Manhood and the Nation

In his book "Imagined Communities," social theorist Benedict Anderson discusses the nation as an imagined social structure. While nations are real in that they exist as geopolitical entities, the ideas of "national character" and generalized connections between citizens are imagined, rather than "true" connections. Anderson highlights that the power of these imagined communities creates the conditions necessary for racism, nationalism, social division, and war. This group of objects highlights the defined connections between constructions of masculinity and national identity, evidencing how the nation embeds itself into gendered ways of communicating and being.

These objects range from critiques of the American past to wholesale celebrations of American militarism, displaying both the sorrow and triumph that the nation generates. How does national identity shape the lives of individuals, groups, and social structures? Is it possible to be "a man" in America without being an "American man?"

Gerrit A. Beneker
The Past is Behind Us, The Future is Ahead. Let Us All Strive to Make the Future Better and Brighter than the Past Ever Was.
color lithograph on paper
19 15/16 x 15 in. (50.5 x 38 cm)
Gift of Mr. Maurice F. Lyons
A photograph of three tin figures in a shallow plane, set against a black backdrop. The man on the left stands behind a podium, facing the man in the middle, who is chained. The man on the right holds a whip. 
David Levinthal
The Slave Market
photogravure on paper
17 11/16 in x 20 7/8 in (44.93 cm x 53.02 cm)
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund
Howard Chandler Christy
Gee! I Wish I Were a Man - I'd Join the Navy, Naval Reserve, or Coast Guard
color lithograph on paper
40.9 x 27 3/16 in. (104 x 69 cm)
Gift of Mr. Maurice F. Lyons
Elliott Erwitt
Corning Salvation Army Couple, from "Portfolio of 15 Photographs"
gelatin silver print on paper
16 in. x 19 15/16 in. ( 40.7 cm x 50.7 cm )
Gift of Gerald Lotenberg
Elliott Erwitt
Corning Boy Scout and Scout Master, from "Portfolio of 15 Photographs"
gelatin silver print on paper
16 in. x 19 15/16 in. ( 40.7 cm x 50.7 cm )
Gift of Gerald Lotenberg
Black line representation of a human head and face, facing the viewer. The head is oval-shaped with vertical parallel lines.  The short hair of the person is represented by thick dots and fine curved lines.  The nose is formed by straight, vertical lines. Eyebrows are drawn with thick, black lines. "We shall Overcome" is printed in a brown-orange ink across the top of the sheet.
Ben Shahn
We Shall Overcome
offset photolithograph on paper
22 in x 16 1/4 in x 3/4 in (55.88 cm x 41.28 cm x 1.91 cm)
Gift of the Robbins Center for Cross Cultural Communication, Founder Warren M. Robbins
Two men sitting in a space with a low ceiling, wearing miner's hats with candles inserted in them, read a newspaper with headlines describing the Titanic catastrophe. A pick axe is leaning against the wall beside the man on the right.
John Sloan
News of the Titanic
crayon, ink and graphite on paper
14 3/16 in x 18 9/16 in (36.04 cm x 47.15 cm);22 1/8 in x 28 1/8 in (56.2 cm x 71.44 cm)
Museum Purchase
Frederick Strothmann
Beat Back the Hun with Liberty Bonds
color lithograph on paper
30 1/8 x 20 1/8 in. (76.5 x 51 cm)
Gift of Mr. Maurice F. Lyons
David Turnley
Gulf War, Iraq, from "Detroit Focus 2000"
black and white photograph on paper
11 in. x 14 in. ( 27.9 cm x 35.5 cm )
Gift of Detroit Focus 2000, and partial purchase with funds from the Jean Paul Slusser Memorial Fund
Lawren Harris
Good bye, Dad, I'm off to fight for Old Glory, you buy U.S. gov't bonds Third Liberty Loan
color lithograph on paper
29 15/16 x 20 1/8 in. (76 x 51 cm)
Gift of Mr. Maurice F. Lyons
John E. Sheridan
Rivets are Bayonets - Drive Them Home!
color lithograph on paper
38 1/4 x 25 in. (97 x 63.5 cm)
Gift of Mr. Maurice F. Lyons


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February 5, 2019 3:22 p.m.


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