Selections from: Lauren Berlant, "The Face of America and the State of Emergency"
To guide your reading, it is important to understand that Berlant is charting the the increasing tendency to conceive of citizenship in terms of private acts of consumption, reproduction of the hetero-nuclear family, and personal morality (as opposed to "public" forms of citizenship like political dissent, and public demonstrations, which are increasingly represented in terms of a disorganized "mob"). She argues that this constructs citizenship in particular ways, but at the same time, constructs the "ideal nation" of America in ways that reproduce particular cultural and economic arrangements. As you read, think about what kind of citizenship is being constructed and what the characteristics of the "idealized" nation are. Why is this a problem, for Berlant? Why do you think this matters (i.e., what desires, identities, subjectivities are valued/devalued or visible/invisible)? Use the following questions to guide your reading and note taking.
1) Lauren Berlant points to the "privatization of citizenship" as a worrying trend visible across a range of media. What does she mean by the "privatization of citizenship" and why is it a concern? How do media participate in this tendency, for Berlant?
2) According to Lauren Berlant, what arguments is the movie Forest Gump making about public and private life and about "good citizenship"?
3) How does Forest Gump imagine "America" as a constructed national entity?
4) How does TIME's special issue on immigration construct America? How does it construct the immigrant figure in relation to this imagined "America"?
5) How does Michael Jackson's music video Black or White both participate in and complicate the "privatization of citizenship" and the related tendencies that Berlant observes?
6) In your experience, what kinds of arguments have you noticed media making about what counts as "good citizenship" and the kinds of "national life" good citizens ought to engage in? Do you agree with Berlant that this production of norms participates in the "privatization" of citizenship? If not, why not? If so, what do you think are the consequences?