MAKING A WORLD FOR AMERICA: ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION, EXPANSIVE PROTESTANTISM, AND GLOBALIZATION IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
Creator
  • Supp-Montgomerie, Jenna
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Religious Studies
Abstract
  • On August 12, 1858, the Atlantic Telegraph Cable was laid across the ocean from the west coast of Ireland to Newfoundland, Canada. Claims that distance had been annihilated, peace was imminent, and the world would unite through this new medium for intercontinental communication took America by storm. These promises of unity were particularly strange because the cable failed after only twenty-three days, colonial conflict rocked the world, and the Civil War loomed. This study explores this early form of globalization in America at the advent of the first opportunity for Americans to communicate with Europe in a matter of hours rather than weeks. The world is not a given or natural entity. Americans in the mid-nineteenth century produced a modern global imaginary: a constellation of symbols, meanings, practices, and material objects that was structured and sustained in dynamic form by practices of variable affective investment that shaped how Americans conceived of and lived in the world. This study demonstrates how global imaginaries come into being through processes of declaration and deferral, how affective investment structured and sustained this imaginary in a particular formation organized around failure, and how expansive Protestantism contributed to the forms of globalization that now dominate American culture. The cultural practices and products of the imaginary of a world united by communication technology made use of expansive American Protestantism in the storehouse of images, symbols, and vocabularies they drew on, in the eschatological logics that produced a perfected world that was both already arriving and yet to come, and in the ways that religion marshaled social investment to sustain these impossible dreams for total global unity. This dissertation makes use of archival research of nineteenth century religious and political writing from the Oneida Community (a utopian community in New York), the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (then the primary engine of American international mission), and public texts on the telegraph in the burgeoning national discourse of the time.
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  • In Copyright
Advisor
  • Styers, Randall
Degree
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2013
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