Visual texts uniquely demonstrate the contested terms of American identity. In American Archives Shawn Michelle Smith offers a bold and disturbing account of how photography and the sciences of biological racialism joined forces in the nineteenth century to offer an idea of what Americans look like--or "should" look like. Her varied sources, which include the middle-class portrait, baby picture, criminal mugshot, and eugenicist record, as well as literary, scientific, and popular texts, enable her to demonstrate how new visual paradigms posed bodily appearance as an index to interior "essence." Ultimately we see how competing preoccupations over gender, class, race, and American identity were played out in the making of a wide range of popular and institutional photographs. Smith demonstrates that as the body was variously mapped and defined as the key to essentialized identities, the image of the white middle-class woman was often held up as the most complete American ideal. She begins by studying gendered images of middle-class domesticity to expose a transformation of feminine architectures of interiority into the "essences" of "blood," "character," and "race."
She reads visual documents, as well as literary texts by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pauline Hopkins, and Theodore Dreiser, as both indices of and forms of resistance to dominant images of gender, class, race, and national identity. Through this analysis Smith shows how the white male gaze that sought to define and constrain white women and people of color was contested and transformed over the course of the nineteenth century. Smith identifies nineteenth-century visual paradigms that continue to shape debates about the terms of American belonging today. American Archives contributes significantly to the growing field of American visual cultural studies, and it is unprecedented in explaining how practices of racialized looking and the parameters of "American looks" were established in the first place.
Shawn Michelle Smith is Assistant Professor of English and American Studies at Washington State University.
List of Illustrations ix Acknowledgments xii Introduction American Archives 3 Chapter One Prying Eyes and Middle-Class Magic in The House of the Seven Gables 11 "Magnetic" Daguerreotypes and the Masculine Gaze 12 Evil Eyes and Feminine Essence 19 Making the House a Home 24 The Public Private Sphere 26 Chapter Two The Properties of Blood 29 The Blood That Flows in Subterranean Pipes 31 Blood, Character, and Race 41 The Spectacle of Race 45 Seeing Bloodlines 47 Chapter Three Superficial Depths 51 The Portrait and the Likeness. Photographing the Soul 55 Class Acts: Real Things and True Performances 62 The Criminal Body and the Portrait of a Type 68 Consuming Commodities: Gender in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction 93 Chapter Four "Baby's Picture Is Always Treasured": Eugenics and the Reproduction of Whiteness in the Family Photograph Album 113 Mechanically Reproducing Baby 115 Reproducing Racial Inheritance 122 Sentimental Aura and the Evidence of Race 132 Chapter Five America Coursing through Her Veins 136 From the Bonds of Love to Bloodlines 137 America's White Aristocracy 141 In the Name of White Womanhood 144 "A Heritage Unique in the Ages" 150 Chapter Six Photographing the "American Negro": Nation, Race, and Photography at the Paris Exposition of 1900 157 Racialized Bodies, National Character, and Photographic Documentation 158 Making Americans 167 Conserving Race in the Nation 177 Chapter Seven Looking Back: Pauline Hopkins's Challenge to Eugenics 187 Envisioning Race: Bodies on Display in Hagar's Daughter "Sons of One Father" 194 Excavating the Hidden Self 198 Visions beyond the Color Line 203 Chapter Eight Reconfiguring a Masculine Gaze 206 Visions of Commodified Identity in Consumer Culture 207 Conspicuous Consumption under a Masculine Gaze: Rethinking Gender in Sister Carrie 210 Parting Glances 220 Afterimages A Brief Look at American Visual Culture in the 1990s 222 Notes 227 Bibliography 271 Index 291