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Toward a topography of national trauma: mapping the past onto the future of American nationalism

Nations and Nationalism

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--- - |2 Abstract Since the inception of the United States, many of those who have spoken for and to the nation have struggled to define and defend a coherent American nationalism. This article proposes that one of the reasons for this lies in the fault lines inherent in the invented traditions that underpin American, as many other nationalisms. Determined by warfare and by the desire for land, and frequently defined in racial terms, they have undermined more than they have stabilized the nationalist structures they seek to support through what they have excluded from the national imaginary. In common with other settler nations, in fact arguably with most Western nations, America's nationalist narratives struggle to serve as cohesive foundation myths. They represent the lasting legacies of national trauma derived from the nation's violent colonial past and the severing of the imperial bond in the eighteenth century, chattel slavery, and the civil war it caused, and westward expansion and the imperative toward hemispheric control. Through the mapping of a topography of national trauma predicated on these national traditions and located within the tensions arising from warfare, land, and race, scholars can better comprehend the still frequently acrimonious debates over American nationalism that persist today. - 'Nations and Nationalism, EarlyView. '