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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.131

Ghosts of Return: U.S. Economic Nationalism’s Nostalgic Inventions and Erasures



Primary authors


Current U.S. administrative calls to protect “American workers” and “American jobs” invoke particular tropes of economic nationalism, each with their own ghosts, including the eighteenth-century revolution for U.S. independence from British colonial rule; labor union campaigns asking consumers to “buy American” in the twentieth century; and current anti-immigrant, anti-internationalist, and localist movements. The violent erasures of each, and their interconnections, are explored in this paper. Architects of U.S. economic nationalism performed their ideological position by appearing publicly in homespun linen clothing that was spun, woven, and sewn by people they held captive on their plantations, and wrote policies boycotting British colonial goods while secretly importing them for their own households’ use (not unlike Trump businesses’ purchasing practices), and calls two hundred years later to save American jobs by “buying American” invoked labor solidarity while supporting the suppression of African American and international workers’ rights (Frank 1999). The ghosts of all those denied economic independence and well-being in each past invocation of economic nationalism haunt the current disconnections of localist and economic nationalist arguments across the political spectrum in the U.S. from their own erasures. An invented economic nationalist U.S., in its ghostly flotilla of nations engaged in theatric self-extraction from a global economy, is haunted by a deeply embedded international system of production and its erasure of workers including imprisoned citizens of other nations in detention centers in what are also “American jobs.” Related examples placing the Brexit policy debates in historical context will also be discussed briefly.