INTRODUCTION ALYOSHA GOLDSTEIN
Toward a Genealogy of the U.S. Colonial Present
The United States of America has never been a uniform or unequivocal
geopolitical entity. This is not merely a consequence of prevailing forms of
federalism, demographic heterogeneity, or regional particularity. This is
not simply a matter of an unavoidable gap between empirical description
and the ideal form of the nation-state. Rather, the United States encom-
passes a historically variable and uneven constellation of state and local
governments, indigenous nations, unincorporated territories, free associ-
ated commonwealths, protectorates, federally administered public lands,
military bases, export processing zones, colonias, and anomalies such as
the District of Columbia that do not comprehensively delineate an inside
and outside of the nation-state. The heterogeneity of this condition is not
exceptional to the United States. But even with a burgeoning scholarship
scrutinizing U.S. empire and calls for a postnationalist American stud-
ies, a critical analytic lens that takes into account the significance of colo-
nialism for the various ways in which the geopolitical configuration of the
United States has changed over time remains largely absent.
Rather than simply advocating a comparative approach that centers colo-
nialism, this collection cumulatively argues that analyzing U.S. colonialism
demands understanding U.S. empire and the imperial nation-state as itself
a comparative project and mode of power. Always already shaped by fluctu-
ating interimperial rivalries and counterclaims against the peoples it sub-
sumes, U.S. colonialism has been neither monolithic nor static. The United
States nevertheless remains reliant on the ever-expanding dispossession
and disavowal of indigenous peoples, global circuits of expropriated labor,
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