AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Abstract: Questions about who is included – or excluded – in articulations of American national belonging are fiercely contested in the United States in the face of rapid demographic changes and heightened political polarization. I draw on original survey data exploring multidimensional perceptions of Americanness and develop a theoretical framework of the U.S. national hierarchy. In doing so, I show that there is both heterogeneity and a striking cultural consensus in how respondents of different backgrounds define U.S. national boundaries. Notably, asymmetries suggest that conservatives have successfully laid claim to a culturally hegemonic conceptualization of Americanness, while liberals harbor substantively discordant beliefs. Moreover, I find that although whiteness asserts the most powerful claim to cultural beliefs about Americanness, the traditional “U.S. racial hierarchy” is otherwise inverted: Latino and Asian Americans are positioned as the least American, while Black Americans occupy an intermediary position. Critically, the national exclusion directed towards Latino and Asian Americans cannot be explained away by their recent immigration histories and relative lack of English fluency. I contend that the framework of an American national hierarchy stands to advance scholarly understandings of contemporary social problems such as political and ideological polarization, national and cultural exclusion, and racial and ethnic social stratification in the United States.
Keitaro Okura is a PhD candidate in sociology at Yale University.
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