Thursday, October 31, 2019 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM
Johnson Center, Assembly Room D
Please come and join us for this special colloquium event, organized by the Cultural Studies Student Organizing Committee (SOC). CS students will present their papers and share their research with the GMU community. Mark your calendars and don't miss the chance to learn more about CS students' research projects.
Please see the program of the panel below.
Gender, Race, and Class in Manhattan after the Paris Commune
By Austin Gallas
This paper examines how the shocking emergence and violent suppression of the 1871 Paris Commune impacted elite discourses of social order in New York City. I engage a wide range of archives, including periodicals, political cartoons, and entries by the famous 19th-century diarist, George Templeton Strong, in order to explore how elite Manhattanites responded to the news of the unprecedented events unfolding in the 'City of Light'––the original spawning bed of the bourgeoisie.
The crises facing the ruling classes in Europe and Second Empire France differed in many fundamental ways from those faced by the rising North American industrial bourgeoisie. But monied Manhattanites nevertheless 'Americanized' the story of the Commune, adapting the rhetorics of the European bourgeoisie provoked by the events in Paris to perceived crises unfolding in New York.
Monied Manhattanites saw in the Commune a familiar figure: the specter of 'the mob'. Many upper-class New Yorkers had witnessed 'the mob' first-hand during the Civil War Draft Riots, which ravaged the city for more than a week during the summer of 1863. The Draft Riots were primarily carried out by working-class Irish communities, who were disaffected not so much with the Union's war effort per se as with its decision to include a provision in the draft legislation that enabled wealthy residents to pay their way out of mandatory conscription. The Riots resulted in over a hundred deaths, lynchings and beatings of African-American residents in the streets, and much destruction to both public and private property, leaving a deep scar in the minds of those who lived through them––a psychic wound which was violently reopened when word of the unexpected Parisian revolution crossed the Atlantic.
The intraclass discourses of Manhattan's ruling industrial and late-Victorian aristocratic elites took shape at a far remove from the events of the Commune. Most North American elites had a severely limited understanding of what exactly was happening in Paris––leading bourgeois newspapers in Europe and North America had erroneously exclaimed early on that the revolution was a Marxist conspiracy. But this did not prevent them from quickly absorbing aspects of the reactionary anti-communist language that emerged in the wake of the Parisian uprising and repurposing it to fit the particular gender, race, and class dynamics at work in their own city.
For instance, when the bloody Orange Riots erupted weeks after the Commune's destruction, elite Manhattanites evoked the indiscriminate annihilation of the Communards by the forces of Versailles in order to justify the brutal actions of their own police force against the rioting Irish working classes. To further explore this dynamic, I examine some revealing cases throughout the Progressive Era where wealthy New Yorkers deployed the mythical figure of the pétroleuse––a gendered stereotype devised by elite reactionaries to discount the legitimacy of the Commune by characterizing the Communards as fire-crazed crones psychotically intent on the destruction of the city––in their descriptions of uprisings and anti-capitalist protests in the streets of Manhattan.
“We’re on the same boat now”: The nation building project of the West Indies Federation
Celebrating the 52rd anniversary of Barbados’ Independence, the Barbadian ambassador to United States made this claim to the audience: “Whatever ship you came across the Atlantic on, we’re all on the same boat now.” He asked the audience to promote a unity of Caribbean people that would make for, what he saw, a more politically and economically stronger Caribbean. He appealed for a regionalism that would strengthen the development of the whole of the Caribbean. This goal that he called for harkened back to the type of regionalism and former goal of unifying the Caribbean under one banner: The West Indies Federation, founded in 1958.
This quest for identity and later nationhood, would reveal the unique story of the British West Indies. In this paper, I will show how the Federation came to imagine these disparate colonies as a community. I will outline its project to develop a unified British West Indies and the challenges that would ultimately lead to its failure. I will reflect on how nation building worked outside of the Caribbean, rather than within it and why nation building could not happen for these Caribbean colonies. In an analysis of the Federation’s work, it is important not to just see it as a failed attempt at a political block, but rather an experiment in “imagined communities”.
The Frat House: A Conception of a Meshing Space in a Single Place
The Fraternity house has been a subject of cultural intrigue and controversy since the “Golden Age of Fraternities” at the turn of the century. Movies like Animal House and articles like The Atlantic’s “The Dark Power of Fraternities” have not only shaped the popular understanding of fraternities and the houses they live, but also, to a certain degree, the lens in which scholars begin their analysis of their objects. What becomes apparent is a lack of internal understanding of the space of the fraternity house. Scholars and researchers alike tend to incorporate the frat house into their analysis of fraternities; however, rarely, if ever, do they offer an analysis of the house itself. The problem with this practice is that the members understanding of their space is not articulated, let alone an actual interest of the examiner. This presentation is an attempt to reinstitute the fraternity members’ livid experience into the research of the frat house as a space. By looking at recent scholarship on fraternity houses, looking at spatial theories on researching space, and interviews from fraternities in the state of Georgia, a union of the issues scholar’s research are tied to the livid experience of fraternity members in their space and a complete study of the fraternity house is made.
While relying on spatial theorist – Lefebvre, De Luna, and Barad – to form and inform the questions asked during the interview component of my mixed method ethnography, I have and will continue to interview and observe these collegiate social Greeks to gage their understanding on the issues at hand. This presentation does not represent a completed project, but is an attempt to share what has been gleamed thus far and get some feedback.
October 28, 2019