The American National character / сторінка 3
The American National character
These two massive sex surveys, compiled by the Indiana University zoologist Alfred Kinsey and a team of researchers, graphically presented the results of interviews with thousands of American men and women, including information on their age at first intercourse, number of partners, history of premarital and extramarital sex, incidence of homosexuality and lesbianism, and virtually every other imaginable sexual statistic. The studies’ findings shocked experts and the public alike, as Kinsey demonstrated that much of Americans’ sexual activity took place outside of marriage, and that the majority of the nation’s citizens had violated accepted moral standards as well as state and federal laws in their pursuit of sexual pleasure.
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female struck a nerve within the American public. Despite their complex graphs and charts and abstruse scientific language, the volumes became best-sellers and spurred unprecedented public discussion of national sexual practices and ideologies. Praised by some experts for their breadth, precision, and dispassionate approach to human sexuality, the books were also the targets of virulent criticism and were widely denounced as immoral, perverse, and damaging to the reputation of the United States. Upon the appearance of the first volume, Kinsey was simultaneously hailed as a liberator, denounced as a pornographer, compared to the scientific martyrs Darwin and Copernicus, and declared a Communist bent on destroying the American family, all themes that would persist in discussions of his work. Public uproar over the volumes spread well beyond the world of science, as millions of Americans purchased and discussed them, rendering the reports’ vocabulary and sensational findings a part of everyday knowledge. Kinsey’s statistics on pre- and extramarital sex prompted a national forum on the state of the nation’s morals and marriages, and his findings on the extent of same-sex sexual behaviors spearheaded debate about homosexuality in the United States. Omnipresent in postwar mass culture, the volumes featured centrally in discussions of virtually every topic imaginable, as references to the reports abounded in postwar political coverage, social science and medical writing, general-interest journalism, and even fiction.
The first key term, American, alludes to the centrality of nationalism, nation building, and national identity to postwar culture. A recent resurgence of interest in nationalism has encouraged scholars to focus less on traditionally defined political processes than on the social and cultural processes that shaped changing conceptions of national identity. In the introduction to a 1996 collection of essays on nationalism, the historian Geoff Eley and the political scientist Ronald Suny note that, "if politics is the ground upon which the category of the nation was first proposed, culture was the terrain where it was elaborated," and they observe that recent literature has interrogated the "need to constitute nations discursively through processes of imaginative ideological labor—that is, the novelty of national culture, its manufactured or invented character, as opposed to its deep historical rootedness." In Benedict Anderson’s influential model, every nation is an "imagined community" in which citizens envision themselves as units in a collective, "because the members of even the smallest nation will never know their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each they carry the image of communion." It is everyday beliefs and processes, not only spectacular events like wars, parades, or elections, that create and reproduce national identity. Identifying the 1950s as an era when interest in nationalism and nation building peaked, scholars argue that between the 1940s and 1960s the United States remade its economic, political, and social position, and that the period was thus marked by struggles to reestablish old models of nationhood and create new ones.
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