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In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes:
In this innovative study, David Waldstreicher investigates the importance of political festivals in the early American republic. Drawing on newspapers, broadsides, diaries, and letters, he shows how patriotic celebrations and their reproduction in a rapidly expanding print culture helped connect local politics to national identity.
Waldstreicher reveals how Americans worked out their political differences in creating a festive calendar. Using the Fourth of July as a model, members of different political parties and social movements invented new holidays celebrating such events as the ratification of the Constitution, Washington's birthday, Jefferson's inauguration, and the end of the slave trade. They used these politicized rituals, he argues, to build constituencies and to make political arguments on a national scale.
While these celebrations enabled nonvoters to participate intimately in the political process and helped dissenters forge effective means of protest, they had their limits as vehicles of democratization or modes of citizenship, Waldstreicher says. Exploring the interplay of region, race, class, and gender in the development of a national identity, he demonstrates that an acknowledgment of the diversity and conflict inherent in the process is crucial to any understanding of American politics and culture. [via]