Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Jerry Watkins

Committee Members

Michael Butler

Charles McGovern


In periods after war, the U.S. has a tendency to feel insecure amidst a changing world order. Reassuring narratives of American exceptionalism often emerge, as well as reactive vilification of the un-American “Other.” This thesis explores the split in American identity that occurs in times of heightened national insecurity, a division that awards labels of Americanism or deviant anti-Americanism to the broader citizenry. To explore the tie between security and identity, a case study approach is taken with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or the FBI. From its establishment in 1908, the FBI carefully built itself under the expectation that those embodying Americanism were the heroes of American society. By catering to the American bureaucracy and actively targeting the anti-American threat, particularly through its counterintelligence programs labeled COINTELPRO, it found success. From its impetus, the FBI has been adjacent to America’s national security fears, socially constructed understandings of “Americanism,” and the prioritization of a secure, singular national identity.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.