The Idea of Equality in America


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Political Science


Is the idea of equality in the United States an inherently progressive ideal? From recent battles for marriage equality to its centrality in contemporary democratic theory, equality is presented as an ideologically straightforward, progressive concept. This project, the first properly critical study of the idea of equality in the United States, challenges and complicates this univocal theoretical orientation toward equality. It argues that equality is polyvocal; in three case studies, it shows how some registers of equality produce and naturalize hierarchy and sabotage democratic participation and inclusion. Using archival sources, published primary sources, and original datasets, it offers a complex and historically grounded new framework for understanding the US idea of equality.