Daily Archives: January 24, 2011

First Post: Identities (HUM470)

Just the title of American Autobiography is already front-loaded with several assumptions. The first we discussed briefly in class:  the word American has been used repeatedly since First Contact to describe people who live across the Americas, from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego. Properly speaking, “America” is common property– though this modest objection tends irritate those for whom America always means the US. More importantly, perhaps, with “American” we confront the idea of national (i.e. collective) identity. It’s worth asking the question: What is a Nation? Is it identical with the State? Is a nation, as some say, a People? What, then, are a People? If the nation is not determined by consanguinity (“blood”) or race then what factors– conditions, ideologies, affinities and loyalties– bind it together?

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