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The West and Manifest Destiny

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Published in John Carlos Rowe. A Concise Companion to American Studies. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. 2010
Abstract Westward expansion is central to American Studies for the very simple reason that the object of study (the United States) has been constituted by successive processes of westward migration and territorial expansion. At the same time, the rhetoric of American Studies as a discipline, in terms of both the vocabulary of American selfhood and of the US nation, has been grounded in migration histories. From the corporate expansionism of the 1630s, which Perry Miller fixed into the paradigm of "the Great Migration," American Studies has been characterized by disciplinary metaphors like Sacvan Bercovitch's powerful analyses of "the Puritan origins of the American self" (1975) and a foundational understanding of the US as formed by the Americanization of (European) migrants. In the wake of ground-breaking work by Ronald Takaki, Gary Okihiro, and others, Americanists have been encouraged to look not across the Atlantic but across the Pacific, from and to "a different shore," to borrow Takaki's phrase. Richard Drinnon's account of American conquest, Facing West (1980), begins in early seventeenth-century Massachusetts but ends in Indochina. In this essay, I begin by asking “where is the West?” before turning to the issue of how the study of the West has changed, from foundational work by scholars like Henry Nash Smith, Leo Marx, and R. W. B. Lewis, to the “new” West Studies which turns away from the understanding of the West as a process to focus more on the West as a place. "New" Western scholars address the specificities of experience of people living in the West, both the colonizers from the East and the Western colonized, particularly in relation to issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality. The particular case of indigenous communities and their experience of American settler-colonial expansionism, with its ideological justification “Manifest Destiny,” brings my essay to a close.
Keywords American WestNationalismRegionalismAmerican Studies methodologies
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MADSEN, Deborah Lea. The West and Manifest Destiny. In: John Carlos Rowe (Ed.). A Concise Companion to American Studies. Oxford : Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:87483

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Deposited on : 2016-09-19

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