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Author ORCID Identifier
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
American Politics | Political Theory
This dissertation serves three interconnected ends: (1) highlight the connections between nationalism, nostalgia, mythology, and conspiracy, (2) research and articulate the deeper story behind the resurgence of conspiracy fueled white nationalism, and (3) analyze increasing popular support for racialized hatred across the United States as coalesced through the nostalgic desire to restore “our lost great America.” I adapt John Dewey’s pragmatism to interpret how publics take political action in response to evolving technologies and cultural shifts, and accordingly develop a typology of groups on the right wing of American politics. The Proud Boys are chauvinist white nationalists, Patriot Prayer are Christian freedom fighters, and QAnon adherents are revolutionary conspiracy theorists. Each of these groups describe lost American values which they want to recover in the face of mortal enemies, and they claim to emulate those lost traditional values through their language and actions. Group affiliates have also been known to engage in street brawling and violence as part of their perceived struggle to restore America. In tandem, these publics among others form an umbrella coalition of right-wing groups, religious groups, free speech activists, men’s right’s activists, white nationalists, and white supremacists, all fighting to “Make America Great Again” in their respective ways. Importantly, the reach of each group has served to radicalize individuals and shift the parameters for when violence is morally justified. Their nostalgic and conspiratorial language describe and justify a mythologized “lost great America” to recover in the face of evil enemies, sometimes through violent means. Nationalist nostalgia – a prosthetically constructed memory which inspires longing for a lost mythological past – and conspiracy theorism – a systematized set of beliefs which inspires real political action in the face of evil – have worked in tandem through political rhetoric to embolden white nationalist sentiment. It is this confluence of political language and action which ultimately erupted into the January 6th Capitol Insurrection.
Travis, Candice K., "The Violence of Nostalgia: Conspiracy Theorism, White Nationalism, and Restoring American Exceptionalism" (2023). Doctoral Dissertations. 2783.
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