Spaces of Interethnic Emulation in Jane Addams’s “Charitable Effort”
This chapter takes up the problems of emulation and exemplification in the reform of character by examining Jane Addams's critique and rearticulation of the character-forming effects of the class contact experienced in traditional charity work. In challenging the gendered assumptions of women's work as philanthropic “stewards of character” and exemplars of middle-class character, Addams was able to capitalize on the power of the charity relation as a scene of interclass and interethnic contact while also extricating it from its emulatory function of character building and from the assimilationist practices of “Americanization” being enacted on Native American reservations, boarding schools, and in the overseas territories of the United States after the Spanish–American War. Addams also stages her critique, forwarded in such works as Democracy and Social Ethics, through a complex refiguring of the literary dimension of her own autobiographical character in Twenty Years at Hull-House. In striking a performative middle ground between an understanding of character as either social inscription or radical self-determination, Addams makes a counterhierarchical notion of interclass and interethnic identification essential to a “Progressive” realization of a pluralist, democratic civic sphere.
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