Bourne’s Trans-National America & Cosmopolitan Ideals

In reading Randolph Bourne’s “Trans-National America” I couldn’t help but think about the controversial Post-Colonial Literary Theory, Cosmopolitanism. Bourne explains that America does not have a real distinct culture because of all of the immigration. He goes on to argue that assimilating to “American culture” should not be necessary. Instead, new American’s should be allowed to participate in their original home country’s culture and Americanism and have dual citizenship. Bourne uses the term “intellectual internationalism” in order to describe this meshing of national and international consciousness.

Cosmopolitan Theorist Said describes in his work “Secular Criticism” a similar idea  , “On the one hand, the individual mind registers and is very much aware of the collective whole, context, or situation in which it finds itself. On the other hand, precisely because of this awareness-a wordly self-situating, a sensitive response to the dominant culture- that the individual consciousness is not naturally and easily a mere child of the culture, but a historical and social actor in it. And because of that perspective, which introduces circumstance and distinction where there had only been conformity and belonging, there is distance, or what we might also call criticism”. In using Said’s definition we can begin to understand this type of ideal America that Bourne is describing.

I agree with Joe and Patrick who explain that what makes America what it is, is the blending of the Anglo-Saxon elitism and the immigrant minority cultures. Patrick quotes Bourne in his post, “the Anglo-Saxon element is guilty of just what every dominant race is guilty of in every European country: the imposition of its own culture upon the minority peoples”. This is very true for most post Imperialist countries, but I think the United States is unique in this way- and is more “Cosmopolitan” than most (especially today). Yes of course, minorities were pressured to conform to typical “white protestant” culture, but other than the Manifest Destiny and Christian ideals, much of what made America what it was and what it is now, is the combination of cultures from around the world.


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