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‘I'm Not Done with Them Yet!’: Good Mothering in The Americans and the New Right

Mary J. Dudas (Trinity College, USA)

Law, Politics and Family in ‘The Americans’

ISBN: 978-1-83753-995-6, eISBN: 978-1-83753-994-9

Publication date: 25 September 2023


Reading the political and the familial in The Americans illuminates central features of the New Right. In particular, The Americans provides an opportunity to reconsider the significance of the ‘pro-family’ label to New Right organising, the importance of mothering to the ‘pro-family’ narrative offered by the New Right, and the relationship between this account of mothering and democratic citizenship more broadly. This paper argues: first, the ‘pro-family’ label served to weaponise American families against equality and egalitarian public institutions; second, that this weaponisation of the family was accomplished through a rhetorical and real elevation of the moralised work of mothers in the home; and third, this account of mothering is incompatible with democratic citizenship not only because it reproduces inequality but also because it presents families, particularly mothers, as surrounded by enemies. Surrounded by enemies, their children appear endangered or dangerous should they become products of enemy forces. The pro-family rhetoric of the New Right – with its emphasis on the labour of women, particularly mothers – concealed an insurgent factional bid for power just as the Jennings family concealed an insurgent operation inside the United States. The displacement of law in The Americans mirrors the displacement of law in American conservative politics in the 1980s and law’s replacement by the ideal of sanctified families that the guard republic. The Americans both recognises this reversal in American conservative politics and parodies the reversal of the idea that law protects the family.




I would like to thank Anna Fenton-Hathaway, Nick Marino, and Anna Terwiel for reading and offering comments on an earlier draft; Anna Marshall and Claire Rasmussen for being willing to endlessly discuss The Americans, and Jeff Dudas and Renee Cramer for never watching The Americans and serving as a control group for arguments. I would also like to thank an anonymous reviewer for their generous and helpful comments.


Dudas, M.J. (2023), "‘I'm Not Done with Them Yet!’: Good Mothering in The Americans and the New Right", Sarat, A. (Ed.) Law, Politics and Family in ‘The Americans’ (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Vol. 89), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 79-105.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2023 Mary J. Dudas