Charity institutions as networks of power: how Anzia Yezierska's characters resist philanthropic surveillance
Keywords:Anzia Yezierska, “My Own People”, “The Free Vacation House”, charity, power, ghetto, surveillance
At the end of the nineteenth-century, American private institutions took the charge of spreading national values due to the massive wave of eastern European immigration. These institutions, especially charitable organizations, supported the integration of immigrants, however, from a classist perspective. According to the Polish-American author Anzia Yezierska (1885-1970), their apparently inclusive programs actually hindered the fulfilment of the discourse of the American Dream, which is based on the premise of preserving individual differences. By comparing those charitable institutions to Michel Foucault’s panoptical prison, this research attempts to demonstrate how the similarities between both structures help understand up to what extent the benefactresses in charge accurately managed to influence the newly arrived immigrants. The hierarchy of power established between them would determine the latter’s difficulties to achieve the recognition of their individualities from their intersectional experiences. The alternative to the monitoring network, thus, appears in the act of solidarity, a kind of resistance that allows ghettoized characters to perform their cultural distinctiveness away from Americanization.
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