Frontier Metamorphoses: Americanization and Otherness
Thomas H. Schaub (University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA)
Melting Pot and Hybridity: Two Models of Cultural Theory
This paper will focus upon two cultural models of national diversity in the United States. In one, the diverse cultures of the nation travel, which is to say that diverse cultures, through a process of appropriation, mix and interact in the formation of individual and national identity. In this way, culture acts as a unifying agent. My primary example of this model comes from the cultural criticism and theory of Ralph Ellison, author of the novel Invisible Man and two collections of essays. The other model views culture as an agent which subverts the demands for identity and identification, and which is antagonistic to the universalism implicit in the goal of pluralism. Culture, in this view, may provide an alternative site to dominance. This paper situates these two models along a temporal line which sketches a development in the discussion of race and diversity in the United States, from the period of the post-World War II years to the more current period of multicultural initiatives.