The State in the Station: The Nineteenth–Century American Train Station and State Power
Nowak, Zachary Bostwick
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CitationNowak, Zachary Bostwick. 2018. The State in the Station: The Nineteenth–Century American Train Station and State Power. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractMy dissertation, “The State in the Station: The Nineteenth-Century American Train Station and State Power,” investigates stations as emblematic of negotiations over the nature of public space in the second half of the nineteenth century. The dissertation is a spatial history of seemingly public places—urban train stations—that while built with state intervention were legally private property. Debates about eminent domain and municipal police patrolling the private stations revealed larger conflicts about the legitimate boundaries of state power. Using St. Louis as my primary example, I focus on how the state—the combined power of federal, state, and municipal governments—intervened in the urban landscape by defining the accessibility of certain space to everyday people, and in doing so extended its reach. The project proposes a new interdisciplinary framework of US state formation in the late nineteenth century, using corporate documents, official reports and legal decisions, but also newspaper accounts, photographs, paintings, and maps. My analysis attends to the built environment and draws on actor-network theory to trace the connections from humans to inanimate objects: telegraphed arrest warrants made the station into a gauntlet for criminals, but also for “runaway” women. Large urban train stations, where many networks intersected in a relatively small space, were easier to control than other transportation nodes like ports or private spaces like theaters or factories. I argue that they were a spatial bottleneck that gave state officials a multiplier effect on their power to stop, search, and potentially institutionalize people.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41129182
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