Intimate Relations: Reevaluating Transnational Relations of Gender, Sexuality, and Citizenship in the New Diplomatic History

AHA Session 14
Thursday, January 7, 2016: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM
Room A704 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atrium Level)
Petra Goedde, Temple University
Anita Casavantes Bradford, University of California, Irvine
Amanda Boczar, United States Military Academy, West Point
Sarah C. Kovner, Columbia University
Sabrina Thomas, Wabash College

Session Abstract

Within the AHA 2016 conference theme of "Global Migrations," this roundtable proposes to address how scholars working on US in the World topics using a transnational lens incorporate the themes of gender, sexuality and citizenship in the New Diplomatic History. Those interested in the histories of foreign relations, war and society, gender/sexuality, childhood, or citizenship would find the session significant to their understanding of these fields. Scholars on this panel strive to address the points at which top-down diplomacy intersects with the bottom-up effects on women, children and family and specifically how those points of intersection shape U.S. Foreign Relations. By reframing foreign relations around these themes, scholars have been charged to find new methods, sources, and questions in their research. This panel seeks to shed light on these topics by examine how historians with varied geographical and temporal focuses have begun to unravel these themes. Together, these commentators will present their research and facilitate a conversation with an audience about the interplay between gender, sexuality, children, and citizenship as transnational relationships and populations that cross geographic and conceptual borders of empire and nation.

Chaired by Petra Goedde, the panelists hope to show the breadth of scope already covered by those bringing gender, sexuality, children, and citizenship into the study of US in the World. Sarah Kovner will begin the panel to address her examination of the “military comfort women,” sex workers in the Allied occupied Japan and rape cases around U.S. military bases to argue that we can better understand how and why sexuality and sexual violence have been so important in Japan's relations with the rest of the world. Amanda Boczar will then present on the topic of dating and marriage policy as a foreign relations quandary during the Vietnam War with a focus on how intercultural marriage and the movement of women across borders to the U.S. threatened South Vietnamese interests. Turning to children and the discourse over children’s rights, citizenship becomes central within foreign affairs. Anita Casavantes Bradford will address her terminology of “the politics of childhood,” which she defines as the strategic deployment of morally and emotionally resonant representations of children in the pursuit of power or resources, accompanied by efforts to press the bodies and minds of flesh-and-blood boys and girls into the service of broader political, social and cultural objectives—both within nationalist movements and in international and diplomatic relations. Sabrina Thomas will then examine the US foreign relations response to the Amerasian children born from the Vietnam War--beneficiaries and victims of marriage policy for purposes of immigration (geographic borders) and citizenship (conceptual borders). Specifically she will examine the politics of gender, race, nation, and war embedded in the legislative decisions to legally define the Amerasians as children of American citizens while legally excluding them from American citizenship. Finally, Goedde will have the opportunity to tie these themes together and present the panel and audience with questions to spark a rich discussion on the research and the state of the field.

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