Presenting America's World : Strategies of Innocence in National Geographic Magazine, 1888-1945 book cover
1st Edition

Presenting America's World
Strategies of Innocence in National Geographic Magazine, 1888-1945

ISBN 9781138276598
Published November 28, 2016 by Routledge
208 Pages

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Book Description

National Geographic magazine is probably the most visible and popular expression of geography in the USA. Presenting America's World presents a critical analysis of the world portrayed by National Geographic, from its formative years in the nineteenth century, through to 1945. It situates the National Geographic Society's development within the context of a new American overseas expansionism, interrogates the magazine as America's ubiquitous source of wholesome exotica and erotica, examines the ways in which it framed the world for its millions of readers, and questions its participation in the cultural work of US global hegemony. The book argues that National Geographic successfully employed 'strategies of innocence', a contradictory stance of representation which simultaneously asserts innocence - either the innocence of 'just watching' or the innocence of altruistic behaviour - while naturalizing Western hegemony. Presenting America's World not only considers the world that National Geographic presented to its readers, but also examines the magazine’s own institutional world of writers, photographers and editors. Particular attention is paid to Gilbert H. Grosvenor, the magazine's editor for over 50 years, Maynard Owen Williams, a writer and photographer who worked on nearly 100 articles from 1919 to 1960 and Harriet Chalmers Adams, a freelancer, explorer and Pan-American activist who contributed 21 articles.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: the picture of innocence; National Geographic in the new world order; Picturing the world, imagining the nation; Picturing human geography: orders of science and art; Maynard Owen Williams: contradictions of a 'seeing man'; Harriet Chalmers Adams: intricacies of class, gender and gusto; Afterword; Bibliography; Index.

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Tamar Y. Rothenberg is editor of New Youth Connections.


’An important contribution to the history of geography. It provides real insight both into how a small group of well-connected Americans was able to articulate and disseminate a cultural and geopolitical vision of the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, and why geography became thought of by Americans as a popular rather than an academic subject. ’ James S. Duncan, University of Cambridge, UK ’With energetic prose, Rothenberg analyzes not just the National Geographic’s text and photographs, but some of its most important authors, editors, and photographers as well. The result is a sustained look into the inner workings of one of the most influential magazines of the twentieth century. Presenting America’s World is a welcome addition to the literature on popular geography.’ Susan Schulten, University of Denver, USA ’...Rothenberg engages conversationally with archival material, maintaining transparency and liveliness and underscoring the need to perpetuate dialogue between past and present. Recommended.’ Choice ’Histories of geography largely ignore the role of the National Geographic and similar magazines in their focus on the academic discipline. Yet such media have been major forces influencing the development of popular geographies...Thus understanding how those popular geographies have been produced through the ideologies of the owners and editors of those magazines is key to a full appreciation of geography’s trajectory as both subject and discipline. Tamar Rothenberg’s book is a worthy addition to the small literature undertaking that task, providing major insights into the people who fashioned a magazine that has played a considerable part in structuring Americans’ world views.’ Geografiska Annaler B: Human Geography 'This book is an interesting, critical, and admirable contribution to the rematerialising Cultural Geography series from British-based publisher Ashgate.' Patricia Baldwin