Postelection surrealism and nostalgic racism in the hands of Donald Trump

Donna M. Goldstein, Kira Hall


This article builds on interlocutor comments to “The Hands of Donald Trump: Entertainment, Gesture, Spectacle” (Hall, Goldstein, and Ingram 2016), a study published before the 2016 presidential election that analyzes Trump’s use of derisive humor in the Republican Party primaries. We move this earlier analysis forward by examining the ways that Trump’s semiotic displays on the campaign trail now inform the material policies of the Trump administration. Our response reflects upon two currents that characterize this postelection moment: first, the surreal mix of gendered and racialized nostalgia embedded in Trump’s iconography and message, and second, the intensification of white racism as Trump’s rhetoric of patriotic nationalism becomes government. Bringing the responses of our esteemed interlocutors into conversation with the philosophical work of Walter Benjamin, Susan Buck-Morss, and Susan Sontag and the historical work of Carol Anderson, we suggest that Trump’s spectacle of governing embraces sexual transgression, civil lawlessness, and excessive opulence, all of which encourage a pro-white semiotics and a return to racisms past.


iconography, nostalgia, pro-white semiotics, racism, surrealism, Trump, white nationalism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau7.1.026