Guest Editors: Valentina Romanzi + Bruno Walter Renato Toscano
The quest to define the true essence of US identity dates back to colonial times, long before the nation itself was formally established. Yet, scholars traditionally situate the first explicit investigation into what constitutes an American citizen in J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur’s Letters from an American Farmer (1782). The third of the titular letters, aptly named “What is an American,” offers a list of features that de Crèvecœur considered quintessential to Americanness: industry, freedom, individualism, equality, assimilation. All these elements converged in what later became known as American exceptionalism, a doctrine that undergirded (and, to an extent, still undergirds) most, if not all, of US foreign policy.