November 2012 Archives

Week 14 Reading Guide

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Monday Reading

Gerstle Epilogue, "Beyond the Rooseveltian Nation, 1975-2000"

1. After the decline of the Rooseveltian Nation, Gerstle asserts that different political cultures on the left and light have risen up to take its place. On the left, he argues for the rise of a political project of multiculturalism. How does he characterize this project? What is the difference between "hard" and "soft" multiculturalism? Before the 1990s, what does he give as an example of "soft" multiculturalism?
2. In Gerstle's section of the Epilogue entitled, "Varieties of Multiculturalism," he devotes most of his time to critiquing the rise of "hard multiculturalism" in the 1980s. He asserts there are two camps of hard multiculturalists - who are they? What are their differences? Why did hard multiculturalists come to dominate the 1980s - what three reasons does Gerstle give?
3. How did the political right respond to the decline of the Rooseveltian Nation? What were the key aspects of Ronald Reagan's vision of the American nation? How was it different from and similar to the Rooseveltian nation?
4. How was Bill Clinton's vision of the American nation an attempt to find a "Third Way" between Reagan's vision and the vision of left multiculturalists? How does Gerstle argue his was a form of "soft multiculturalism"? How is Clinton's vision different from and similar to the Rooseveltian nation?
5. From around page 368 to the end of the chapter, Gerstle inserts his own voice into the narrative in a new way. Here he is giving his own interpretation as to the state of American nationalism at the end of the 20th century. What does he think about the state of the racial nation? Is it gone? Note on page 371 that he speculates on "Islamic fundamentalism" and what might happen if there was a terrorist attack on the U.S. - did his prediction come true after 9/11? Given what he says on page 372-374, do you think he laments the decline of the Rooseveltian nation? Why or why not?

Wednesday Reading

Assata Chapters 1, 3, 5, and 7

You are now reading the portion of Assata's narrative after she is imprisoned - accused of being part of a murder of a New Jersey State trooper in a traffic stop. Sundiata (her friend) is also accused of the same crime. However, the trial she is talking about in chapter 5 was about a bank robbery the federal government said Assata was involved in. In this trial she is being tried with her friend Kamau. She was tried, and eventually acquitted, on this charge before she was tried and convicted in the New Jersey incident. Note that her Aunt Evelyn is her lawyer.

1. How does Assata attempt to link black life on the streets to life in prison? How are they the same? Why does she consider both to be "un-free"? How, according to her, do prisons and the justice system reinforce racism and even slavery?
2. How do Assata and Kamau discuss Islam and having a child as forms of resistance inside prison? How does Asstat see her doctors as attempting to thwart the resistance of her having a child?

Week 13 Reading Guide

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Monday Reading

Gerstle, Chapter 8, "Vietnam, Cultural Revolt, and the Collapse of the Rooseveltian Nation, 1968-1975"

1. To what does Gerstle attribute the U.S.'s descent into the Vietnam War? Why, initially, did descent into war not trigger antiwar activities in the United States?
2. Why does Gerstle argue that a vibrant antiwar movement began to form in the mid-to-late sixties? What sectors of society made up this movement? Why? How does he argue this movement related to the civil rights movement?
3. Gersle argues that antiwar activity within the military meant that it "could no longer serve as an agent of nation building" and thus, "a pillar of the Rooseveltian nation had crumbled to the ground" (327). What does he mean by this? Why did soldiers and veterans themselves eventually become part of the antiwar movement? In what ways was their dissent expressed? On the other hand, what positives does Gerstle see in the military in the war?
4. By the early seventies, Gerstle argues that many on the liberal/left began to construct a new politics and culture "antagonistic or indifferent to American nationalism" (327). He argues that this new politics and culture were founded on two premises. What were these premises? How would you characterize these premises in your own words?
5. Gerstle argues that by the early seventies, many groups were mimicking the politics of black power groups. What other racial minorities emulated this politics? Surprising, how does he argue that white ethnics began to mimic this politics as well? What evidence does he focus on to make his case regarding white ethnics and their mimicking of this politics?
6. What does Gerstle argue were the primary reasons for the collapse of the Rooseveltian Nation? Why were both the civic and racial components of the Rooseveltian Nation left in tatters? What does Gerstle mean when he writes that "the nationalist crisis occurred primarily in the realm of ideology, culture, and institutions" (345)?

Wednesday Readings

Shakur, Chapters 15, 16, and 17

1. As we discussed in class, much of the reason for the break-up of left radical groups in the 1970s was due to political repression by the FBI. However, in the final section of Assata that you read for today, she hints at other, more internal reasons why this was the case. What problems does Shakur identify within the movement? Why, in some ways, does she argue that the movement is being torn apart from the inside? On the other hand, what good work did groups like the Black Panther do that was not well-known in the wider public?
2. Why does Assata admire her friend Zayd? How, through her friendship with him does she talk about other problems with the Black Panther Party? How do she and Zayd relate to this problem?
3. How did the FBI work to break up black radical groups? How do we see this in Assata's own personal experiences and in the experiences of Black Power groups? What did "going underground" mean for black radicals like Assata?

Document 24 in the course reader, Carl Wittman, "Refugees from Amerika: A Gay Manifesto" (1970)

1. How, according to Wittman, did gay liberation ideas derive from black freedom movements? How does Wittman seek, like in the black power movement, to set a new cultural standard where one's personal identity of being gay is a source of power and not something which should be seen as "lesser"? How does Wittman attempt to set this new cultural standard?
2. In what ways is this document different than what we might conceive of as a "gay rights" movement today? What are the main differences, as you see it, between a "gay rights" agenda and a "gay liberation" agenda (like Wittman's)?

Week 12 Reading Guide

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Monday Reading

1) Assata, Chapters 8, 10, 12, and 13

1. How does Shakur characterize her experiences with white liberals in New York? Given your reading in Gerstle, are you able to understand her animosity better? How does her experience with her white liberal music teacher contribute to her views?
2. In our discussion of Chapter 7 of Gerstle, we talked about how the shift from the early civil rights activism to black power activism was mainly about a shift in 3 things: the view of civic nationalism, views of integration, and views of non-violence. How do we see all three of these shifts in Shakur's interaction with NAACP organizing in North Carolina? What do you think of her philosophy as expressed in this section of her memoir?
3. Why does a discussion of the Vietnam War lead to a discussion of communism and anticommunism in Chapter 10? How does Shakur's adult self critique her younger self in this section of the memoir? What does she ultimately come to realize about communism and socialism in Chapter 12 and what is her ultimate attitude towards these philosophies?
4. How would you characterize Shakur's interactions with the black middle class in Chapter 10? Consider her conversations on the beach, at the black employment agency, and in her work life. What, ultimately, is her critique of the black middle class in these settings? How do these conversations get her to question the nature of "freedom" and "freedom struggles"?
5. In Chapter 12, Shakur continues to focus on the idea of dominant cultural standards and education and their contribution to racism. How so? When she is getting her education in college, how do she and other students begin to resist these standards? What strategies and practices do they employ?
6. In Chapter 13, Shakur meets many other minority left activists. Which ones specifically? How and why does she begin to see all of their struggles overlapping? How is the overlapping different for each group she meets? Finally, what does she ultimately conclude about the Black Panthers?

Essay #3 Prompt

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Due: November 19th at the beginning of class

Length: A typed, double-spaced essay of 3-4 pages.


Although I discuss the essay in terms of "sections" do not actually have section headings. Instead, I want you to write the paper as a cohesive whole which transitions from section to section using the topic sentences of paragraphs, not section headings. Here are the requirements for each section of the paper:

• In the first section of the essay, identify the argument of Elaine Tyler May's book as conveyed in her Introduction. What, specifically, is the argument she is attempting to convey? What evidence will she be using to prove her argument?

• In the second section summarize two of the following chapters in May's book: four, six, and seven. In your summary, it is most important that you address how the chapters flow from the argument the author is making. That is, how do the contents of each chapter work to prove the overall argument of the book?

• In the third section, discuss specifically how the arguments of Elaine May relate to the arguments of Gary Gerstle's Chapter 6. That is, how specifically do they agree and/or disagree in their interpretations of the early Cold War (1946-1960)? For this section you must address at least one area of agreement and one area of disagreement in their interpretations.

When directly quoting from a text, simply use parenthetical page numbers and the author's last name in your citations. A fake example: Smith argues that, "The Civil War was fought primarily over the issue of slavery as it related to westward expansion" (Smith, 12). When you paraphrase a text, you do not need a citation.

This essay will be evaluated on how well you have understood the material in May and Gerstle as well as how well you have communicated that understanding. I do not grade on grammar, only clarity. That is, I do not look at things like correct comma placement and semicolon usage but rather on whether your writing is clear enough to accurately communicate the three sections of the essay.

Week 11 Reading Guide

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Monday Readings

1) Gerstle Chapter 7, "Civil Rights, White Resistance, and Black Nationalism, 1960-1968."

• Why does Gerstle argue that civil rights activism in the 1960s had their roots in the 1940s? What are the different dynamics that were important in the forties for founding the sixties civil rights movement?
• On page 274, Gerstle argues that Martin Luther King Jr. "had little difficulty weaving into [the American civic nationalist tradition] his religiously based universalism and anticapitalism." What does he mean by this? Does this surprise you given the Cold War dynamics we have been discussing? How does this square with Gerstle on page 277 who argues that King showed a "reluctance to incorporate his critique of capitalism into his most public expositions of the American Dream"?
• Why did civil rights activists in the South have a long-standing philosophy of non-violence? Why did the events in Mississippi in 1963-4 lead to black leaders to not only question this strategy but also to questing the power of civic nationalism?
• How did President Lyndon Johnson go far beyond any president before him in his support of civil rights? Why did this ultimately not matter to African American conventioneers at the 1964 Democratic national Convention? Why did the controversy around the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party ultimately undermine Johnson's triumphing of his achievements?
• How did the convention fight lead to distrust by black activists thereafter and to the rise of black power activism? How does Gerstle define black power activism? Gerstle argues that the rise of black power leaders like Malcolm X show a shift in African American activism in the mid-sixties in the areas of civic nationalism, nonviolence and integration - why? Although black nationalists were relatively small in number, why did they still have enormous power?

2) Course reader document 23, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), "The Port Huron Statement," (1962)

• This document may seem strangely matched with Gerstle's chapter when you first read it, but its connection to the civil rights movement will be made in lecture. The Port Huron Statement represents the growing "student movement" of the early sixties that, at first, drew strength from the civil rights movement and would later come together with more radical black power politics in resisting the Vietnam War.
• How does this manifesto take strength from the civil rights movement and against the Cold War?
• What, according to the authors, is the problem with students on campuses across the country? How do university administrations contribute to these problems? How does this position relate to the wider world?
• How, despite these drawbacks, do the authors argue that the university can be a site of social change? How can a "New Left" organize itself in universities?

Wednesday Reading

1) Assata, Both Forwards, Trial Chronology, and Chapters 2, 4, and 6

You are reading the autobiography of Assata Shakur. Shakur is still alive today and living in exile in Cuba. As you can glean from the first Forward to the book, she was tried and convicted in the 1970s as an accomplice to the murder of a New Jersey state trooper. As you can see from the trial chronology at the beginning of the book, she was tried for many, many crimes, but this was the only crime she was convicted for. In the second Forward, Lennox Hinds addresses the problems surrounding her conviction. In 1979 she escaped prison and has been in Cuba since the mid-1980s.

Most of the chapters you will be reading from her memoir are the personal narrative of her life up to her imprisonment. Only in week 14 of class will we return to a few of the chapters which deal with her imprisonment. Shakur's is an autobiography of a black woman and her journey through the life and through the various African American political movements we have been reading about in Gerstle. Despite some early experiences with sixties civil rights movement, Shakur is most known for her commitment to various radical black power political movements in the late sixties and early seventies. Questions to consider as you read:

• In the Forwards, how do Angela Davis and Lennox Hinds attempt to situate Shakur's imprisonment and near constant arrests in the early seventies? How do they attempt to explain these occurrences?
• In Chapter 2, why does young Joanne Byron seem to have two minds regarding her grandparents? What does she appreciate and what does she not?
• Shakur spent much of her childhood living in both the South and the North. How did this influence her outlook? What argument does she make about the merits of integrated versus segregated schools? Why does she keep returning to the study of history in these schools?
• Much of Shakur's book will focus on the idea of dominant cultural standards and their contribution to racism. How do you see this in her narrative so far? What subtle ways are used to enforce the idea that "white = good and black = bad"? How does she argue such feelings are inculcated in children from a very early age? Why does she argue that she was often living a "double existence" (37)? What did TV have to do with this?
• In Chapter 2 and Chapter 4, Shakur mentions the dominant Cold War family model that Elaine May discusses. How did she think of this model as a child and how does she question it as an adult? How does she argue that it ultimately hurt African Americans?
• In Chapter 6 (at age 13, keep in mind), Shakur has her first work experiences. What does this teach her about the way racial and gender discrimination work together? How do her work experiences bring her to certain understandings about black and white men and the way they view black and white women? What are these understandings? Why does she argue that these understandings--and the sexual violence that can come with them--should be related back to slavery?
• Language is clearly important to Shakur. She will talk about her name change later in the narrative, but why do you think she did this? Why does she use "i" and not "I"? Why does she spell "America" with the alternative spelling "amerika"?

Week 10 Reading Guide

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Monday Class

1) May, Chapters 4 and 6

Remember as you read to always be considering how the chapter fits into May's larger argument. Here are some questions to guide you:

• In Chapter 4, May writes about various sexualities that are deemed in need of "containment" during the early Cold War. What sexualities in particular does she address? How does she attempt to bridge this public/private divide between the Cold War and sexuality?
• What are the "containment strategies" devised at the time for these supposed "out of control" sexualities?
• How are the roles of the homemaker and "traditional marriage" deemed necessary for Cold War security?
• What is the "reproductive consensus" described by May in Chapter 6? How does child rearing become a civic value? What is the role of the father and mother in the "reproductive consensus"?
• In chapter 6, what are the dominant views of birth control and abortion in the fifties? How do they fit what May calls the "reproductive consensus"? How are these views related to "sexual containment" described in Chapter 4?

Wednesday Class

1) May, Chapters 7 and 9

Remember as you read to always be considering how the chapter fits into May's larger argument. Here are some questions to guide you:

• In Chapter 7, how does the suburban home become a weapon in the Cold War? How does the government itself support the construction of the suburb and "suburban sprawl"? How was this construction of suburban neighborhoods, and the construction of certain types of houses in the suburbs, related to the Cold War?
• In Chapter 7, how were race, class, and gender contained in the suburb?
• In Chapter 7, May argues that the suburban ideal promised more than it could deliver. What does she mean by this? Why was the lifestyle "rife with tension"? Finally, was anyone resisting this lifestyle in the fifties? On page 166, she says basically "no." Do you agree?
• In Chapter 9, why does May argue that The Feminine Mystique was so important in breaking down the ethos of domestic containment? Why did it, and those who responded to it, lash out at so-called "experts" in the Cold War?
• On page 207, May writes that domestic containment "was clearly doomed from its own internal contradictions." What does she mean by this? Besides these "internal contradictions," what else brought about the demise of domestic containment in the sixties?
• Does Elaine May personally support the ideology of domestic containment she argues for in Homeward Bound or is she critiquing it? For instance, in Chapter 6, does she personally support the "reproductive consensus" that raising children and family planning are civic values related to the Cold War? What, ultimately is her personal opinion regarding domestic containment and why is it sometimes hard to discern this?

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