nicht in ihrem ganzen Detailreichtum behandelt werden. Gleichzeitig aber legen die Autoren besonderen Wert auf den öffentlichen Diskurs und erinnern immer wieder daran, dass keiner der Kriege, in die Amerika involviert war, unumstritten war – erst recht nicht in den USA selbst. Gerade für eine deutsche Leserschaft – und dieses Buch richtet sich eindeutig eher an eine interessierte Öffentlichkeit als an ein Fachpublikum – ist diese differenzierte Darstellung der amerikanischen Positionen interessant und – vom Vietnamkrieg einmal abgesehen – auch neu. Unter der Leitfrage wie „Demokratie und Krieg“ zusammen gehen (7ff. und 248 ff.) entfalten die Autoren ein vielschichtiges und durchaus ambivalentes Bild. Es reicht von den Gründungsidealen in der Unabhängigkeitserklärung bis zum Massenpatriotismus nach dem 11. September 2001. Wilsons Reden zum Eintritt in den 1. Weltkrieg deuten Emmerich und Gassert als „Schlüssel zum Verhältnis der USA zum Krieg“ (8), wird doch die enge Verwobenheit von Idealismus und wirtschaftlichem Interesse ebenso deutlich wie die eigenartige Mischung aus Missionsdrang und Verantwortungsgefühl. Doch gehöre, so die These des Buches, auch der Ausbau von Geheimdienstapparaten und die Investition in Waffentechnologien, wie Langstreckenraketen oder jüngst Drohnen, zum „democratic way of war“ (10). Da demokratische Öffentlichkeiten eine besonders geringe Toleranzgrenze gegenüber den eigenen Opfern aufwiesen, seien sie eher bereit, alternative Formen zur klassischen Kriegführung zu akzeptieren um die eigenen Soldaten zu schützen. Dass jedoch auch gerade in den USA selbst über verdeckte Präventivmissionen der CIA oder den Einsatz von bestimmten Waffentypen heftig diskutiert wurde und wird, thematisiert das Buch an dieser Stelle nicht. Erst später wird darauf verwiesen dass, vor allem seit den 1970er Jahren, Menschenrechtsverletzungen einen neuen Stellenwert in den Antikriegsdiskursen haben (233). Auch die Frage, welche Rolle das Militär an sich in der amerikanischen Gesellschaft spielt, wird nicht erörtert, oder aber was es in diesem Zusammenhang bedeutet, dass...

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GERALD HORNE, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (New York, N.Y.: New York UP, 2014), 363pp.
Nov01

GERALD HORNE, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (New York, N.Y.: New York UP, 2014), 363pp.

GERALD HORNE, The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America (New York, N.Y.: New York UP, 2014), 363pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4   The election of Barack Obama promised the emergence of a post-racial society in which Americans are no longer divided along black-and-whites lines. However, the upheavals against racism, white police brutality, and legal injustice against African Americans following the deadly shooting of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson have drastically demonstrated that this hope was premature.  In his new book The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America Gerald Horne, professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston and one of the most prolific Marxist historians of slavery, imperialism, American race relations, and the African American freedom struggle, traces the genealogy of American racism back to its colonial beginnings. Horne makes the startling case that racism and slavery were not only founding pillars of the American Republic, but also a major cause for American independence. Thus, Horne considers the much-celebrated revolt of the North American settlers not as a triumph of freedom and democracy but as a last minute counter-revolution to rescue slavery and white supremacy in the face of pressing dangers from slave insurrections, Native American resistance, and British abolitionism. While some of Horne’s arguments seem familiar from the more recent revisionist literature on slavery and the American Revolution stressing the importance of slavery at the founding of the American Republic, Gerald Horne builds on and expands this scholarship.[1] Horne ably integrates the arguments about the centrality of slavery and African American agency in the American Revolution into a coherent narrative and manages to locate it within the overall history of early capitalism and the geopolitical rivalries among European powers in the Caribbean and the Americas. Due to its broad sweep, the book is not always an easy read and sometimes hard to follow. However, the reader is rewarded by a wealth of information on slave rebellions and thought-provoking arguments challenging the conventional wisdom about the relationship of racism, imperialism and the egalitarian spirit of the American Revolution. Horne sets out from the premise that it “is an error to view the history of colonial British North America as simply ‘pre-U.S. history’ in a teleological manner” (viii) and that “a number of contingent trends led to 1776” (3). As far as enslaved African Americans and the soon-to-be displaced Native Americans were concerned, the victory of the white North American settlers in the American War of Independence was probably the worst possible...

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KATHLEEN DONEGAN, Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 255 pp.
Nov01

KATHLEEN DONEGAN, Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 255 pp.

KATHLEEN DONEGAN, Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America (Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2014), 255 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.4     What happened to Englishmen’s identities during the establishment of colonial settlements in America? And how did these settlers “become colonial” living in the New World, experiencing crisis, misery, and catastrophe through suffering and acts of violence? In Seasons of Misery: Catastrophe and Colonial Settlement in Early America, Kathleen Donegan sets out to answer these and related questions in her examination of early colonial identity in English settlement writings and narratives of the first years, putting crisis and catastrophe at the center of her study’s interest. By focusing on colonial individuals and their writing through the framework of catastrophe and misery, Donegan uncovers a history often overlooked in past research. She zooms in on the “present” of the early years of settlement and on formative, “seasoning” (7) experiences, disconnecting it from being solely read in the comprehensive context of the subsequent overall achievement of the colonies. Part of the value of the book stems from Donegan’s selection of texts and her excellent close readings—often against the grain—of well-known authors, like William Bradford or George Percy, and less widely read narratives, like John Nicholl’s An Houre Glasse of Indian Newes (1607). She sheds light on the interplay of the settlers’ charter-imposed official duty of establishing a colony versus actual experiences, on the settlers’ negotiations with their own sense of belonging, and their transition of becoming “something else” (87) due to everyday circumstances. Seasons of Misery is organized as a “lateral study of an intensive period” (16) of Donegan’s chosen colonies “rather than a longitudinal study of any one region or a comparative account of regional development” (16). In her in-depth analysis of four early English settlements in the United States and the West Indies, Roanoke, Jamestown, Plymouth, and Barbados, the author thoroughly proves her claim that “it was through early catastrophe that colonial identities were first formed” (20).  The book is divided into four major chapters, each dedicated to one of the stated colonies, and framed with an introduction and an afterword. In the introduction (“Unsettlement”), Donegan starts with the overall historical as well as literary contexts of her texts and explains her focus on misery and catastrophe with reference to early American scholars, such as Mitchell Breitwieser or Richard Slotkin. Donegan approaches her material through literary criticism and narrative history to eventually uncover “both the junctures and disjunctures between the inner and material world” (16) on the way to creating “new forms of coloniality” (16). Chapter 1 (“Roanoke: Left in Virginia”) opens up the...

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