Orfalea Center Thematic Research Cluster

Transnationalizing the Study of the United States

The overall goal of this cluster is to decenter the United States and transnationalize the study of this country’s role globally. We do so by incorporating global, transnational, and interdisciplinary perspectives to expand the traditional locus of enunciation that has confined the study of the US within and by national borders. To reach this goal we focus on interdisciplinary transnational perspectives on the US rooted in other parts of the world to then better understand our unique domestic context. Transnationalizing the study of anything attends to the multidirectional and multilayered movements of ideas, objects, peoples, and problems that exceed the nation as a unit of analysis; it would be attentive to the power of states and borders without being conceptually bound by them.

Methodologically, transnational studies aim to probe and analyze various kinds of flows (e.g., military power, cultural trends, legal norms) and their material and ideational effects. Examples of research methods suited to this paradigmatic agenda would include ethnography (e.g., of policy-making, international law enforcement, flows of technology), comparative discourse analysis and translational projects (e.g., competing and overlapping meanings ascribed to human rights), and grounded theory approaches to explain phenomena that qualify as transnational (e.g., ideological debates within globalized feminist politics, anti-neoliberalism and anti-war social movements).

In particular, we focus on transnational and global communities that are affected by and interact with the U.S. empire, racial capitalism, and geopolitics. This study includes, but is not limited to, a critical analysis of the genealogy and roots of the United States’ influence on the world.

Summary of Research Resources