To Become an American: Immigrants and Americanization Campaigns of the Early Twentieth Century
Leslie A. Hahner
Michigan State University Press, 2017
Pledging allegiance, singing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” wearing a flag pin—these are all markers of modern patriotism, emblems that announce the devotion of American citizens. Most of these nationalistic performances were formulized during the early twentieth century and driven to new heights by the panic surrounding national identity during World War I. In To Become an American Leslie A. Hahner argues that, in part, the Americanization movement engendered the transformation of patriotism during this period. Americanization was a massive campaign designed to fashion immigrants into perfect Americans—those who were loyal in word, deed, and heart. The larger outcome of this widespread movement was a dramatic shift in the nation’s understanding of Americanism. Employing a rhetorical lens to analyze the visual and aesthetic practices of Americanization, Hahner contends that Americanization not only tutored students in the practices of citizenship but also created a normative visual metric that modified how Americans would come to understand, interpret, and judge their own patriotism and that of others.
In her review of the book, Cara A. Finnegan wrote, “This historically grounded, conceptually rich book will be welcomed by scholars across the humanities interested in exploring the often problematic ways that institutions seek to teach us who we are and what we should value as citizens.”
This book earned Leslie Hahner the 2018 NCA James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address.
Leslie Hahner is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Baylor University. Her work explores how rhetoric shapes public culture, primarily by analyzing the ways visual artifacts and experiences constitute aesthetic values. Her work has appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, and Argumentation and Advocacy, among many other outlets.