Transnational settler colonialism: Nathaniel Sikand-Youngs, ‘From American California to Californian America: internal Transnationalism and Settler-Colonial Expansion’, Comparative American Studies: An International Journal, 2022


Abstract: Transnationalism is largely understood as a cross-national or international phenomenon, but the globalising forces of imperialism, capitalism, and decolonisation also undermine national hegemony from within the nation itself. This underexamined concept of ‘internal transnationalism’ is vital to settler-colonial spaces like California in its early US statehood, where national sovereignty is decoupled from national territory. The transnational implications of western expansion prompted different spatial imaginaries of California under US rule, two of which this article focuses on. James Mason Hutchings in his touristic Hutchings’ California Magazine (1856–1861) – most famous for promoting the Yosemite Valley in its debut issue but critically neglected thereafter – portrays an American California as a ‘pointillist’ geography, in which American sovereignty emanates from myriad colonial outposts rather than being a property of the land itself. After the Civil War, John Wesley Powell and Clarence King, two federal surveyors conventionally seen as scientific adversaries, each pointed towards a bioregional Californian America, where local environmental conditions supersede national sovereignty. Through these case studies, I contend that California as a settler-colonial space cannot be taken for granted as domestically ‘American’, and that California and America instead represent a transnational pairing.

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