We are living in an age of globalization that affects our political and economic lives. In this context, globalization compels us as historians to rethink how we view the nation state. As Eric Foner noted in his recent presidential address to the American Historical Association, we are forced “to think about history in somewhat different ways.” Turning to his own field of study, he noted that it was now critical for scholars to rethink how the “global embeddedness” of American history compels us to rethink the study of the United States in a world where the nation’s special mission to bring freedom to all mankind has depended on the “otherness” of the outside world, often expressed in Manichean categories of a New World versus Old or a free world versus slave.” Foner then cited several studies, from the American revolution to explorations of empire, and Manifest Destiny, slavery, World War II and the Cold War, to exemplify his theme. Yet what has not been given the attention it deserves is how the rise of a new global media, centered in the United States, has impacted on foreign nations and America itself. Is the global media creating a homogenized world? Or is it reshaping societies without making them identical creating instead new forms of political symbols, diverse “modernities” and ways of visioning national memory and politics?
The aim of this panel is to provide three cases studies that will begin the process of moving historians toward a fresh understanding of the impact of the global media on the world and our own politics and culture. One of our presenters, John Kinder of Oklahoma State University will examine how in the age of global war the image of the wounded soldier has become a focal point for how Americans perceive the impact of warfare on the nation. Christina Klein of Boston College will examine how Korean film makers have borrowed plot and visual formulas from Hollywood films to create cinema that engages with the memories of American and Japanese colonialism. Jeffrey Brooks of John Hopkins University will present a paper on the use of international popular genres by the Russian avant garde to reshape politics and nationality.
Taken together, these three papers demonstrate how the use of popular media and images allow historians to generate new insights regarding global concerns as well as new interpretations of national histories. Thomas “Tim” Borstelmann of the University of Nebraska, who holds a chair in World History, will provide the comment for this session. Lewis Erenberg of Loyola University of Chicago, will chair the session.