“Such a Thing as the American Dream:” On Immigration, Affect, and the Election of Donald Trump

In: Public Anthropologist
Amelia Frank-Vitale , Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States,

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In this article, I trace the structures of feeling underlying the 2106 election of Donald Trump as played out through the fear felt by immigrant communities and the fervor felt by anti-immigrant Trump supporters. The discourses of both groups rest on competing claims of the American Dream. Weaving together ethnographic data from fieldwork conducted among migrants and immigrants in Mexico, Honduras, and the United States with expressions of anti-immigrant sentiment as evidenced through online interactions, I explore the intersections and outline the divergences in the ways in which the American Dream is invoked, contested, twisted, and rejected. I use the idea of the American Dream as a fulcrum for the hopes, dreams, and feelings of immigrants and nativists alike. As we face the next election, I ask: whose American Dream as a structure of feeling is the emergent structure, and whose is fading out?

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