The idea for this volume germinated in the wake of three events-
the breakdown of the Cold War, the breakup of the Soviet Empire, and
the "emergence of global democracy"-whose impact on global politics
was registered in the collective recognition of a postnational world. In its
making heterogeneous cultural histories available to public and scholarly
debate, multiculturalism was representative of this new political formation.
It no longer authorized belief in an Americanness that somehow contained
a plurality that it also transcended. In place of the melting pot capable of
assimilating immigrants, the United States was understood as but a single
unit in a global network.
To facilitate the production of an alternative to the national narrative
confirmative of the "melting pot," I have gathered essays in this volume that
trace the grand narrative of U.S. nationalism from its inception in antebel-
lum slave narratives to its dissolution in the aftermath of the Cold War. The
contributors examine the various cultural, political, and historical sources-
colonial literature, mass movements, health epidemics, mass spectacle,
transnational corporations, super-weapons-out of which this narrative was
constructed, and propose different understandings of nationality and iden-
tity following in its wake.
Except for the essays by Rowe and Lindberg, this volume first ap-
peared as a special issue of boundary 2 (vol. 19, no. 1). For their help