National Manhood

Capitalist Citizenship and the Imagined Fraternity of White Men

National Manhood

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: Published: October 1998

Author: Dana D. Nelson

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

National Manhood explores the relationship between gender, race, and nation by tracing developing ideals of citizenship in the United States from the Revolutionary War through the 1850s. Through an extensive reading of literary and historical documents, Dana D. Nelson analyzes the social and political articulation of a civic identity centered around the white male and points to a cultural moment in which the theoretical consolidation of white manhood worked to ground, and perhaps even found, the nation.
Using political, scientific, medical, personal, and literary texts ranging from the Federalist papers to the ethnographic work associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition to the medical lectures of early gynecologists, Nelson explores the referential power of white manhood, how and under what conditions it came to stand for the nation, and how it came to be a fraternal articulation of a representative and civic identity in the United States. In examining early exemplary models of national manhood and by tracing its cultural generalization, National Manhood reveals not only how an impossible ideal has helped to form racist and sexist practices, but also how this ideal has simultaneously privileged and oppressed white men, who, in measuring themselves against it, are able to disavow their part in those oppressions.
Historically broad and theoretically informed, National Manhood reaches across disciplines to engage those studying early national culture, race and gender issues, and American history, literature, and culture.


National Manhood sets a new standard for the synthetic treatment of white racial formation in teh early national and antebellum periods. . . . No book better positions us to understand the chants from Douglas’s supporters.” — David R. Roediger, Journal of the Early Republic

“[A] tremendous achievement for gender studies as well as race theory, American studies, and literary studies.” — Amy E. Cummins, Left History

“[E]xemplifies state-of-the-art literary and cultural American Studies. . . . [A] brilliant model for the current reshaping of American Studies.” — Stephen Shapiro , European Journal of American Culture

“[T]he greatest strengths of [Nelson’s] book lie in its close readings, which are often imaginative and insightful.” — Kristin Hoganson , Social History

“[T]he inner workings of national manhood are systemic and difficult to see; Nelson provides a much needed and sophisticated examination of this mode of social organization which emerged in the nation’s first seventy years and remains in many respects dominant today. . . . Nelson has reinvigorated ‘nation’ as an analytic category and provided the terms and background for future work on various local identities . . . and their interaction with, resistance to, and in many cases appropriation by national white manhood.” — Mike Millner , Mississippi Quarterly

“Nelson examines the ideology of white male fraternity and its link to civic nationalism and national democracy in early American history. . . . Nelson’s book adds to the growing field of ‘whiteness studies’. . . . [R]ewarding for culture and whiteness studies enthusiasts and for other serious and determined students of racial, gender, and political issues in the early Republic.” — , Choice

“Nelson points to a cultural moment in which the notion of white manhood worked to ground, and perhaps even found, the nation. Nelson exposes the impossibility of this notion, an ideal which has helped to form racist and sexist practices.” — , Feminist Bookstore News

“Nelson’s book makes a particularly original contribution to American studies by giving us a precise configuration of race, gender, class, and sexuality that helps us think about how these categories played the central part in constructing national ideology. Whether or not Americanists want to give national manhood the centrality in such ideological construction that Nelson gives it, those working on the problem of national formations will have to take her paradigm into consideration as they formulate their own ideas of the nation and of national development.” — Eric Cheyfitz , American Literature

"Nelson offers a persuasive and multidimensional analysis of the evolution of masculine ideals. . . . [She] contributes to the growing literature on masculinity in early America, compellingly demonstrating the power of gender as an interpretive category." — , William & Mary Quarterly

“(Most) White men can’t see. They can’t see how racism reduces their own opportunities; how notions of national manhood constricts their access to power or limits their participation in democracy; how their nationalism and embrace of rugged individualism undermines real social justice for themselves and for the rest of us. National Manhood could open their eyes, if they have the courage to read it. It certainly opened mine.” — Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Yo’ Mama’s DisFunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America

“A remarkably adventuresome and illuminating study.” — T. Walter Herbert, Southwestern University

“Few studies combine the historical breadth and theoretical sophistication of National Manhood, and none puts together the topics of gender and nation, whiteness and masculinity with the efficacy of this work.” — Priscilla Wald, University of Washington


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Price: $28.95

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