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English Prof Publishes Book About Immigrant Authors

SOCORRO, N.M. December 5, 2014 – Dr. Julianne Newmark, Tech associate professor in the CLASS Department, has published a new book through the University of Nebraska Press that will be available in January.  The book is titled The Pluralist Imagination from East to West in American Literature.

Newmark said she began working on the concept behind the book –that of multiethnic American authors’ responses to restrictive anti-immigrant nativism and associated legislation--for her dissertation 10 years ago. Nativism is a phenomenon that has cropped up throughout world history, but particularly in America, in the form of strident anti-immigrant attitudes.

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Dr. Julianne Newmark

 

“I am interested in the genesis of that attitude, such as 19th-century ‘old-stock’ Americans’ aggressively anti-Irish or anti-Catholic sentiments,” she said. “It is compelling to see how throughout time ‘old-stock natives’ regard newer arrivals, and those attitudes usually aren’t positive, though we see ourselves ourselves, interestingly, as a welcoming nation. Nativism is always something that exists, but when there are immigration crises, we see the nativist attitude emerge. We see it also in times of war or paranoia about communism or political instability. I wanted to go back and look at how non-old-stock American authors, many of them ‘minority’ writers, related to these things in literature.”

InThe Pluralist Imagination, Newmark brings urban northeastern, western, southwestern, and Native American literature into debates about pluralism and national belonging and thereby uncovers new concepts of American identity based on socio-historical environments. Newmark explores themes of plurality and place as a reaction to nativism in the writings of Louis Adamic, Konrad Bercovici, Abraham Cahan, Willa Cather, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles Alexander Eastman, James Weldon Johnson, D. H. Lawrence, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Zitkala-Ša, among others.

This exploration of the connection between concepts of place and pluralist communities reveals how mutual experiences of place can offer more constructive forms of community than just discussions of nationalism, belonging, and borders—in other words, nativist discussions.

In her book, Newmark gives examples of how a selected group of multi-ethnic America authors approached the subject. In many cases, she discovered that these authors conceived of “belonging to America” as an attachment to a place, rather than the racialized attachment that lies at the core of nativism. In her book, she looked at three main geographical places – New Mexico, Native American reservation spaces in the Great Plains, and New York City.

Newmark says, “I’m a New Mexican, having grown up here, and that pluralist alternative to nativism is something we see here, though we certainly see xenophobic nativism too. But this pluralist alternative is what really interests me. In New Mexico for example, over time, over the last 600 years since Spanish colonial arrival, different groups of people have simultaneously lived in the state of New Mexico. All cleave to a New Mexican identity despite being of different races. They cleave to the place.”

In particular, she looks at the Taos modernist movement in the 1920s, among other time periods. Detroit – where Newmark completed her master’s and Ph.D. – is also a place she discusses, as it also provides a history that is fraught with racial tension, questions of belonging, and possibilities for identity associated with place. She also looks at the neighborhood of New York City now known as Harlem.

The book release also coincides with current events and President Barrack Obama’s recent move to reform immigration in the United States.

“I think the subject I’m concerned with is so very timely,” she said. “Obama is wading into these tricky waters about how one comes to be American. It’s timely in that regard. … The people who founded this political nation were migrants from somewhere and there were robust Native American communities already here. We have a long history of debate about who belongs here and why.”

Book reviewer Dr. Siobhan Senier, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, wrote that “Julianne Newmark leads us back in time to multiethnic authors who thought deeply and creatively about some of the seemingly intractable racialized rhetorics that still bedevil us today. This is a timely, beautiful, and ultimately hopeful book, one that has much to say about larger public conversations surrounding American identity, how we read the past, and how we build coalitions across racial and ethnic lines.”

Newmark said her publication is another sign that the Communication, Liberal Arts and Social Science Department at Tech is very productive.

“Among the faculty in my department, there are a lot of people publishing books,” she said. “To name a few, Alexander Prusin has published with Oxford University Press. Sue Dunston has an impressive publication record. Steve Simpson has an incredible publishing profile. And Rafael [Lara-Martinez] is our department’s most prolific scholar. We have internationally renowned and nationally important people in their fields in the CLASS Department. New Mexico Tech has such a STEM focus that we are overlooked sometimes. We’re sort of working invisibly, but it’s important to note that that doesn’t stop us. It helps Tech’s profile to have scholars in Humanities, Technical Communication, and Social Science fields who are receiving attention for their research and publication productivity.”

The Pluralist Imagination from East to West in American Literature is currently available for ordering through Amazon and can be viewed on the University of Nebraska Press website and catalogue.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech