Catherine Whalen will give a Work-in-Progress talk on Monday, March 18, at 12:15 pm. Her talk is entitled “Americana Redux: Materializing Multiculturalism during the United States Bicentennial.”

This talk draws upon Professor Whalen’s current book project, which explores how many Americans sought to challenge and redefine national identity through wide-ranging commemorations of the United States Bicentennial. The 200th anniversary of the 1776 Declaration of Independence inspired both celebrations of its signees’ democratic ideals and critiques of their failed implementation. For some, participating in the Bicentennial meant contesting their ongoing social and political marginalization. Here they sought to center themselves within prevailing constructs of citizenship and belonging while expanding such parameters. Art, craft, and design were key agents in their endeavors. Examples range from museum exhibitions of African American and Native American art, US fashion, and folklife to the New Left’s attempt to mobilize revolutionary imagery via the Peoples’ Bicentennial Commission. These initiatives gained special momentum in the distinctive circumstances of the 1970s: economic instability, widespread political disillusionment, Black and Chicano activism, contentious immigration debates, and women’s and gay liberation. The result was a mixed and meaningful legacy for US cultural nationalism.

Catherine Whalen is an Associate Professor at Bard Graduate Center. Her research interests include the history and theory of collecting, material culture studies methodology and historiography, craft and design history, digital oral history, public humanities, and vernacular photography.