The Ellis Island Snow Globe

The Ellis Island Snow Globe

a John Hope Franklin Center Book

More about this series

Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 24 b&w photos Published: September 2005

Author: Erica Rand

American Studies, Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies

In The Ellis Island Snow Globe, Erica Rand, author of the smart and entertaining book Barbie’s Queer Accessories, takes readers on an unconventional tour of Ellis Island, the migration station turned heritage museum, and its neighbor, the Statue of Liberty. By pausing to reflect on what is and is not on display at these two iconic national monuments, Rand focuses attention on whose heritage is honored and whose obscured. She also reveals the shifting connections between sex, money, material products, and ideas of the nation in everything from the ostensible father-mother-child configuration on an Ellis Island golf ball purchased at the gift shop to the multi-million dollar July 4, 1986 Liberty Weekend extravaganza celebrating the Statue’s centennial just days after the Supreme Court’s un-Libertylike decision upholding the antisodomy laws challenged in Bowers v. Hardwick.

Rand notes that portrayals of the Statue of Liberty as a beacon for immigrants tend to suppress the Statue’s connections to people brought to this country by force. She examines what happened to migrants at Ellis Island whose bodies did not match the gender suggested by the clothing they wore. In light of contemporary ideas about safety and security, she examines the “Decide an Immigrant’s Fate” program, which has visitors to Ellis Island act as a 1910 board of inspectors hearing the appeal of an immigrant about to be excluded from the country. Rand is a witty, insightful, and open-minded tour guide, able to synthesize numerous diverse ideas—about tourism, immigration history, sexuality, race, ethnicity, commodity culture, and global capitalism—and to candidly convey her delight in her Ellis Island snow globe. And pen. And lighter. And back scratcher. And golf ball. And glittery pink key chain.


“[F]or those readers willing to trust Rand, The Ellis Island Snow Globe offers a reading experience that not only revises familiar stories of sex, race, citizenship, and commerce, but also tells that story in a creative and engaging way.” — LeiLani Nishime, Journal of American Ethnic History

“Rand clearly demonstrates how the categories of liberty and citizenship depend precisely on particular kinds of exclusions—those individuals whose sexual identities and behaviors do not correspond with the dominant gendering and sexualizing of the statue herself.” — Sarah Banet-Weiser, American Quarterly

“Rand has high and specific expectations of the museum experience, in all its facets, even in the array of souvenirs available, aimed at making this iconic American site more inclusive and genuinely representational of America. It may not be possible or practical to alter the interpretation of Ellis Island to reflect all of her suggestions, but a good start would be to stock The Ellis Island Snow Globe in the Ellis Island gift shop.” — Aldona Sendzikas, Australasian Journal of American Studies

“Rand takes an unusual and provocative approach to assessing the mythology that has coalesced around Ellis Island. . . . Rand’s grappling with complex questions of social justice, image, and products is gutsy and fascinating.” — Donna Seaman, Booklist

"[Rand's] travel tome offers a whirlwind tour of the queer history of the monument's exhibits and keepsakes obscure. . . . Rand explores Ellis Island's history as a breeding ground for American sexual and racial fantasy. . . . [T]he good professor makes a seductive and knowledgeable travel companion." — Marissa Pareles, Out Traveler

"Witty and self-revealing. . . After this read, your next visit to Ellis Island will most certainly be informed by Rand's insightful analysis. And you'll likely do a double take at Ms. Liberty as well." — Louise Rafkin, Ms.

"Breaking down the assumptions and judgements hidden in snow globes, pens, and golf balls printed with immigrant family images, Rand argues that America doesn't honor all heritages equally." — University of Chicago Magazine

The Ellis Island Snow Globe is a wonderfully creative, playful, and serious piece of scholarship. Demonstrating that pleasure and critique need not be incompatible, Erica Rand offers not only a model for thinking about contemporary capitalism but a way to live in it.” — Miranda Joseph, author of Against the Romance of Community

The Ellis Island Snow Globe is quite simply a great book. Destined to become a classic in contemporary cultural studies, it is one of the few books I’ve read in the last year or so that has taught me something new on every page.” — Henry Jenkins, coeditor of Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture

“Much as she did in her earlier book, Barbie’s Queer Accessories, Erica Rand turns a kitsch artifact of consumer culture into a powerful tool for cultural analysis. In this insightful and engaging new work, she transforms an Ellis Island snow globe into a window through which we see how state control of borders and migrations structures sexuality, gender, desire, and family in unexpected ways. One of the best cultural studies books I’ve read in a long time.” — Susan Stryker, producer and codirector of Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria


Availability: In stock
Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Erica Rand is Professor of Art and Visual Culture and Chair of Women and Gender Studies at Bates College. She is the author of Barbie’s Queer Accessories, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: Respect and Reverence ix

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: Coming to Ellis Island 1

1. Breeders on a Golf Ball: Normalizing Sex at Ellis Island 41

2. Getting Dressed Up: The Displays of Frank Woodhull and the Policing of Gender 67

3. The Traffic in my Fantasy Butch 107

4. Green Woman, Race Matters 130

5. A Nation of Immigrants, or Whatever 153

6. Immigrant Peddlers 181

7. Product Packaging 207

8. "Decide an Immigrant's Fate" 239

Notes 263

Bibliography 311

Index 325
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3591-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3578-8
Publicity material