Paradigms of American Identity: and the Struggle for a More Authentic Self

Date of Award


Author Requested Restriction

Open Access (no embargo, no restriction)

Work Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Interdisciplinary Studies (MA)


Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Robert Crawford

Second Advisor

Janet Primomo


Three paradigms of identity are discussed in an exploration of how national identities as well as individual identities are formed. How important is it to participate in or identify with a "culture of origin" or transcend a "culture of origin" and create your own? What does it mean to be "authentic"? An assimilation paradigm is explored in an historical context for its effects on immigrants to the U.S. and Native Americans, its impact on establishing a core national identity, and the ensuing dominant hegemony of what is required to be an American. Multiculturalism is explored as a reaction to the flawed assimilation paradigm. Both paradigms are problematic in their expectations that individuals will fit into a mold that is untrue of them. Finally, the concept of cosmopolitanism is discussed as a viable solution to the other two limiting paradigms. Research includes perspectives from cultural theorists such as Charles Taylor, Lionel Trilling, Stuart Hall, and others that have contributed to findings in identity formation. Personal experience and a search to better understand personal identity inspired this research. Culture, worldviews, beliefs, values, historical experiences, and complexities of national and international influences are key elements of cultural discourse that will guide future studies.