populism, settler colonialism, US history, US politics, political theory

Document Type

Main Theme / Tema Central


United States political history is a uniquely populist and settler one. While there is plenty of scholarship on populism and on settler colonialism separately, there is a significant gap in understanding how the political phenomena are connected. To begin to remedy this gap, I argue that particularly in the US political context, populist and settler colonial sociopolitical logics are both historically and theoretically interconnected. Both political phenomena are central to understanding the foundations of American socio-political life. Working in a theoretical-historical mode, I identify five ways in which settler colonialism and populism have intersected, and in the process produce a set of logical functions: to categorize, subordinate, dismiss, authorize, and defy. These functions reveal a mirrored internal logic to populism and settler colonialism. Using this theoretical analytic, I will then discuss four distinct moments of populist politics in the US: Shays’ Rebellion, Andrew Jackson’s presidency, the emergence of the People’s Party, and Donald Trump’s presidency. The intertwined logics are present and coarticulated in each of these populist waves, with certain logics dominant at different times. Ultimately, this thesis will reveal that both populist and settler colonial political logics are interdependent, foundational, and continuous features of US politics and that, therefore, populism and settler colonialism in the US context ought to be considered in tandem.



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