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v2.1 Reference

Place and Belonging in America

How did the American people come to develop a moral association with this land, such that their very experience of nationhood was rooted in, and their republican virtues depended upon, that land? And what is happening now as the exclusivity of that moral linkage between people and land becomes ever more attenuated? In Place and Belonging in America, David Jacobson addresses the evolving relationship between geography and citizenship in the United States since the nation's origins.

Americans have commonly assumed that only a people rooted in a bounded territory could safeguard republican virtues. But, as Jacobson argues, in the contemporary world of transnational identities, multiple loyalties, and permeable borders, the notion of a singular territorial identity has lost its resonance. The United States has come to represent a diverse quilt of cultures with varying ties to the land. These developments have transformed the character of American politics to one in which the courts take a much larger role in mediating civic life. An expanding web of legal rights enables individuals and groups to pursue their own cultural and social ends, in contrast to the civic republican practice of an active citizenry legislating its collective life.

In the first part of his sweeping study, Jacobson considers the origins of the uniquely American sense of place, exploring such components as the Puritans and their religious vision of the New World; the early Republic and agrarian virtue as extolled in the writings of Thomas Jefferson; the nationalization of place during the Civil War; and the creation of post-Civil War monuments and, later, the national park system. The second part of Place and Belonging in America concerns the contemporary United States and its more complex interactions between space and citizenship. Here Jacobson looks at the multicultural landscape as represented by the 1991 act of Congress that changed the name of the Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and the subsequent construction of a memorial honoring the Indian participants in the battle; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He also reflects upon changing patterns of immigration and settlement. At once far-reaching and detailed, Place and Belonging in America offers a though-provoking new perspective on the myriad, often spiritual connections between territoriality, national identity, and civic culture.

About the Author

David Jacobson is a professor of sociology at Arizona State University. He is the author of Rights across Borders: Immigration and the Decline of Citizenship.


Place and Belonging in America should provoke reflection on the importance of issues such as immigration, geographic mobility, and globalization for the viability of politics, properly understood.

- Jeremy Beer - Perspectives on Political Science

Jacobson's lucid and insightful analysis is multilayered and interdisciplinary. Along with deft historical interpretation and incisive sociological investigation, he integrates discussions on politics, philosophy, literature, and religion, highlighting their roles in revealing American's evolving sense of place and identity.

- Virginia Quarterly Review

Paying keen attention to interpretation, textuality, and the social uses of landscape, Jacobson's study engages questions that make it a must read.

- Susan Kollin - Journal of American History

A thoughtful overview of major events and changes to the American linkages of place and identity to the landscape.

- William G. Holt - Contemporary Sociology


Modeling the best of interdisciplinary scholarship, David Jacobson demonstrates the ways in which American representations of self, the human, and consciousness are interwoven with shifting American conceptualizations of time, place, and civic life. Grounded in historical analysis, philosophical in tone, and shaped largely by insights derived from the social sciences, Place and Belonging in America recalls Jonathan Edwards's eighteenth-century reflections on the beauty of history as much as the most slashing postmodern depictions of historical irony. This is an impressive work of synthesis, a beautifully-written book that deserves a wide audience.

- John Corrigan, Edwin Scott Gaustad Professor of Religion and Professor of History, Florida State University, author of Business of the Heart: Religion and Emotion in the Nineteenth Century

This well-written and well-researched book addresses a topic of particular interest to a variety of disciplines: the symbolic representation of space. Its specific concern is the shifting understanding and experience of 'place' in the history of the United States. In addressing this specific concern, the author has drawn upon material from the disciplines of law, history, art, and architecture. David Jacobson has moved into new areas from those covered in his previous book, and Place and Belonging in America places that earlier, good work in a conceptually richer context.

- Stephen Grosby, Clemson University
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801867798 : place-and-belonging-in-america-jacobson
248 Pages
$56.00 USD

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Of Virgins and Martyrs

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Rights across Borders

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