American Iconographic: National Geographic, Global Culture, by Stephanie L. Hawkins

By Stephanie L. Hawkins

In an period ahead of cheap commute, nationwide Geographic not just served because the first glimpse of numerous different worlds for its readers, however it helped them confront sweeping old swap. there has been a time whilst its conceal, with the unmistakable yellow body, looked to be on each espresso desk, in each ready room. In American Iconographic, Stephanie L. Hawkins lines National Geographic’s upward push to cultural prominence, from its first booklet of nude pictures in 1896 to the Nineteen Fifties, while the magazine’s trademark visible and textual motifs came across their means into caricature comic strip, well known novels, and picture buying and selling at the "romance" of the magazine’s targeted visible fare.

National Geographic remodeled neighborhood colour into worldwide tradition via its construction and movement of without problems identifiable cultural icons. The adventurer-photographer, the unique girl of colour, and the intrepid explorer have been a part of the magazine’s "institutional aesthetic," a visible and textual repertoire that drew upon well known nineteenth-century literary and cultural traditions. This aesthetic inspired readers to spot themselves as participants not just in an elite society yet, ironically, as either american citizens and worldwide voters. greater than a window at the international, nationwide Geographic awarded a window on American cultural attitudes and drew forth various advanced responses to social and ancient adjustments caused through immigration, the good melancholy, and global war.

Drawing at the nationwide Geographic Society’s archive of readers’ letters and its founders’ correspondence, Hawkins unearths how the magazine’s participation within the "culture undefined" was once no longer so hassle-free as students have assumed. Letters from the magazine’s earliest readers provide a major intervention during this narrative of passive spectatorship, revealing how readers resisted and revised National Geographic’s authority. Its pictures and articles celebrated American self-reliance and imperialist growth in a foreign country, yet its readers have been hugely conscious of those representational innovations, and alert to inconsistencies among the magazine’s editorial imaginative and prescient and its images and textual content. Hawkins additionally illustrates how the journal really inspired readers to question Western values and establish with these past the nation’s borders. Chapters dedicated to the magazine’s perform of photographing its photographers on project and to its style of husband-wife adventurers demonstrate a extra enlightened National Geographic invested in a worldly imaginative and prescient of a world human family.

A attention-grabbing narrative of the way a cultural establishment can effect and include public attitudes, this booklet is the definitive account of an iconic magazine’s exact position within the American imagination.

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Additional info for American Iconographic: National Geographic, Global Culture, and the Visual Imagination

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19 In so doing, national discourses reduce people and their complex social interactions to mere emissaries of nationhood. We cannot fully apprehend National Geographic’s nationalist impulse apart from the readership that it claimed to represent. As we have seen, however, this readership was far from uniform in its values and allegiances. ” Similarly, in speaking of global consciousness we have to avoid using “globe” in ways that unconsciously overlook or deliberately disregard geographic and cultural specificity.

The Terflingers’ experience, then, reveals the ways in which the magazine paved the way for a modern pilgrimage to the sights disclosed in its pages. ”32 Like Urry, who sees the “tourist gaze” as one conditioned by a welter of other discourses, I understand National Geographic’s educational role in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in terms of a confluence of cultural, visual, and textual paradigms that shaped its representational strategies and informed its readers’ interpretation of images.

Carefully attending to how the magazine’s member-readers in fact “read” National Geographic photographs and articles, I tell the story of what National Geographic meant to its many thousands of memberreaders in the first half of the twentieth century. The institutional goals and imperial aspirations articulated by the magazine’s founders often ran against the grain of its member-readers’ imaginative identifications, and the aesthetic tensions between National Geographic’s national goals and its international scope fostered a critical engagement with the magazine and, arguably, with mass culture more broadly.

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