Blunt Instruments: Recognizing Racist Cultural Infrastructure in Memorials, Museums, and Patriotic Practices

Regular price $ 25.95

by Kristin Hass

Beacon Press

1/24/2023, hardcover

SKU: 9780807006719


A field guide to the memorials, museums, and practices that commemorate white supremacy in the United States--and how to reimagine a more deeply shared cultural infrastructure for the future

Cultural infrastructure has been designed to maintain structures of inequality, and while it doesn't seem to be explicitly about race, it often is. Blunt Instruments helps readers identify, contextualize, and name elements of our everyday landscapes and cultural practices that are designed to seem benign or natural but which, in fact, work tirelessly to tell us vital stories about who we are, how we came to be, and who belongs.

Examining landmark moments such as the erection of the first American museum and Colin Kaepernick's kneeling pledge of allegiance, historian Kristin Hass explores the complicated histories of sites of cultural infrastructure, such as:

- American Museum of Natural History
- Bridge to Freedom in Selma
- Washington Monument
- Mount Auburn Cemetery
- Kehinde Wiley's 2019 sculpture Rumors of War
- Victory Highway
- Alamo Cenotaph

With sharp analysis and a broad lens, Hass makes the undeniable case that understanding what cultural infrastructure is, and the deep and broad impact that it has, is essential to understanding how structures of inequity are maintained and how they might be dismantled.


"With this much-needed book, even readers already engaging in more holistic history-telling will find meaningful ways to level up their critical thinking." -- Booklist, Starred Review

"Hass offers a powerful exposé of the persistence of race in the ongoing public dialogue about citizenship and belonging." -- Library Journal

"For anyone and everyone interested in creating a more socially just world, this is essential reading! Blunt Instruments is an indispensable field guide that helps us all to understand and navigate debates surrounding memorials and monuments, museums, and everyday patriotic practices that have rocked our nation. Kristin Hass provides concise historical context, new language, and a powerful analysis that makes it impossible to see or unsee the world around us in the same way ever again. The lesson of this book is clear: cultural infrastructure plays a huge role in maintaining crushing inequities. Once we understand this, we can and must contribute to challenging and changing it."
-- Dr. Lisa Yun Lee, executive director, National Public Housing Museum, and Associate Professor of Public Practice and Museum Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago

About the Author:

Kristin Ann Hass is a professor in the Department of American Culture and director of the Humanities Collaboratory at the University of Michigan. Her previous books include Sacrificing Soldiers on the National Mall and Carried to the Wall: American Memory and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. She was also the cofounder and associate director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life.