The postal network is a liminal space between public and private research Note

By Kristopher A. Nelson
in June 2018

200 words / 1 min.
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Molly McGann: “The Comstock Law shifted censorship from the urban public sphere to the liminal space between the public sphere and private sphere.”


The Comstock Law shifted censorship from the urban public sphere to the liminal space between the public sphere and private sphere—from bookstores, newsstands, and brothels to the mail. Attention to this site occurred in addition to, not in place of, older, more direct forms of policing. Indeed, censorship’s new ground reflected moral purity campaigners’ concerns that the defiled public sphere increasingly needed to be controlled to keep it from seeping into the private. Comstock was convinced that the mail was a unique conduit between public and private, and, in a report to the NYSSV, he argued that “‘the mails of the United States have been the channel above all others through which hundreds of thousands of insidious and corrupt publications have gone out to schools, seminaries, male and female colleges and the homes of our land.’”

— Molly McGarry, “Spectral Sexualities: Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism, Moral Panics, and the Making of U.S. Obscenity Law,” Journal of Women’s History 12, no. 2 (2000): 21.

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