Transnational Perils: Environmental, Gender, and Health Perspectives

AHA Session 72
Friday, January 3, 2014: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Columbia Hall 6 (Washington Hilton)
Akira Iriye, Harvard University
Sarah C. Kovner, University of Florida
Steffen Rimner, Harvard University
David Zierler, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State

Session Abstract

Much historical research on transnational phenomena so far has focused on themes that emphasize border-crossing loyalties around causes inspired by cosmopolitanism, internationalism, nationalism and supra-national ideologies. As studies "beyond" the nation-state have liberated themselves methodologically, their themes have relished over solidarities that cross cultural, ethnic, regional and gender divides.

Far less, however, do we know about threatening aspects and effects of transnational entanglements, specifically how practices, consequences and perceptions of transnational harm precede and structure collaborative attempts to mitigate them. Transnational harm lies at the crossroads of an unusually wide range of political, social, cultural and economic dilemmas. These dilemmas range from questions of primary and secondary agency to the interpretation of causality as well as national, imperial, international and global assignments of responsibility, accountability and legitimacy in the face of oftentimes unintended consequences. The very identification, recognition, discussion and alleviation of transnational harm is generally subject to severe, transnational contestation. Compromises remain less satisfactory than in the world of high politics if they do not deliver social solutions to the perceived nature of the problem.

This panel comprises three case studies that investigate transnational perils as an intellectual, social and political problem by tracking their emergence, escalation and possible resolution. The presentations pay particular attention to the interconnectedness of and causalities between transnational perils and international conflict, as seen in environmental disasters, human rights violations, social destabilization and public health crises across the twentieth century in a global context.

Comprising an environmental investigation of the origins of "ecocide" in the Vietnam War, a gender perspective on the transnational prostitution in the Second World War and its postwar suppression in Japan and the connection between the first case of global drug trafficking in the First World War and postwar drug panics, we examine three foundational moments that served as pivots for the globalized recognition and contestation of transnational perils. The panel aims to widen the debate of transnational perils across research fields, continents and cultures.

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