Elsewhere in America : The Crisis of Belonging in Contemporary Culture book cover
1st Edition

Elsewhere in America
The Crisis of Belonging in Contemporary Culture

ISBN 9781138654440
Published May 9, 2016 by Routledge
316 Pages

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Book Description

Americans think of their country as a welcoming place where everyone has equal opportunity. Yet historical baggage and anxious times can restrain these possibilities. Newcomers often find that civic belonging comes with strings attached––riddled with limitations or legally punitive rites of passage. For those already here, new challenges to civic belonging emerge on the basis of belief, behavior, or heritage. This book uses the term "elsewhere" in describing conditions that exile so many citizens to "some other place" through prejudice, competition, or discordant belief. Yet, in another way, "elsewhere" evokes an undefined "not yet" ripe with potential. In the face of America’s daunting challenges, can "elsewhere" point to optimism, hope, and common purpose?

Through 12 detailed chapters, the book applies critical theory in the humanities and social sciences to examine recurring crises of social inclusion in the U.S. After two centuries of incremental "progress" in securing human dignity, today the U.S. finds itself torn by new conflicts over reproductive rights, immigration, health care, religious extremism, sexual orientation, mental illness, and fear of terrorists. Is there a way of explaining this recurring tendency of Americans to turn against each other? Elsewhere in America engages these questions, charting the ever-changing faces of difference (manifest in contested landscapes of sex and race to such areas as disability and mental health), their spectral and intersectional character (recent discourses on performativity, normativity, and queer theory), and the grounds on which categories are manifest in ideation and movement politics (metapolitics, cosmopolitanism, dismodernism).

Table of Contents

Belonging Where? Introduction


Part I: Belonging There: People Like Us

    1. Makers and Takers: When More is Not Enough

The Wealth of Nations

Other People’s Money

The Virtues of Selfishness

Cultures of Unreason

2. True Believers: Spiritual Life in a Secular Age

Surprised by Sin

True Believers?

Selective Memories

A History of Religious Outsiders

3. Ordinary People: The Normal and the Pathological

Inventing Normal

Laws of Averages

Standard Deviations

Common Denominators

4. Homeland Insecurities: Expecting the Worst

A Dangerous World?

Barbarians at the Gate

Privacy Rights and Wrongs

Something to Hide

Organized Hate

Part II: Belonging Somewhere: Blurred Boundaries

5. Reality is Broken: Neoliberalism and the Virtual Economy

Neoliberalism Revisited

Citizenship, Inc.

The Politics of Culture

Aesthetic Contradictions

Virtual Rebels

6. Mistaken Identities: From Color Blindness to Gender Bending

Welcome to "Post-Identity" America

The Race for Race

Pictures at an Exhibition

Bending Sex and Gender

Varieties of Gazing

7. No Body is Perfect: Disability in a Posthuman Age

No Body is Perfect

Constructions of Ableism

The Dismodern Condition

The Posthuman Body

8. On the Spectrum: America’s Mental Health Disorder

Stigma and Discrimination

On Invisibility and Passing

The Shame Game

The Affective Turn

Political Feelings


Part III: Belonging Elsewhere: The Subject of Utopia

9. Gaming the System: Competition and its Discontents

No Contest

Doing God’s Business

Capitalism and Schizophrenia

The Power of Giving

Game Over

10. To Affinity and Beyond: The Cyborg and the Cosmopolitan

A Cyborg Manifesto

Third Person Plural

Queering Heterosexuality

Crip Analogies

Realms of Mattering

11. Medicating the Problem: The New American Pharmakon

The Narcotic Tower of Babel

Models of Addiction

Writing on Drugs


Big Pharma

12. The One and the Many: The Ethics of Uncertainty

Be Here Now

Possession and Dispossession

The One and the Many


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David Trend is Chair of the Department of Art at the University of California, Irvine. He holds a PhD in Curriculum Theory and an MFA in Visual Studies. His books include Worlding: Identity, Media, and Imagination in a Digital Age (2013), The End of Reading (2010), A Culture Divided (2009), Everyday Culture (2008),  and The Myth of Media Violence (2007), among others. Honored as a Getty Scholar, Trend is the author of over 200 essays and a former editor of the journals  Afterimage and Socialist Review. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.


"This is a terrific book--smart, provocative, engaging, and clearly written. It offers a memorable set of readings for students and scholars alike. Each chapter is a gem of organization, integration, and argument. Trend’s essays lead the reader through a maze of countervailing theories and positions leaving them with a much stronger sense of the complexity of our present time. Trend’s book is less about critique (though the critique is powerful) and more about a kind of hope that is restrained yet feasible." 

Richard A. Quantz, Professor, Miami University

"Trend is a lucid writer able to unmask the internal contractions of the neoliberal order with theoretical and conceptual clarity, as he writes with urgency to make sense of a fractured America in a changing world economy."

Rodolfo D. Torres, Professor, University of California, Irvine, and former Adam Smith Fellow, University of Glasgow 

"Elsewhere in America offers a prescient, non-dialectical approach to alterity, deftly revealing the hidden paradoxes inherent to so-called positions of "center" and "margin" within current media-driven polemics. Skirting binary logic, Trend offers a series of daring new formulations for hybrid positionalities – neither utopian nor dystopian – that afford theory to be transposed effectively into practice. Elsewhere in America will sit on my bookshelf along side Chantal Mouffe and Henry A. Giroux as an invaluable go-to source for artists and writers rethinking democracy in this age of political extremism."

Juli Carson, Professor, Univesity of California, Irvine