Review: Hardboiled History: A Noir Lens on America’s Past

‘Hardboiled’ refers to crime fiction, narratives usually focalised through tough or cynical detectives and centring primarily on organised crime in prohibition-era United States. The genre of noir, however, categorises fiction that takes the perspective of a victim, suspect or spectator. While closely related to the Hardboiled genre, these differing perspectives are notable. Thus, the ‘Noir lens on America’s Past’ promised to interrogate these genres, the manner in which they addressed social anxieties, and their continuing legacy and influence. Continue reading

Book Review: Invisible Nation: Homeless Families in America by Richard Schweid

‘Fifty years ago’, Schweid points out, ‘the word “homeless” signified dysfunctional individuals – mostly men – who drank heavily and slept rough. Now it is more likely to mean a young single mother with small children and a minimum-wage job. In 1980 families with children made up only 1 percent of the nation’s homeless; by 2014 that number was 37 percent of the total.’ Continue reading

The Authoritarian Heroes of Liberal Individualism

The U.S. has long been known as a society of contrasts in which seemingly irreconcilable tendencies find a way to coexist. Unbounded belief in modern science versus conservative religious convictions, sober pragmatism versus utopian aspirations, deep-seated distrust of state authority versus ardent patriotism are only some of the juxtapositions that characterize the social climate. Recently, this gallery of American contrasts has been supplemented by yet another striking phenomenon: as a nation that celebrates radically individualistic values more than any other Western country, and is, therefore, extremely sensitive toward restrictions of personal freedom, Americans have voted in a president who placed the erosion of basic rights for large parts of the population based upon their race or religion at the center of his campaign. Continue reading

Review: Transatlantic Symposium, Transatlantic Literary Women Series

This final event of the Transatlantic Literary Women Series, a Transatlantic Symposium, brought together ongoing conversations which had developed throughout; on North American and European women writers, their transatlantic identities, and the importance of their work. It was heartening to see the series’ aims fully realised at this event. Continue reading

American Multiculturalism as Cultural Imperialism

In contemporary American society, being against “multiculturalism” is a lot like being against “baseball, apple pie, hot dogs, and Chevrolet.” It is as much of a part of American ideology as the rugged individualism of the American Cowboy or the self-sacrifice of the American citizen soldier. American institutions routinely celebrate America’s diversity and those who are brazen enough to challenge the merits of these celebrations are seen as being crude anachronisms from an America that no longer is. Continue reading

Book Review: Whiteness on the Border: Mapping the U.S. Racial Imagination in Brown and White by Lee Bebout

The work of Arizona State Associate Professor, Lee Bebout, in Whiteness on the Border is certainly topical. To date, the current U.S. administration plans to build a multi-billion-dollar border wall between Mexico and the U.S., solidifying a line in the sand across which ‘Mexican chaos south of the border must not cross’ (63). Those Americans supporting such a project are likely influenced to varying degrees by the very stereotypes about which Bebout writes. He suggests that theirs ‘is a fear not of military invasion per se but of cultural and biological influence and takeover’ (69). Continue reading

Review: Borders vs. Bridges: Nationalism and Transnationalism in the Americas

Centred on the contentious—and arguably diametrically opposed—concepts of borders and bridges, this two-day conference brought together forty-eight postgraduate and early career researchers from Europe, Asia and the Americas. National identity and transnational relations remained the presiding theme of the event, yet the broad scope of panels attracted scholars from a diverse range of disciplines; interweaving historical, ethnographic, literary and sociological approaches into a holistic Pan-American perspective. Continue reading

Review: ‘Untold Stories of the Past 150 Years’: Canada 150

The conference called for counter-narratives to the official record that ‘nuance and complicate’ received histories, attending in particular to the gendered and racialised omissions that often characterise state-sanctioned narratives. In this, the event took up a task that has been resonating with many scholars and intellectuals throughout the #Canada150 celebrations: reframing the sesquicentennial not as a moment of blind nationalism but as an opportunity for re-evaluation and re-envisioning. Continue reading

Judge Dredd’s Burger Wars: Intellectual property, self-censorship and new exceptions

‘Beyond the Graphic’ – Considering Violence, Sexuality and Obscenity in Comics

After years languishing in self-censorship due to fears of UK copyright law, a new EU directive has led ‘Burger Wars’ to re-emerge. Written by John Wagner (under the pen name TB Grover) and drawn by Mike McMahon in 1978, this ‘difficult tale’ of corporate America and the inherent crimes of the fast food industry finds the immutable Judge Dredd embroiled in a protracted war between the world’s biggest hamburger chains. The military operations commanded by the Burger King on one side and a familiar clown called Ronald – sporting a stripy top with familiar golden arcs ‘m’ logo thereon – who runs MacDonald (sic) City, on the other. Dredd and his team find themselves captured and force fed high-fat, high-sugar burgers and shakes. Continue reading