Within your breakout room, describe your interpretation of the quote from Berlant’s essay. Assign someone in your room to discuss the interpretation when we rejoin the full class session.

Lauren Berlant, “The Theory of Infantile Citizenship,” Public Culture 5 (1993): 395–410.

Quotation 1

“The definitional field of citizenship—denoting either simple membership in a political identity category or a reflexive operation of agency or criticism—is precisely what is under contestation, as the norms of signifying in what we might call ‘mass nationality’ change the face of power in America (e.g., in the public discussion over town halls versus other modes of national ‘expert’ culture)” (398).

Quotation 2

“When cinematic, literary, and televisual texts fictively represent ‘Washington’ as ‘America,’ they thus both theorize the conditions of political subjectivity in the United States and reflect on the popular media’s ways of constructing political knowledge in a dialectic of infantile citizenship and cynical reason” (399)

Quotation 3

“The transformation of consciousness, sensuality, causality, and aesthetics she experiences is, again, typical of the genre, in which the revelation of the practical irresponsibility of utopian nationalism produces gothic, uncanny, miraculously effects in the affects of the persons whose minds are being transformed by "true,” not idealized, national knowledges” (404).

Quotation 4

In two minutes of television time, and two hours of accelerated chronological time, then, the system cleaned itself out, and the cesspool itself becomes born again, returns “home” to the discourse of national growth. Nothing complicated about this.…The competent citizen knows this and learns how conveniently and flexibly to read between the lines, thus preserving both domains of utopian national identification and cynical practical citizenship” (406).

Quotation 5

What is left is a “consciousness of the nation with no imagination of agency—apart from perhaps voting, here coded as a form of consumption… National knowledge has itself become a modality of national amnesia, and an incitement to forgetting that leaves simply the patriotic trace, for real and metaphorically infantilized citizens, that confirms that the nation exist and that we are in it” (407).

Quotation 6

“The infantile citizen has a memory of the nation and a tactical relation with operation. But no version of the state agency accompanies the national system here. It provides information but no memory-driven access to its transformative use” (408).