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Title:Here comes the bookmobile: Public culture and the shape of belonging
Author(s):Attig, Derek
Director of Research:Oberdeck, Kathryn
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Oberdeck, Kathryn J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Chaplin, Tamara; Hoganson, Kristin L.; Fouché, Rayvon; Newcomb, Lori H.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
library history
book history
American Studies
cultural history
print culture
twentieth-century history
cultural geography
public space
Abstract:This dissertation explores the peculiar history of the bookmobile in the United States from the close of the nineteenth century to the turn of the twenty-first. In the process, it insists that a spatial politics of shared information was key to constructing and contesting community in twentieth-century America. Grounded in cultural geography, American Studies, and book history, it is an interdisciplinary investigation of the roles that bookmobiles played in efforts to build what some reformers called “common consciousness,” a sense of cultural and spiritual connection. Indeed, the bookmobile emerged not just as a tool for getting books into far-flung hands but also as a way to confront two persistent questions: What should our communities look like in this new century, and who should be included in them? This dissertation argues that the bookmobile’s answers to those questions both shaped and were shaped by three factors—racial segregation, imperial expansion, and consumer capitalism—that ultimately exposed the limits of the dream of a common consciousness. Drawing on research in archival and published sources, this dissertation looks at a series of moments when bookmobiles, by moving purportedly public culture through supposedly shared space, forced Americans to consider what it would mean to hold ideas and objects in common. A set of five thematically distinct and roughly chronological chapters allows the dissertation to touch down in particular times in particular places—in Progressive-Era Kansas, in the Jim Crow South, in New Deal New Mexico and Cold War West Germany, in suburban supermarkets, and in Silicon Valley—while offering an expansive view of the relationship between community, space, and culture in America.
Issue Date:2014-05-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Derek Attig
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-05-30
Date Deposited:2014-05

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