What Can and Can’t Be Said

A look at public monuments in the American South

What can and can’t be said : race, uplift, and monument building in the contemporary South

Upton, Dell. Yale, 2015
265p index afp, 9780300211757 $45.00

In this thoroughly researched, well illustrated, brilliantly analyzed examination of contemporary public monuments dedicated to the history of the Black experience in the American South, Upton (UCLA) provides in-depth analysis of the complex political and social threads that recent monuments have both engaged and exposed. In considering a wide range of examples of visual culture—from billboards to long-standing public monuments—this study deftly reveals the many layers of potential meaning that should be considered in navigating the complex social and political context in which they exist. Furthermore, with recent political debates focusing on the presence of the Confederate flag in many southern states and a national discourse on race and power having dramatically taken center stage in contemporary American politics, questions regarding such symbols have become principal subjects of American political and cultural discourse, which makes Upton’s analysis extremely timely and relevant. As such, researchers and students, as well as political observers, will find this study thorough, insightful, and of great use in comprehending the vital role that monumental art can and does play in American culture.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
Reviewer: M.R. Freeman, Western Oregon University
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Political Science – U.S. Politics
Choice Issue: Feb 2017