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Two-thirds of the way through Object Lessons (2012), Robyn Wiegman's provocative study of the institutional and ideological development of what she names identity-based modes of inquiry in US colleges and universities, the author recounts a 2003 trip she took to Leiden to attend the inaugural meeting of the International American Studies Association. There, she was regularly met with the claim that American studies, at least as it is practiced by citizens and long-term residents of the United States, was deeply provincial and too caught up with rehearsals of the humdrum difficulties of American social and cultural life, particularly our always fraught conversations about race, gender, class, and sexuality. American studies in both its old and new substantiations was imagined as not sufficiently "in the world," far too eager to reiterate the basic assumptions underlying so-called American exceptionalism, even as basic geo-political realities clearly demonstrated that the United States, if not exactly America itself, was rightly understood as but one nation among many.


This article was originally published in Feminist Formations, Volume 25, Number 3, Winter 2013. Published by Johns Hopkins University Press. DOI:



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