The American Girl Company and the Uses of Nostalgia in Children’s Consumer Culture

  • Molly Rosner
Keywords: Nostalgia, Dolls, Postmodernism, Consumerism, Childhood, Girlhood


Since the mid-1980s, thousands of girls have encountered history through the American Girl books, dolls, and merchandise. Drawing on the work of Fredric Jameson and Arjun Appadurai, both of whom comment on the ways in which historical narratives are always imbued with nostalgia, this paper argues that by creating purchasable “artifacts” for dolls, American Girl has drawn on nostalgic consumer impulses to create longing for an imagined and sanitized history. As American Girl has changed its focus from historical dolls to contemporary dolls, its message has become more focused on individuality, fashion, and personal improvement.


DOI: 10.1353/jeu.2014.0019

Author Biography

Molly Rosner

Molly Rosner is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University–Newark. She holds a master’s degree in oral history from Columbia University. She has worked as an educator, a researcher, and a photographer at cultural institutions around New York City. She is the creator of the blog Brooklyn in Love and War, which chronicles the history of the Second World War through love letters written by her grandmother (a young mother in Brooklyn) and her grandfather (a Hungarian immigrant, away in the Navy).

How to Cite
Rosner, M. (2014). The American Girl Company and the Uses of Nostalgia in Children’s Consumer Culture. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 6(2). Retrieved from