American Archives: Gender, Race, and Class in Visual Culture / Edition 1

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Overview

Visual texts uniquely demonstrate the contested terms of American identity. In American Archives Shawn Michelle Smith offers a bold and disturbing account of how photography and the sciences of biological racialism joined forces in the nineteenth century to offer an idea of what Americans look like--or "should" look like. Her varied sources, which include the middle-class portrait, baby picture, criminal mugshot, and eugenicist record, as well as literary, scientific, and popular texts, enable her to demonstrate how new visual paradigms posed bodily appearance as an index to interior "essence." Ultimately we see how competing preoccupations over gender, class, race, and American identity were played out in the making of a wide range of popular and institutional photographs.

Smith demonstrates that as the body was variously mapped and defined as the key to essentialized identities, the image of the white middle-class woman was often held up as the most complete American ideal. She begins by studying gendered images of middle-class domesticity to expose a transformation of feminine architectures of interiority into the "essences" of "blood," "character," and "race." She reads visual documents, as well as literary texts by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pauline Hopkins, and Theodore Dreiser, as both indices of and forms of resistance to dominant images of gender, class, race, and national identity. Through this analysis Smith shows how the white male gaze that sought to define and constrain white women and people of color was contested and transformed over the course of the nineteenth century.

Smith identifies nineteenth-century visual paradigms that continue to shape debates about the terms of American belonging today. American Archives contributes significantly to the growing field of American visual cultural studies, and it is unprecedented in explaining how practices of racialized looking and the parameters of "American looks" were established in the first place.

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
The volume is full of provocative ideas and juxtapositionings. It is a deeply researched, rich, and complex weaving-together of important empirical material and theoretical strands which are relevant beyond the volume's substantive subject matter.
— Elizabeth Edwards
The Journal of American History
American Archives offers an intellectually adventurous and often astute assessment of visual culture's role in constructing American identity.
— Joshua Brown
The Journal of American History - Joshua Brown
American Archives offers an intellectually adventurous and often astute assessment of visual culture's role in constructing American identity.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute - Elizabeth Edwards
The volume is full of provocative ideas and juxtapositionings. It is a deeply researched, rich, and complex weaving-together of important empirical material and theoretical strands which are relevant beyond the volume's substantive subject matter.
From the Publisher

"American Archives offers an intellectually adventurous and often astute assessment of visual culture's role in constructing American identity."--Joshua Brown, The Journal of American History

"The volume is full of provocative ideas and juxtapositionings. It is a deeply researched, rich, and complex weaving-together of important empirical material and theoretical strands which are relevant beyond the volume's substantive subject matter."--Elizabeth Edwards, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

The Journal of American History
American Archives offers an intellectually adventurous and often astute assessment of visual culture's role in constructing American identity.
— Joshua Brown
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691004785
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 11/29/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 302
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xii
Introduction American Archives 3
Chapter One Prying Eyes and Middle-Class Magic in The House of the Seven Gables 11
"Magnetic" Daguerreotypes and the Masculine Gaze 12
Evil Eyes and Feminine Essence 19
Making the House a Home 24
The Public Private Sphere 26
Chapter Two The Properties of Blood 29
The Blood That Flows in Subterranean Pipes 31
Blood, Character, and Race 41
The Spectacle of Race 45
Seeing Bloodlines 47
Chapter Three Superficial Depths 51
The Portrait and the Likeness. Photographing the Soul 55
Class Acts: Real Things and True Performances 62
The Criminal Body and the Portrait of a Type 68
Consuming Commodities: Gender in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction 93
Chapter Four "Baby's Picture Is Always Treasured": Eugenics and the Reproduction of Whiteness in the Family Photograph Album 113
Mechanically Reproducing Baby 115
Reproducing Racial Inheritance 122
Sentimental Aura and the Evidence of Race 132
Chapter Five America Coursing through Her Veins 136
From the Bonds of Love to Bloodlines 137
America's White Aristocracy 141
In the Name of White Womanhood 144
"A Heritage Unique in the Ages" 150
Chapter Six Photographing the "American Negro": Nation, Race, and Photography at the Paris Exposition of 1900 157
Racialized Bodies, National Character, and Photographic Documentation 158
Making Americans 167
Conserving Race in the Nation 177
Chapter Seven Looking Back: Pauline Hopkins's Challenge to Eugenics 187
Envisioning Race: Bodies on Display in Hagar's Daughter "Sons of One Father" 194
Excavating the Hidden Self 198
Visions beyond the Color Line 203
Chapter Eight Reconfiguring a Masculine Gaze 206
Visions of Commodified Identity in Consumer Culture 207
Conspicuous Consumption under a Masculine Gaze: Rethinking Gender in Sister Carrie 210
Parting Glances 220
Afterimages A Brief Look at American Visual Culture in the 1990s 222
Notes 227
Bibliography 271
Index 291
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