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The Colonizing Trick

National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America

2003
Author:

David Kazanjian

The Colonizing Trick

An illuminating look at the concepts of race, nation, and equality in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America

The idea that “all men are created equal” is as close to a universal tenet as exists in American history. David Kazanjian interrogates this tenet, exploring flash points in early America when the belief in equality came into contact with seemingly contrary ideas about race and nation, depicting early America as a white settler colony in the process of becoming an empire.

Like a good sailor, David Kazanjian returns from his intellectual voyage with powerful tales of how the world is more connected than we knew. He also shows how big historical issues look different when viewed not from the partial perspective of land and nation, but from the seas by a citizen of the world.

Marcus Rediker, co-author of The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic

The idea that “all men are created equal” is as close to a universal tenet as exists in American history. In this hard-hitting book, David Kazanjian interrogates this tenet, exploring transformative flash points in early America when the belief in equality came into contact with seemingly contrary ideas about race and nation. The Colonizing Trick depicts early America as a white settler colony in the process of becoming an empire-—one deeply integrated with Euro-American political economy, imperial ventures in North America and Africa, and pan-American racial formations.

Kazanjian traces tensions between universal equality and racial or national particularity through theoretically informed critical readings of a wide range of texts: the political writings of David Walker and Maria Stewart, the narratives of black mariners, economic treatises, the personal letters of Thomas Jefferson and Phillis Wheatley, Charles Brockden Brown’s fiction, congressional tariff debates, international treaties, and popular novelettes about the U.S.–Mexico War and the Yucatán’s Caste War. Kazanjian shows how emergent racial and national formations do not contradict universalist egalitarianism; rather, they rearticulate it, making equality at once restricted, formal, abstract, and materially embodied.

The Colonizing Trick

David Kazanjian is professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Colonizing Trick

Like a good sailor, David Kazanjian returns from his intellectual voyage with powerful tales of how the world is more connected than we knew. He also shows how big historical issues look different when viewed not from the partial perspective of land and nation, but from the seas by a citizen of the world.

Marcus Rediker, co-author of The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic

The Colonizing Trick takes the reader on a breathtaking journey from the merchant marine trade of the late eighteenth century through the African colonization movement to the origins of ‘American Literature’ and white settler colonialism and finally to the U.S.-Mexico War and the Caste War of the Yucatan. Along the way, he interweaves his readings of Marx, Foucault and Kant into his discussions of the interconnections of politics, aesthetics and economics that persuasively reimagine the past.

Priscilla Wald, author of Constituting Americans

Consistently compelling and smart, Kazanjian traces an important genealogy of nationalism, settler colonialism, and imperial neo-colonialism through careful readings of interesting and neglected texts, such as the narratives of black mariners, congressional tariff debates and popular novelettes.

Christopher Castiglia, author of Bound and Determined

Each of his chapters mobilizes an impressive archive of literary, historical, legal and theoretical texts. Kazanjian’s book remains tightly structured by an argument effectively captured.

Nineteenth Century Studies

The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America, by David Kazanjian, develops a trenchant new critical apparatus for understanding historical moments. . . . a valuable, challenging contribution to early American studies.

American Quarterly

A concern for getting past the ideological armor that shields citizenship from an examination that would expose the inconsistencies of its compulsion and inequality.

American Literature

The Colonizing Trick

Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: Articulation, Graft, Flashpoint

1. Racial Capitalism: Mercantile Exchanges and Mercantilist Enclosures
2. Racial Governmentality: The African Colonization Movement
3. Biloquial Nation: Charles Brockden Brown’s National Culture
4. Ambivalent Alliance: The U.S.–Mexico War and the Caste War of Yucatán

Epilogue: “Yankee Universality”

Notes
Bibliography

Index