Speaking of Diversity
Language and Ethnicity in Twentieth-Century America
Originally published in 1992. In this collection of essays, Philip Gleason explores the different linguistic tools that American scholars have used to write about ethnicity in the United States and analyzes how various vocabularies have played out in the political sphere. In doing this, he reveals tensions between terms used by academic groups and those preferred by the people whom the academics discuss. Gleason unpacks words and phrases—such as melting pot and plurality—used to visualize the multitude of ethnicities in the United States. And he examines debates over concepts such as "assimilation," "national character," "oppressed group," and "people of color." Gleason advocates for greater clarity of these concepts when discussed in America's national political arena. Gleason's essays are grouped into three parts. Part 1 focuses on linguistic analyses of specific terms. Part 2 examines the effect of World War II on national identity and American thought about diversity and intergroup relations. Part 3 discusses discourse on the diversity of religions. This collection of eleven essays sharpens our historical understanding of the evolution of language used to define diversity in twentieth-century America.
About the Author
Philip Gleason is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame. He specializes in US intellectual history and is author of the books Keeping the Faith: American Catholicism Past and Present; Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century; and The Conservative Reformers: German-American Catholics and the Social Order.
"This collection succeeds authoritatively in clearing the semantic ground on which one of the most tortured and divisive of American debates still rages."
"A major interpretation of modern American nationalism that deserves a wide readership... Careful surveys of the contested histories of such critical terms in the American conversation about diversity as 'melting pot' (where his essays have already been widely cited in the field), 'pluralism,' 'assimilation,' 'minority,' 'identity,' and culture.'."
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