Domestic Inversions, Domestic Interventions: Mapping the Postwar Formation of Home, School, and Family

Reddinger, Amy. Domestic Inversions, Domestic Interventions: Mapping the Postwar Formation of Home, School, and Family. 2007. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

Domestic Inversions, Domestic Interventions is a study of domesticity as a critical discursive field central to the constitution of postwar American cultural identities. American culture in the postwar moment becomes the site of subversive, self-conscious, parodic and–at times–even genuine attempts at some kind of "domestic life." These attempts, played out in a diversity of terrains by a range of actors often seeking refuge, representation or dis-identification with dominant cultural definitions of home and family. While much has been written about 1950s domesticity as a phenomenon of the suburb, little work has been done to expand thinking about domesticity to include identities and terrains outside of the white, suburban, middle class home. This dissertation looks at four specific sites—the wartime Pacific as imagined in postwar fiction, representations of post-statehood Hawaii in popular cookbooks, the writing classroom's inheritance of pedagogical racial liberalism, and James Baldwin's imagined 1950s urban/transnational topos—to consider the ways in which these various imaginings of life at home must be read as provocative and important engagements with racial and gendered national identities.

In reading a range of literary and cultural texts through a lens of domestic discourse, we can begin to glimpse that which has been occluded by most discussions of postwar American home and family life. This project suggests that we must understand postwar American domesticity as a contested—rather than monolithic—process of creating a place of belonging through various realms of textual/cultural processes. Central to this investigation into that which has been occluded is an understanding of domesticity as not only a set of practices and gendered roles, but also as a discourse of power in which identity and belonging can be produced. The discursive formation of postwar home-life is a dynamic and contested space in which experiences of sex/love/family are always interarticulated within the vectors of race, gender, class and sexuality.