Materializing Democracy

Toward a Revitalized Cultural Politics

Materializing Democracy

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 440 Illustrations: Published: June 2002

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Politics > Political Theory

For the most part, democracy is simply presumed to exist in the United States. It is viewed as a completed project rather than as a goal to be achieved. Fifteen leading scholars challenge that stasis in Materializing Democracy. They aim to reinvigorate the idea of democracy by placing it in the midst of a contentious political and cultural fray, which, the volume’s editors argue, is exactly where it belongs. Drawing on literary criticism, cultural studies, history, legal studies, and political theory, the essays collected here highlight competing definitions and practices of democracy—in politics, society, and, indeed, academia.

Covering topics ranging from rights discourse to Native American performance, from identity politics to gay marriage, and from rituals of public mourning to the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, the contributors seek to understand the practices, ideas, and material conditions that enable or foreclose democracy’s possibilities. Through readings of subjects as diverse as Will Rogers, Alexis de Tocqueville, slave narratives, interactions along the Texas-Mexico border, and liberal arts education, the contributors also explore ways of making democracy available for analysis. Materializing Democracy suggests that attention to disparate narratives is integral to the development of more complex, vibrant versions of democracy.

Contributors. Lauren Berlant, Wendy Brown, Chris Castiglia, Russ Castronovo, Joan Dayan, Wai Chee Dimock, Lisa Duggan, Richard R. Flores, Kevin Gaines, Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, Michael Moon, Dana D. Nelson, Christopher Newfield, Donald E. Pease


"The book's introduction does an excellent job of tying together these wide-ranging articles, and the organization of the chapter also enhances the coherence of this work." — Pippa Halloway , Journal of American History

"This collection responds in significant ways to the need for a new cultural politics in the pedagogy, study and practice of American studies. . . . [A]n excellent overview of this historical process. . . . The value of this volume is its diverse yet coherent criticism of democracy as a historically specific political concept and utopian alternatives to what has thus far remained our supreme fiction: democratic equality and justice for all." — John Carlos Rowe, American Quarterly

Materializing Democracy is an excellent and exciting collection of essays by a group of distinguished scholars who together address both the promises and limits of current and historical practices and theories of American democracy. This book will appeal to scholars and students across the disciplines who are interested in the intersection of culture, politics, national identity, and citizenship.” — Amy Kaplan, coeditor of Cultures of United States Imperialism

“The editors of Materializing Democracy have a vision—an activist vision—that, combined with rigorous analysis and scholarship, imparts an unusual energy and excitement to this volume.” — Priscilla Wald, author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Russ Castronovo is Jean Wall Bennett Professor of English and American Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Necro Citizenship: Death, Eroticism, and the Public Sphere in the Nineteenth-Century United States, published by Duke University Press.

Dana D. Nelson is Professor of English and Social Theory at the University of Kentucky and author of National Manhood: Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: Materializing Democracy and Other Political Fantasies / Russ Castronovo and Dana D. Nelson

Tocqueville’s Democratic Thing; or, Aristocracy in America / Donald E. Pease

Legal Slaves and Civil Bodies / Joan Dayan

Mexicans in a Material World: From John Wayne’s The Alamo to Stand-up Democracy on the Border / Richard R. Flores

Souls That Matter: Social Death and the Pedagogy of Democratic Citizenship / Russ Castronovo

Uncle Sam Needs a Wife: Citizenship and Denegation / Lauren Berlant

The New Homonormativity: The Sexual Politics of Neoliberalism / Lisa Duggan

The Genealogy of a Democratic Crush / Chris Castiglia

Representative/Democracy: The Political Work of Countersymbolic Representation / Dana D. Nelson

Rethinking Space, Rethinking Rights: Literature, Law, and Science / Wai Chee Dimock

A Long Foreground: Re-Materializing the History of Native American Relations to Mass Culture / Michael Moon

From Center to Margin: Internationalism and the Origins of Black Feminism / Kevin Gaines

Democratic Passions: Reconstructing Individual Agency / Christopher Newfield

Anti-Ideology: Education and Politics as Democratic Practices / Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

Moralism as Antipolitics / Wendy Brown

Works Cited



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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2938-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2910-7
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