SECURING AMERICAN IDENTITY THROUGH THE RETELLING OF ‘9/11’
This dissertation is a longitudinal study of the transformation of American identity through 9/11 storytelling from September 2001 to December 2016. Drawing on and contributing to critical security studies, discourse theory, and social identity theory, I argue that the narrative of the attacks (‘9/11’) has contributed to an unconscious shift in normalized experience that has broadened the permissive boundaries of American actions at home and abroad. In other words, the extraordinary has become the ordinary. Examining the discourses of aviation security and the covert drone strike program, I explain how this permissiveness is made possible by unearthing the two-step process of how ‘9/11’ constructs threat (understood as embodied insecurity) and then reveals how that threat (in part) constitutes identity. Theoretically, I incorporate elements of ontological security and materiality into a new framework that highlights Self/Other differentiation by way of the transitory role of the Stranger. Methodologically, I use Foucauldian discourse analysis to trace the original themes of ‘9/11’ and their contestation through the texts associated with key moments in the development and implementation of each policy. Brought together, the resulting genealogy sheds light on the ways in which certain truth claims of ‘9/11’ have bounded the space of ‘appropriate’ American-ness, in turn justifying and perpetuating government policies that otherwise might have been construed as exceptional and ‘un-American’. Revealing this contingency opens up space for a reassessment of both American identity and U.S. security practices.