CFP: Defining Americanization (8/1/06; journal issue)
CALL FOR ARTICLES
The February 2007 issue of Cercles (http://www.cercles.com) proposes to
examine the process and meaning of Americanization.
When Crèvecoeur asked in the eighteenth century "What is an American?"
he had a ready answer: Americans are "the scattered poor of Europe,"
"the persecuted," in short "a new race." But the mysterious process of
Americanization described by Crèvecoeur and later by Frederick Jackson
Turner in his famous but debated Frontier hypothesis is still to a
certain extent indefinable.
What indeed is Americanization? What is Americanizing? The road to
definitions in the Merriam-Webster is paved with riddles but may raise
interesting questions as it offers a wide range of meanings to those
terms, such as "instruction of foreigners (as immigrants) in English and
in U.S. history, government, and culture," "to cause to acquire or
conform to American characteristics" or "to bring (as an area) under the
political, cultural, or commercial influence of the U.S." Of course
diverse forms of assimilation are also to be considered, varying by
ethnicity (German-American, Italian-American, or African-American for
instance), region (Southerner, Midwesterner, New Englander, or
Westerner), or religion (Protestant-American, Jewish-American, etc.).
This call is addressing the issue of Americanization as the process by
which in colonial times and the early national period, and through the
building of the American nation in the 19th century, immigrants became
"American" or came to identify themselves as "American." If the
diversity of the process of Americanization has been widely studied in
the field of minorities touching on assimilation, integration,
literature and language, it is still difficult to trace the shift from a
number of identities – mainly but not only European – to a truly
American one, comprising new ways in politics, a new territory, new
religious movements, a new language, and even a new vision of Old
Europe. But Americanization also raises the issue of
"essentialism"—whether or not assimilation works to produce an
essential, identifiable set of American traits or a single "American
When, where, and how then did Americanization take place? Was it during
the writing of the Constitution? Was it the adaptation of the people to
specific local cultures and values?
Did it happen through the appropriation of one's own plot of land with
the consequential dreams of conquest and empires? Did the Great
Awakening witness the birth of a genuinely American religious movement
that had to adapt to new audiences and to new living conditions?
Is Americanization necessarily linked to a rejection of European roots
and values, as Turner claimed? American art, it is believed, only
managed to gain its independence in the mid-twentieth century – was it
not American before? Moreover American identity was also molded through
the creation of symbols, icons and images: what exactly did they
represent in the first decades of the new nation? What, in short, turned
the non-American America of the colonial era into a culturally,
religiously, politically, artistically independent America and then into
the United States?
A chronological approach may invite examination of the origins of the
process of Americanization during the colonial era and the American
Revolution and throughout the nineteenth century and the Conquest of the
West. Papers on American art may include the twentieth century.
Fields of study: history and civilization, art, architecture and music.
Other periods and fields may of course be explored and will be welcomed,
notably interdisciplinary essays, or a civilization-oriented reading of
Papers should be in English and not exceed fifteen pages (2200 signs per
page, MLA style).
Deadline for proposals: August 1, 2006 (electronic submission only, 300
Deadline for full papers : January 1, 2007. Please send proposals to
Caroline Belan caroline_at_belan.org
KEYWORDS: identity, community, roots, self-consciousness, reshaping,
adaptation, rejection, discrimination, assimilation, toleration,
civilization, portrayal, exploration, conflicts and dialogue, 17th,
18th, 19th centuries, building of a nation, American revolution, empire,
political institutions, independence, capitalism, land, law, town
planning, Frontier, pioneer, conquest, national parks, tourism,
theology, awakening, providence, Chosen people, Protestant ethic,
language, rhetoric, ethno-centrism, Europe, symbolism.
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or write Jennifer Higginbotham: higginbj_at_english.upenn.edu
Received on Sun Jul 09 2006 - 10:19:08 EDT