|Trans||Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften||15. Nr.||Mai 2004|
5.7. Frontier Metamorphoses:
Americanization and Otherness
"The line of most rapid and effective Americanization", as Frederick Jackson Turner defined the frontier in 1893, was discussed on this section in its recent transformations that mostly shed its physical dimensions towards the realm of constant metaphorical/cultural transitions. Issues, concerning present literary/intellectual preoccupations, resulting from extreme globalization awareness, such as borders/borderlands, map knowledge/place-sense, unnatural/natural boundaries, space/time frontiers, trans/crossing cultures, or otherness (non)recognized, were dealt with in all the presentations.
The "frontier" as a metaphor for both continuity and change was used by Anders Olsson (Mid-Sweden University, Harnosand, Sweden) in his argument that because of its dichotomous applicability it has become a usable and unusable concept for the institution of U.S. literature both in its domestic development and in its relation to other literatures of the world. Heinz Ickstadt (Kennedy-Institut, FU Berlin) took the "frontier" as a crucial element in the rhetoric of American self-interpretation to discuss some of its mutations in the context of American modernization during the late 19th century, and then to inquire into its function as an intercultural metaphor in Germany's highly ambivalent reception of modernizing America.
Thomas H. Schaub (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA) focused his paper upon two cultural models of national diversity in the United States, namely culture as a unifying agent and culture as an alternative site to dominance, situating them along a temporal line which sketches a development in the discussion of race and diversity in the United States, from the period of the post-World War II years to the more current period of multicultural initiatives. Touching the same vein, Roger L. Nichols (University of Arizona, Tucson, USA) observed that from the early Puritan efforts to enforce conformity in colonial New England to the present actions aimed at keeping the borders closed, many Americans have been unwilling to accept groups representing the "other", and, by examining the broad outlines of federal actions and Indian reactions and initiatives, claimed that through religious syncretism, political and legal actions, as well as a determination to retain their culture and identity, many tribal people rejected government efforts at forced acculturation. Sharing the same "frontier" approach, Russell Reising University of Toledo, Ohio, USA) stated, that in her struggle both to acclimate and to resist domestication by her white owners and white colonial American society, Phillis Wheatley demonstrates one of many ways in which marginalized peoples - slaves, immigrants, women, gays and lesbians - articulate their own American selfhood in subtly explosive ways.
Manuel Broncano (University of Leon, Spain) considered the issue in present day writng (Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove and Cormac MacCarthy's Blood Meridian), stating that the American Southwest and the West are regions where "normalcy" does not rule, and seeing that as the great fact of the American frontier, a land that escapes the narrow worldview of Western rationalism and becomes a self-contained cosmos where mankind is returned to the early stages of human evolution. Plamen S.Tzvetkov (New Bulgarian University, Sofia) shifted the frontier not only in time, but also in reference, by arguing that the fall of the Berlin Wall has revealed, among other things, the division line in Europe as one between North and South rather than between West and East, as well as that communism has had a superficial effect on deeply rooted mentalities, and cultural and civilizational traditions that have been reevoked in the Balkan countries immediately after the regime fell in 1989, thus tossing these countries back to their pre-World War II habits.
Richard J. Schneider (Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa) saw the American West as global frontier in Henry David Thoreau's essay "Walking" and argued, that Thoreau's vision of America's "manifest destiny" is typical of a larger and persistent American attitude toward its role in human history, an attitude which can help to explain current American foreign policy. Americanization was also the topic of Chris Warhurst's (Scottish Centre for Employment Research, University of Strathclyde) presentation, acknowledging that pervasive US influence depends on the exercise of 'soft power' through presence and ideas rather than on military "hard power"; the paper explored this influential US soft power through three dimensions - cultural, political and economic - and argued that although the cultural dimension is most obvious as a manifestation of Americanization, it is the economic dimension - principally through firms supported by the political dimension - through the different levels of government - that is the driver of this Americanization.
Albena Bakratcheva (New Bulgarian University, Sofia) drew the frontier issue to contemporary American poetry and suggested that a novel frontier metamorphosis is unfolding there, presenting itself as an inward Americanization, aiming at figuring place-sense in the midst of the overwhelming insecurity of globalization displacement.
This very varied and very vivid section proved in its own turn that the Frontier will always be an all-time working premise in (and for) America: metamorphosing as it is, real or figured out, disconnecting, but mostly unifying.
© Albena Bakratcheva (Sofia)
5.7. Frontier Metamorphoses: Americanization and Otherness
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