John Wayne, Andy Warhol

Representing Empire: War, Culture, and U.S. History

Instructor: Jessie Kindig
Verso Books
20 Jay St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

How do culture and imperialism relate? Whether as a settler-colonial state, overseas empire, or “global policeman,” the United States has always been militarily, economically, or territorially entangled with the broader world—a historical trajectory that constitutes an imperial history. As the U.S. expanded, territorially and in global influence, it adopted or developed a variety of narratives, images, and practices to justify and understand itself: as a city on a hill; as manifestly destined to conquer the continent; as Anglo-Saxon; as a melting pot; as an exporter of democracy; as a benevolent superpower. To what extent is American culture, in its many phases and iterations, the attempt to express, account for, or counteract a material history of expansion, violence, conquest, and control?

In this course, we’ll read a variety of theoretical and historical works, as well as examine specific cultural objects and case histories (including manifest destiny, Theodore Roosevelt’s natural history, U.S. war and empire in the South Pacific, immigration, and Black Power), as we attempt to understand the relation between U.S. culture and U.S. imperialism. To what extent does culture shape or enable imperial violence? How have ideas of who is “foreign” or “domestic” changed over time? How have race, sexuality, and gender shaped, and been shaped by, military conquest? How, at varying points, have Americans come to group and understand themselves as “American”? And, what made or makes a non-American fit for assimilation, allyship, subjection, or extermination? Readings may include works by Edward Said, Donna Haraway, Amy Kaplan, Lisa Lowe, Phil Deloria, Naoko Shibusawa, Matthew Frye Jacobsen, and Adria Imada.

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm
October 14 — November 04, 2019
4 weeks


Registration Open