The United States’ Empire in the 20th Century: What, Why, and How Much?

AHA Session 213
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Salon C (Hilton Atlanta, Second Floor)
Harold James, Princeton University
Daniel Sargent, University of California, Berkeley

Session Abstract

“Is the United States an empire?” is a question that has occupied social scientists from across the disciplines. This panel moves beyond it, asking instead about the particular modes of global control the United States has exerted. The papers are particularly interested in the material aspects of empire, the places where the United States “touches down” and exerts direct administrative control over people or things. Kate Epstein’s paper considers the fraught imperial transition between Britain and the United States from the perspective of imperial technologies and offers reasons to question the capacity of the United States to step into the position of global hegemon at the time of the First World War. Daniel Immerwahr inquires about “anti-imperial technologies,” the infrastructural investments that allowed the United States to project power without claiming large, populated colonies and that paved the way for a “post-territorial” empire. Bill Rankin, looking at a slightly different set of imperial technologies,  argues for a reconsideration of the concept of “post-territorial” as it applies to the United States’ empire.

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