"An excellent dissection of the tension between common experience and societal plurality. . . . The final valuable insight that this book may evoke for readers is that civic culture of the kind Robert Putnam lamented is not necessarily endangered. . . . but that 'public culture' is and always has been contested by a variety of actors; and to understand how Americans engage one another in the public realm requires asking difficult questions about power, wealth, gender, and race."—Reviews in American HistoryIn the United States today many people are as likely to identify themselves by their ethnicity or region as by their nationality. In this country with its diversity and inequalities, can there be a shared public culture? Is there an unbridgeable gap between cultural variety and civic unity, or can public forms of expression provide an opportunity for Americans to come together as a people?
In Public Culture: Diversity, Democracy, and Community in the United States, an interdisciplinary group of scholars addresses these questions while considering the state of American public culture over the past one hundred years. From medicine shows to the Internet, from the Los Angeles Plaza to the Las Vegas Strip, from the commemoration of the Oklahoma City bombing to television programming after 9/11, public sights and scenes provide ways to negotiate new forms of belonging in a diverse, postmodern community. By analyzing these cultural phenomena, the essays in this volume reveal how mass media, consumerism, increased privatization of space, and growing political polarization have transformed public culture and the very notion of the American public.
Focusing on four central themes—public action, public image, public space, and public identity—and approaching shared culture from a range of disciplines—including mass communication, history, sociology, urban studies, ethnic studies, and cultural studies—Public Culture offers refreshing perspectives on a subject of perennial significance.
Marguerite S. Shaffer is Associate Professor of American History and American Studies at Miami University and author of See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880-1940.