Religion and 'Race' as Ur-Cultural Referents in Ninteenth-Century 'America', or How to Practise Transculturalism before the Age of Transculturalism

Estella-Antoaneta Ciobanu
2012 HyperCultura  
This paper examines the seminal contribution of two 19th-century Americans, John L. O'Sullivan and Josiah Strong, towards promoting socio-political attitudes with a marked nationalist and imperialist thrust. On the face of it, any such agenda is blatantly opposed to the current notion of transculturalism. What yields to a transculturalist reading of their respective writings is the mythology they championed, one whose biological, historical, religious and civilisation determinations fashioned
more » ... he American people' into at once the best exemplar of western European qua human stock and a model of rupture with, indeed transcendence of, Europe's ethico-political bankruptcy. Intertwining as they did, though in different ratios, discourses of history, religion, Darwinism, 'racial science' and social Darwinism, the Lutheran journalist and the Congregationalist minister helped create a specious discourse of global integration through assimilation for propagandist, missionary and polemical purposes. Unfortunately, not only did its undertones outlive their original context but they subtly permeated early 20th-century 'scientifically' devised immigration acts and poor laws.
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