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Week 4: Imperial Cultures

This seminar addresses the theme of 'imperial culture' with reference to a distinctive case: the United States, a polity which has often asserted an anti-imperial (sometimes post-colonial) identity. In this session, we will begin by exploring the peculiarities of an imperial power that has frequently disavowed its status as an empire, examining how scholars have variously facilitated and challenged this exceptionalist identity construction. We will then turn to a specific experience of US imperialism-- in interwar Haiti-- to examine in closer detail the variety of ways in which empire is invariably entangled with culture.

Seminar Questions

Why has the US polity often asserted an anti-colonial identity?

How have scholars engaged with ideas of US exceptionalism?

How might US imperialism be considered similar or different to other imperialisms?

How has the scholarship on US imperialism changed over time?

Seminar Preparation

For the seminar, read the core reading and come prepared to talk about one of the sources on the further reading list that takes your interest.

Core reading

Mary A. Renda, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940 (University of North Carolina Press, 2001), Concentrate on Part I, pp. 1-181. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Amy Kaplan, 'Left Alone with America: The Absence of Empire in the Study of American Culture', in Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease (eds), Cultures of United States Imperialism (Duke University Press, 1993), pp. 3-21.

Amy Kaplan, 'Violent Belongings and the Question of Empire Today,' Presidential Address to the American Studies Association, Oct. 17, 2003, American Quarterly 56.1 (2004), pp. 1-18. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Further reading

Dirks, Nicholas B. (ed.), Colonialism and Culture (University of Michigan Press, 1992).

Grandin, Greg, Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States and the Rise of the New Imperialism. (Owl Books, 2007).

Guardino, Peter. The Dead March: A History of the Mexican American War. (Harvard University Press, 2017).

Kaplan, Amy, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (Harvard University Press, 2002).

McCoy, Alfred W., and Francisco A. Scarano, Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009).

McPherson, Alan, The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Mignolo, D. The Darker Side of Western Modernity. (Duke University Press, 2011).

Said, Edward W., Culture and Imperialism (Vintage Books, 1994).

Stoler, Ann Laura (ed.), Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History (Duke University Press, 2006).