Finding Foreigners in American National Identity: Presidential Discourse, People, and the International Community

Kevin Coe, Rico Neumann


Studies of the discursive construction of American national identity have tended toward one of two approaches: They have focused on representations of America alone, or have looked abroad to see how America is represented in relation to a narrow, often evil, “other.” This paper focuses its attention more broadly, considering the role that foreigners—not just leaders, but foreign citizens of all stripes—play in the construction of American national identity. By examining every mention of foreign leaders, military troops, and citizens in presidents’ State of the Union addresses over eight decades—683 mentions in all—we begin to illuminate where and how foreigners fit into the identity construction process.

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