Week 9 Reading Guide

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Monday Class

1) Gerstle, Chapter 6
• On page 245, Gerstle argues that the Red Scare of the early Cold War (1946-1960) was worst that the first Red Scare in World War I. Why does he say this?
• On page 246, Gerstle writes that exclusion from the full freedoms of civic nationalism was now "being constructed almost entirely from the tradition of civic nationalism itself, a development that revealed how much this tradition, too, relied on exclusion--of individuals deemed un-American because of their behavior and ideas, rather than because of their race or ethnicity." What does he mean here? Why did racial nationalism not overlap with anti-radicalism as was the case in World War I and the 1920s?
• What type of black activism was deemed "acceptable" during the Cold War? What type was deemed "unacceptable"?
• On page 250, Gerstle writes, "In such ways did geopolitical exigencies impel several reluctant presidential administrations to advance the cause of racial equality and to enhance the success of civil rights struggles." What does he mean by this? How did this lead new black activists like Martin Luther King to use "a militant deployment of civic nationalist language" (250)?
• On page 255, Gerstle argues that, "In the hands of McCarthy and his fellow crusaders, 'un-American activities' became a matter of class and sexual behavior rather than of ethnicity or race." What does he mean by this? Why was domestic anti-communism so tied up in fears of "effeminacy"? Why does Gerstle argue that domestic anti-communism was also about Catholics (Irish-American and German-American) versus a "Protestant elite"?
• Why does Gerstle argue that the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952 was significant? How did it break down the racial nation but also reinforce it? What was the vision that it promoted to immigrants?
• Why does Gerstle argue that the black church (and preachers like Martin Luther King, Jr.) replace unions as the central institution of the black struggle? What does this have to do with critiques of the economy in the Cold War?

Wednesday Class

1) Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound, Introduction

As you read the Introduction of May's book remember what is important--identifying the book's overall argument. Remember, as with Gerstle, that the Introduction is where the author lays out her/his argument most explicitly. Take notes and engage with the book as you read. Here are some questions for to think about as you go through the Intro. I've tried to put these in the order that their answers appear in the text.

• There was a "baby boom" in the post-World War II United States as families had more babies than ever before right after the war. May argues that other scholars and observers have argued that this is related to the postwar prosperity that existed in the U.S. Why does she reject this? What evidence does she rely upon for her rejection?
• Typically, people conceptualize the 1950s at "traditional." Why does May reject this assumption? How can the fifties be seen as an exceptional decade rather than a traditional one?
• Why does she argue that the early African American civil rights movement of the 1950s was focused more on certain "freedoms," as opposed to "equality"? How do you see overlap with Gerstle's argument in this way? Why will she not really be looking at the African American experience in the fifties in her study?
• Suburban family life is integral to May's argument. How so? Why does she are that class lines were blurred in the suburbs, but not racial lines?
• How is May trying to bridge the conversations of diplomatic historians of the Cold War and sociologists who look at family life in the same period? How is she trying to bridge the "public" and the "private" in her study?
• Why are fears of "subversion from within" during the Cold War important for her study? Why was "subversion from within" seen as a problem at the time? How did this fear of subversion translate over into the "lavender scare"?
• What primary source evidence will her study rely on? Why? What type of history is she writing?
• Ultimately in the Intro, May makes the case for something called "domestic containment." What is this? How does it relate to what we've been describing as the "masculine nation"
• Why does she argue that the fifties were "apolitical"? What do "experts" have to do with this sensibility? How did "experts" allow people to privatize their problems?

2) Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound, Chapter 1

It is best to think of chapter 1 of May's book as an extension of her introduction. Here, she begins laying out the broadest evidence for the argument that she makes in the intro.

• Why does May begin Chapter 1 with such an in-depth discussion of the "Kitchen Debate"? How is the debate a particularly good piece of primary source evidence to prove her argument?

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This page contains a single entry by Jason Stahl published on October 26, 2012 4:02 PM.

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