Academic Journals Database
Disseminating quality controlled scientific knowledge

Housing the "Other" Half: American Studies' Global Urban Turn

Author(s): David Faflik

Journal: Journal of Transnational American Studies
ISSN 1940-0764

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Keywords: American Studies | metaphor | modern | metropolis | city | slum | Jacob Riis | Manhattan | Istanbul | Ankara | Berlin | Europe | flâneur

Over the course of its short lifetime, the discipline of American studies has utilized a series of self-defining metaphors. With each successive paradigm shift in the field, each of these disciplinary figures, in turn, has been found wanting, and so replaced. American studies’ current, if not consensual, metaphor—the “border”—resembles not a few of its predecessors in that it is spatial in nature and effectively doubles as a figuration of the greater nation. The premise of this paper is that the “border,” like the figures that came before it, has outlived its serviceable purpose for a discipline that continues to evolve. This essay proposes the global city, or, more accurately, the global slum, as a post-“border” metaphor peculiarly adapted to the principled transnationalism that now defines American studies for many subscribing students and professionals. On the one hand, the urban has become a prevailing demographic fact in this, the new century. Thus, the multiethnic, multinational world metropolis recommends itself as a more-than-metaphor for the dynamic cultural contact that typifies ascendant hemispheric conceptions of the Americas. On the other hand, the figure of the peripheral city similarly, and spatially, evokes the majority “center” and minority “margin” model of American studies that critics would claim inhibits total global integration among the discipline’s geoculturally diverse practitioners, many of whom reside outside the continental United States. This essay conceptually deploys the world city to explore beyond these professional/territorial “borders.” Its three condensed case studies—first, of Gilded Age Manhattan, second, of the modern Turkish metropolis, and third, of a reunified Germany’s ethnic ghetto—constitute a brisk figurative exercise in “marginal” urban migration, wherein resides an alternate model, and metaphor, of American studies praxis today.

Tango Rapperswil
Tango Rapperswil

     Affiliate Program