Cover image for American niceness : a cultural history
American niceness : a cultural history
American niceness : a cultural history
Bramen, Carrie Tirado, 1964- author.
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 2017.

Physical Description:
368 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Despite Fanny Trollope's dismissal of Americans as tobacco chewing, patriotic boors, travelers have a long history of commenting on American friendliness. Alexis De Tocqueville observed that their sociability made Americans more akin to the French than the "unfriendly disposition of the English." And Rudyard Kipling remarked, "it is perfectly impossible to go to war with these people, whatever they may do. They are much too nice." Although it often goes unnamed as a pattern of behavior, niceness pervades the assumptions, discourses, and the everyday conduct of and about Americans. But how and when did Americans become associated with being nice? Carrie Tirado Bramen argues that in the nineteenth century niceness became an indispensable part of a democratic personality that was friendly and accessible, free from the Old World snobbery of a class-ridden society. It defined the geist of a white settler nation based on transience and cohered through a common affect that Bramen calls "manifest cheerfulness." American niceness has figured in a national fantasy of American exceptionalism, based neither exclusively nor even primarily on military might and economic prowess, but on more mundane attributes such as friendliness. The distinctiveness of Americans has been largely shaped through the language of sociality and the importance of likability.--
Introduction : American niceness and the democratic personality -- Indian giving and the dangers of hospitality -- Southern niceness and the slave's smile -- The Christology of niceness -- Feminine niceness -- The likable empire from Plymouth Rock to the Philippines.
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