"REMAKING AMERICA: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century" by John Bodnar

"REMAKING AMERICA: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century"

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Here, social-historian Bodnar (Indiana Univ.) offers a moderately enticing analysis of the dynamic between national agendas and local attitudes as it surfaces in public ceremonies and commemorations. Bodnar first offers an overview of the interaction in American history between official culture, or the manifestations of state interest, and ""vernacular culture,"" the particular emphases of local and ethnic groups. These are the poles between which activity surrounding national holidays, anniversaries, and the construction of monuments is torn in Bodnar's formulation, with the recent example of the Vietnam Memorial cited as a resurgence of the vernacular over the official, of individual sorrow and loss over patriotic pride. Turning to specific communities in the Midwest, where immigrant groups provided a significant percentage of the population in this century, shifts in rural Swedish, Norwegian, and Mennonite celebrations in the last hundred years come under scrutiny, as do changes in ethnic-flavored civic events in Indianapolis and Cleveland. Official control of displays of public memory in the region is seen to increase with the century's advance, when patriotic passions inflamed by war and the ideology of the melting pot gain the upper hand. The existence of the National Park Service as a cadre of professionals dedicated to the control of national landmarks and commemorative events becomes the supreme example here of the institutionalization of that trend. Ponderous, although well-researched, and suffering also from being intuitively obvious, to the extent that anyone seeking revelation as to how a national identity is forged, and stamped on its citizens, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1992
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press