Thursday, May 5, 2016

Alaska, Hawaii and the American Nations

Of all the criticisms of the American Nations paradigm I field from people who have not actually read American Nations -- but rather seen the Washington Post or Business Insider summary of the book -- the "why didn't you include Alaska/Hawaii 'cause they're part of America" one is perhaps the most droll.

Yes, I'm aware that Alaska and Hawaii are in the United States, and also that South Florida is as well, and that Newfoundland is part of Canada. As readers of the book know, all of those areas save Alaska are not part of the eleven regional cultures whose history is described in great detail in the book. It's not that they're "not part of the U.S./Canada/North America," it's that for practical purposes it didn't make sense to relate their entire history, given the small and historically recent role they've played in the story of the U.S. and Canada, the real subjects of the book. (For those who are curious, Newfoundland (a self-governing British colony until after World War II) is an Anglo-Irish culture of its own, one predating the other Euro-American nations on the Eastern half of the continent); South Florida is part of a maritime Spanish colonial area with an impressive history all its own, and a culture distinct from El Norte; Hawaii (which joined the U.S. after World War II) is part of the Greater Polynesian cultural region.

Alaska is treated in the book, as it was colonized or settled by the regional cultures American Nations explores. It's shared between a Left Coast area (Juneau and pan handle), a Far Western one (in Central Alaska) and the area still dominated, like Greenland and much of the Canadian Far North, by First Nation.

Thanks to Will Mitchell and Nathan Broaddus at Portland, Maine's NBT Solutions for creating the map from which the image above is drawn.


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  2. I am curious if you could direct me toward any books or articles that discuss Hawai'i, and the cultural nations that influence its history/politics? I am really interested in the approach you took with American Nations, and would be very excited to hear Hawai'i articulated through a similar historical/sociology method

    1. My research experience in that part of the world focused on Micronesia, a region which I could fill a bookshelf for you, but any decent encyclopedia should show you the boundaries of Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia and link them to the various Pacific navigator routes.

  3. Living in South Florida and learning the history of the region, I view it at one time, the Deep South from 1890 to 1970. Especially politically and culturally. Once the Cuban population grew, then from Miami Dade County, 1970 to present, Broward County to the north 2000 to present and now Palm Beach County has the politics and culture shifted back to Spanish/Caribbean.

  4. I would recommend Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell. I felt it had a similar to feel American Nations.