Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Rachel Epstein

Second Advisor

Ilene Grabel

Third Advisor

Debbi Avant

Fourth Advisor

Thomas Nail


Illicit finance, United States Treasury, Sanctions, Money laundering, Demonetization, Narrative, Metanarrative


This dissertation explores how the US government identifies and responds to the problem of illicit finance, specifically, why the US Treasury utilizes certain approaches over others. I employ a comparative case study of three relatively recent, non-traditional approaches in the Treasury’s anti-illicit finance repertoire: targeted financial sanctions (a case of strong policy action), anti-money laundering in real estate (a case of tentative policy action), and the proposed demonetization of high denomination notes (a case of policy inaction). While considering a wide range of plausible explanations for this variation in policy action, I argue that the Treasury’s decision to either pursue, postpone or reject a given approach is largely a function of the policy narrative surrounding that approach.

I find that the Treasury is more likely to pursue an anti-illicit finance approach when the relevant policy entrepreneurs have successfully invoked the nationalist narrative canon of “American Exceptionalism,” “The American Dream,” and/or “American Civil Religion.” Methodologically, I rely on the recent Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) literature, which emphasizes the importance of narrative elements – setting, plot, characters (i.e., heroes and villains), and moral – in the marketing of policy ideas. The most attractive policy approaches are those that resonate with nationalistic metanarratives and, to the extent possible, cast the villain in the story as foreign and other.

Copyright Date


Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

All Rights Reserved
All Rights Reserved.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Paul Christopher Kemp


Received from ProQuest

File Format



English (eng)


477 pgs

File Size

2.3 MB


International relations