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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Object of Study; or, Are We Being Transnational Yet?

  • Author(s): Traister, Bryce
  • et al.

This article polemically engages with recent trends and particular interventions in American transnational studies. It argues that the transnationalization of American literary and cultural studies, a movement sponsored institutionally by the American Studies Association among other scholarly organizations, amounts to another version of exceptionalist Americanist critique. In reading and assessing contributions to transnational studies from the field’s leading practitioners, including Donald Pease, Robyn Wiegman, Janice Radway, Wai Chee Dimock, Paul Giles, and others, this essay argues that many of our critical narratives of American transnationalism end up reaffirming or recycling aspects of the exceptionalist narratives of American identity they would replace. “America” functions as the signifier of repressed critical identity whether criticizing the territorial integrity, the mono-linguistic deployment, or the insular-exclusive vision of American Studies. The essay suggests that Americanist practice can claim the histories, literatures, and political economies of the United States as an object of study without invariably reproducing anti-progressive political narratives about that identity.

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