Cultural Pluralism And The Issue Of American Identity In Randolph Bourne's “Trans-National America”

Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 9 (26):203-219 (2010)
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Rereading Randolph Bourne’s most known essay “Trans-National America” (1916) provides the nowadays reader with a more accurate view perception of the cultural transmutations occurring at the beginning of the last century in America. Reflecting on the contrast between the ideals of liberal republican America and the reality of the assimilation policies, Randolph Bourne disagreed along with other intellectuals of his time with nativist attitudes and policies disfavoring or slighting immigrants and their heritage in twentieth century America. Wrestling to establish a more equitable meaning of the cultural heritage in the actual making of American citizenship, other than the Anglo-Saxon one, Bourne employed William James’s concept of ‘consciousness’, mapping a new cultural content for the idea of ‘nation’, contributing to the public debate on pluralism. Arguing that American idealism was imperiled by the consequences of melting pot policies, Bourne envisioned modernist America as a ‘trans-national’ entity holding together a variety of ethnic communities lead by the same lofty democratic goals, assuming that equality of individuals should be paralleled by the equality of ethnic communities. “Trans-National America” appears as a landmark in the further evolution of pluralism, combining reformism with the intellectual utopianism in an attempt to enrich the meanings of American exceptionalism in a newly fashioned form. Apparently, the term ‘postmodern’ occurred for the first time in this early twenty century writing



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