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“The Beauty of America Is It’s a Salad Bowl”

“The Beauty of America Is It’s a Salad Bowl”

Everyday Nationalism at Regional High

(p.138) 4 “The Beauty of America Is It’s a Salad Bowl”
Unsettled Belonging
Thea Renda Abu El-Haj
University of Chicago Press

Chapter 4 examines the stories educators told about America and American education that were expressions of everyday nationalism--the ways in which broader discourses of nationalism circulate in everyday life through talk and action. Teachers implicitly drew upon the discourses of liberal, multicultural nationalism, fashioning Regional High as a space ruled by the fundamental and interwoven ‘American’ values of individual freedom, diversity, and tolerance. Educators viewed public education as the forum for inculcating those values in the nation’s newest subjects, assimilating immigrant youth to the norms of American society. These stories educators narrated also structured their assumptions about, and interactions with, the Palestinian American youth. They often positioned Palestinians and Muslims as illiberal subjects of Other places in need of liberation from or discipline for these illiberal tendencies. The invocation of national boundaries that excluded Palestinian American Muslim youth was not only manifest in moments of conflict and tension. In fact, exclusion from the national imaginary was often signaled through more benign interactions. Both banal and hostile interactions emerge from and reproduce liberal multicultural nationalism in ways that make certain kinds of Palestinian and Muslim identifications impossible to include in the American national imaginary.

Keywords:   Palestinian American youth, Muslims, everyday nationalism, liberal multiculturalism, freedom, diversity, tolerance, national imaginary, racialization, war on terror

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