In an election year, political signs can be impossible to avoid. They’re in front yards, on bumper stickers, and in some places you might never have expected. Tobias Carroll chronicles the permutations and secret histories of political signs, venturing into the story of how they came to be and illuminating how the signs around us shape us in ways we often fail to appreciate.
In an era of political polarization and heated debate, what can be learned from studying how our personal space becomes the setting for both? Understanding political signs can help us understand our current political moment, and how we might transcend it.
“We have long been taught to think about the politics of signs, but less often is this applied to political signs themselves-our yard signs and bumper stickers and billboards-these strange creatures of the American electoral landscape, some proliferating and gone like dandelions, others stuck in place like barnacles, even as years of political changes leave them as decontextualized fossils. In this brisk and encompassing work, Tobias Carroll examines and makes strange these instruments of power and change and reaction, offering us a sharp and unyielding look at everything that is on the surface that we still do not see.” – Mark Doten, author of Trump Sky Alpha
“Tobias Carroll has opened my eyes to the signs around me, and now I can’t stop seeing.” – Alexis Coe, author of You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George of Washington and Alice+Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis
“In an account that’s more impressionistic than exhaustive, Carroll argues that political signs illustrate ‘how one thing becomes another.’ Posted on lawns, held aloft at protests, emblazoned as tattoos, or displayed in museums, they have the power to represent and transform how we see our world.”
– Michael Friedrich, The Baffler
“During a moment in which Americans are besieged by an onslaught of political messaging from the sublime to the ridiculous, this slim, thoughtful volume helps make sense of what we’re seeing.”
– Sascha Cohen, NPR
Review at NY Journal of Books, November 2020
Review in Inside Higher Ed, October 2020
“Author Recommends” at The Authors Guild
“What Makes Something a Political Sign?” at Cleveland Review of Books
The 7 New Books You Should Be Reading This September at InsideHook
“Where Do Political Signs Go When We’re All Stuck Inside?” at Medium