Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism

Tender Violence: Domestic Visions in an Age of U.S. Imperialism

by Laura Wexler
     
 

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Laura Wexler presents an incisive analysis of how the first American female photojournalists contributed to a "domestic vision" that reinforced the imperialism and racism of turn-of-the-century America. These women photographers, white and middle class, constructed images of war disguised as peace through a mechanism Wexler calls the "averted eye," which had its

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Overview

Laura Wexler presents an incisive analysis of how the first American female photojournalists contributed to a "domestic vision" that reinforced the imperialism and racism of turn-of-the-century America. These women photographers, white and middle class, constructed images of war disguised as peace through a mechanism Wexler calls the "averted eye," which had its origins in the private domain of family photography.

Wexler examines the work of Frances Benjamin Johnston, Gertrude Käsebier, Alice Austen, the Gerhard sisters, and Jessie Tarbox Beals. The book includes more than 150 photographs taken between 1898 and 1904, such as photos Johnston took aboard Admiral Dewey's flagship as it returned home from conquering Manila, Austen's photos of immigrants at Ellis Island, and Beals's images of the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904.

In a groundbreaking approach to the study of photography, Wexler raises up these images as "texts" to be analyzed alongside other texts of the period for what they say about the discourses of power. Tender Violence is an important contribution not only to the fields of history of photography and gender studies but also to our growing understanding of U.S. imperialism during this period.

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Editorial Reviews

Women's Review of Books
Wexler offers a groundbreaking account of how some of America's first women photojournalists became complicit with America's imperialistic project.
Choice
This book is a rigorous and outstanding examination of gender as a key contributor to specific visual outcomes.
Amy Kaplan
A remarkable book that skillfully interweaves the traditionally separate realms of domesticity and foreign policy.
Karen Sanchez-Eppler
This is one of the most beautifully architected academic books I know. Its portraits of early photographers and discussions of individual images build upon each other to produce a rich and ample sense of time and place so that reading it has often felt like inhabiting a world.
Booknews
Wexler (American studies, Yale U.) analyzes how the first American female photojournalists contributed to a domestic vision that reinforced the imperialism and racism of the US at the turn of the 20th century. The more than 150 photographs include images from Admiral Dewey's flagship returning from the conquest of Manila, immigrants at Ellis Island, and the St. Louis World's fair of 1904. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"Superb."
Feminist Studies

A politically sophisticated analysis of photographs as portrayal and betrayal.

Journal of American History

This book is a true landmark in the field of American studies.

Technology and Culture

Wexler offers a groundbreaking account of how some of America's first women photojournalists became complicit with America's imperialistic project.

Women's Review of Books

A rigorous and outstanding examination of gender as a key contributor to specific visual outcomes. . . . A most welcome addition.

Choice

[Shows] extraordinary scholarly imagination and acumen.

American Quarterly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807825709
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
11/06/2000
Series:
Cultural Studies of the United States Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.51(w) x 9.62(h) x 1.12(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
This book is a rigorous and outstanding examination of gender as a key contributor to specific visual outcomes. Tender Violence is a most welcome addition to the literature and is highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and interested general readers.—Choice

Wexler has forged a genuinely new method for the use of photographic images as primary resource material. This book is a true landmark in the field of American studies.—Technology and Culture

A remarkable book that skillfully interweaves the traditionally separate realms of domesticity and foreign policy. Wexler's brilliant analyses of photographs and texts reveal how women's work of producing domestic images contributes to the production of national power at home and abroad. Tender Violence will profoundly change the way we see photographs through the lens of gender and the way photographs yield an intimate vision of imperial power.—Amy Kaplan, Mt. Holyoke College

In this fascinating study, [Wexler] probes the imperial logic lurking behind the domestic surfaces of over 150 photographs taken in the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century. . . . Removing the benign mask of these images by situating them within the discourses of racism, imperialism and eugenics, Wexler offers a groundbreaking account of how some of America's first women photojournalists became complicit with America's imperialistic project.—Women's Review of Books

[Shows] extraordinary scholarly imagination and acumen. . . . Wexler provides 'a means of seeing' photography that is so productive of insight as to almost reach past or out from the putative frames of her study. All those interested in a 'means of seeing' photography, domestic sentiment, imperialism and reform and seeing them as linked will be reading and rereading her wonderful book.—American Quarterly

A politically sophisticated analysis of photographs as portrayal and betrayal. . . . [Reveals] the necessity of theory that goes beyond the discrete deployments of gender, race, class, and ethnicity formulas.—Journal of American History

Superb.—Feminist Studies

Tender Violence lays bare the symbiotic ties between domestic vision and U.S. imperialism and reveals with painful precision how what these women did with their cameras served to impose and fortify social hierarchies. Wexler's readings of photographs are astute: stunning examples of how attention to formal details can open into social narrative. This is one of the most beautifully architected academic books I know. Its portraits of early photographers and discussions of individual images build upon each other to produce a rich and ample sense of time and place so that reading it has often felt like inhabiting a world.—Karen Sanchez-Eppler, author of Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body

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