Ever since Crevecoeur formulated his famous question, Americans have asked themselves: "What, then, is the American, this new man?", and even more urgently so once it became predictable that the traditionally majoritarian position of Anglo-Americans will dissolve in a sea of multi-ethnicity. What constitutes an American nation and produces collective identity among an extremely heterogeneous population? Is American identity, is American nationality defined differently from that of European nations which, in their own different ways, each share longer historical and cultural experiences? This comparative issue is addressed by sociologist Liah Greenfeld in her introductory essay. Other essays contributed by historians and political scientists from the U.S., England, and Germany discuss historical developments and phenomena which have led to regional or group-specific identities which, in complex ways, contribute to, and interact with American national identity and nationalism. Among them are religion and its relation to politics in 17th century New England; socio-political change around the turn of the last century; immigration and Americanization; African Americans within, and facing the American mainstream. The projection abroad of America's values through its foreign policies is also part of the process of shaping American national identity and nationalism which are analyzed in this volume.
Knud Krakau is a professor of North American history at the John F. Kennedy-Institut of the Freie Universität Berlin.