Settler colonialism played a constitutive role in the construction of democratic culture in the antebellum United States. This dissertation argues that democratic values of popular sovereignty and social equality acquired their conceptual coherence and institutional realization through settler conquest and indigenous dispossession. Out of this dynamic emerged an "ideology of democratic empire," a distinct ideological formation in which the active agent of expansion is not colonial administration or the imperial state but the people in their sovereign capacity for self-government. In this mode of empire, settler conquest acted as a form of foundational violence that enabled the construction of a new democratic society through the elimination of indigenous sovereignty. I trace the ideological development of democratic empire in three phases. First, federalist discourses in the revolutionary period provided a new world conception of empire that privileged the equality of quasi-sovereign settler communities over notions of empire organized around the governance of colonial dependencies. Second, social equality in the Jacksonian period developed in relation to settler expansion, which guarded against the resurgence of feudal land title in the New World and ensured the priority of popular sovereignty over aristocratic systems of rule. The last phase unearths counter-narratives of democratic empire to reveal how colonial subjects challenged settler-colonial rule by reconfiguring antebellum notions of popular sovereignty. Through a conceptual-historical reconstruction of the relationship between settler expansion and American democracy, my project provides the basis for a decolonial theory of democracy that de-normalizes settler experiences as the unsurpassable horizon of democratic politics.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2014. Major: Political Science. Advisors:Joan Tronto, Joe Soss. 1 computer file (PDF); iv. 314 pages.
Dahl, Adam J..
Empire of the people: the ideology of democratic empire in the antebellum United States.
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