Recognition has become a key concept in contemporary philosophy, sociology, and cultural studies, drawing most prominently and influentially on the work of Charles Taylor, Axel Honneth, and Nancy Fraser. In each case, the concept of recognition is used to respond to a shortcoming in leading political and social theories. Taylor wants to replace a strictly rights-based liberalism with a multicultural ‘politics of recognition’; Honneth wants to put Frankfurt-style critical theory on new normative grounds (“anerkennungstheoretische Wende”); Fraser, although originally entering the discussion in protest against the prospect of replacing distribution as the primary criterion of justice by recognition, has, in subsequent discussions with Honneth, integrated the concept into the outline of a critical theory that would be equally concerned with questions of distribution and recognition. The goal in each case is to establish new and more comprehensive social norms of fairness and justice by considering the political, social, and cultural conditions of identity formation. Should American Studies pay attention to this debate? If so, how can the concept of recognition be meaningfully and productively applied in American Studies and, in view of this thematic issue, specifically in American literary and cultural studies?3 What are possible gains and losses in comparison with approaches that currently dominate the field?