ABSTRACT

How are citizenships and nationalisms constructed, connected, and contested in the post-9/11 USA – performatively, affectively, and visually – and how do their relationships figure ‘Americanness’? This article takes up this question (1) by tracking how Americanness was advertised in the American Ad Council’s ‘I am an American’ campaign and (2) by introducing the multimedia project ‘I am an American’: Video Portraits of Unsafe US Citizens, which engages the Ad Council’s campaign as a practice-based protest of the Ad Council’s advertised ‘Americanness’. The article traces how the Ad Council’s campaign advertises what Evelyn Alsultany calls ‘diversity patriotism’. It also constructs a complex, mobile system of differentiation that marks some citizens as ‘safe’ and others as ‘unsafe’, which runs counter to the idealized notion of a unified ‘Americanness’ that it advertises. The article then examines how the practice-based protest project ‘I am an American’ takes these ‘unsafe citizens’ – US citizens who either will not or cannot make their differences normatively conform to the national ideal of the ‘One’ composed of the ‘Many’ propagated by the Ad Council’s campaign – as its point of departure to reflect upon how citizenship protests function for and against citizenship, nationalisms, and various figurations of Americanness.