Imperial Entrepreneur: Masculinity, Race, and the Memory of Frederick Funston
Wells, Jonathan Patrick
University of Kansas
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This work examines Major General Frederick Funston’s life and subsequent memory. It seeks to answer two questions: first, how and why individuals/media makers constructed various identities of Funston during his life? Secondly, this work seeks to answer how and why individuals harnessed these identities after Funston’s death to support various causes? I argue that Frederick Funston became part of a larger narrative about imperialism, and that the conflict between imperialists and anti-imperialists formed the basis for two competing memories of Funston over the next century. Funston started his career as an explorer and used the local newspapers to gain acceptance for his chosen profession. Funston became an entrepreneur of imperialism. He promoted the idea of expansionism and with it he sold himself and his story. His early writings reflect the use of racial and gendered language to pit the “civilized” against the “savage.” Funston used the language of white civilized manhood to demonstrate his superiority over “other” non-white groups. During the Spanish-American War, Funston served in the Kansas 20th and later in the regular army. Imperialists and anti-imperialists used similar language to build support for their respective causes. They used Funston as a symbol for the larger debate over imperialism and cast him as either the melodramatic hero or villain. The way media makers wrote about Funston during his life, reflects the memory of Funston throughout the twentieth century. As long as white martial manhood was hegemonic, the memory of Funston the hero remained dominant. In the 1960s and 1970s the hegemony of white manhood faltered as other groups, like African Americans, Hispanics, homosexuals, feminists, all contested what it meant to be a “real American.” The contest over Funston’s memory continues today in places like Chicago, San Francisco, and Iola.
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