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New Books in History
The question of how we come to understand who we are--nationality-wise--is a thorny one. In a widely-read book, Benedict Anderson said we got nationality, inter alia, by reading about it in books. William Beezley's got a different, though complementary, thesis regarding Mexicans of the 19th century: they were shown nationality in things like puppet shows. That's right. Puppet shows. In his excellent Mexican National Identity. Memory, Innuendo and Popular Culture (University of Arizona Press, 2008) he explores how Mexicans were taught Mexican nationality through a variety of popular performances, games, carnivals, holidays, and household items. "Taught" might be a little too strong, as the point of each of these folk enterprises was, well, enterprise and entertainment. In any event, Mexican nationality seems to have came from the bottom up, not the top down. Seems about right to me. I learned I was American by reading a comic book called "Sergeant Rock."
19th Century, Mexico, National Identity, Nationalism, Popular Culture
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