American dependence on foreign oil has long been described as a serious threat to U.S. national security, and continues to be a political flashpoint even as domestic fracking eases the US' reliance on imported energy. Oil and American Identity offers a fresh perspective on the subject by reframing 'energy dependency' as a cultural discourse with intimate connections to American views on independence, freedom, consumption, abundance, progress and American exceptionalism. Through a detailed reading of primary literature, Sebastian Herbstreuth also shows how the dangers of foreign oil are linked to American descriptions of foreign oil producers as culturally different und thus 'undependable'. Herbstreuth shows how even reliable imports from the Middle East are portrayed as dangerous and undesirable because this region is particularly 'foreign' from an American point of view, while oil from friendly countries like Canada is cast as a benign form of energy trade. Oil and American Identity rewrites the history of U.S. foreign oil dependence as a cultural history of the United States in the 20th century.
Sebastian Herbstreuth completed his PhD in American History, Politics and International Relations at Cambridge University. He is currently Post-Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Cambridge.