The Insistence of the Indian: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

The Insistence of the Indian: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

The Insistence of the Indian: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

The Insistence of the Indian: Race and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century American Culture

Synopsis

"An original work in terms of both the material it examines and the analyses it provides, Susan Scheckel's book will be an important contribution not only to our knowledge of the archives but also to our discussion of the broader cultural issues."--Cheryl Walker, author of "Indian Nation: Native American Literature and Nineteenth-Century Nationalisms

Excerpt

Nowhere else do the citizens seem smaller than in a democratic nation, and nowhere else does the nation itself seem greater, so that it is easily conceived as a great picture. Imagination shrinks at the thought of themselves as individuals and expands beyond all limits at the thought of the state. Hence people living cramped lives in tiny houses often conceive of their public monuments on a gigantic scale. (Tocqueville, Democracy in America)

The miniature is considered … as a metaphor for the interior space and time of the bourgeois subject. Analogously, the gigantic is considered a metaphor for the abstract authority of the state and the collective, public, life. (Susan Stewart)

When Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to the United States in the mid-1830s to investigate the American democratic “experiment,” he included a visit to the nation's capital on his tour. As the epigraph suggests, this visit inspired reØection upon the nature of democracy itself. If, following Susan Stewart, we read metaphors of scale as representative of relations between private and public, which are crucial to the formation of the modern subject, then Tocqueville's comments suggest the extent to which the meaning of democracy inheres in the relationship between individual citizens and the nation—a relationship revealed in the way that citizens imagine national monuments.

This chapter explores how guidebooks to the U.S. Capitol spanning the 1830s to the 1860s participated in the project of national formation. They taught American citizens how to “read” the meanings of the Capitol and how to position themselves as citizens in relation to the stories it told. in a nation beset by ever-deepening political divisions during the years leading up to the Civil War, guidebooks promoted the Capitol as a . . .

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