Monday, January 6, 2020

Ronald Takakis Iron Cages Race and Culture in...

Ronald Takakis Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America After America declared its independence from British rule, the founding fathers faced a conundrum: How to build and maintain a successful republican government that was ultimately dependent upon the passions and character of its people. Their solution was to propose the construction of what historians have called iron cages, which were ideological devices intended to deter the corruption and folly that might consume a free people, and instead promoterational and virtuous American citizens. Ronald Takaki expands upon this concept in his historical analysis, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America, explaining that these constructs functioned†¦show more content†¦Long after the war for independence had been fought, such literature continued to function as the means by which racial ideologies were reflected, reinforced and reconstructed. Takakis survey of nineteenth-century white prejudice towards those both native and foreign to America reveals how national identit y ultimately emerged out of a national literature. Takaki commences his history post-Revolution with the works of Benjamin Rush and Thomas Jefferson, regarded for their immense influence upon American culture. Although Rush believed that the future population of America would be homogenous, he also anticipated the presence of blacks within it. The Philadelphia doctor rationalized his claim in a 1792 paper, wherein he attributed the skin color of the African race to leprosy. Rush stressed the avoidance of interracial relations due to the infectious nature of the disease, but added that medicine enabled an eventual cure: The Negros skin could thus be restored to its healthy whiteness. Takaki notes the impact of Dr. Rushs paper, stating that, Ever since theseventeenth century, a need to explain the Negros black skin had existed in white America. With Rushs explanation came social acceptance of the unnatural, inferior color and necessary separation of the diseased African race. Like Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson also believed that republicanism could only be achieved amongst a homogenous

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