AmSt 6210: us in the World

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AmSt 6210: US in the World
Prof. McAlister sp 14 Tues. 1-3:30, P 201

202.994.6071 Office Hrs: Weds. by appt.

Description: This is a graduate seminar exploring the ways in which US history and culture intersect with, and are intimately a part of, larger transnational or global processes. Over the course of the semester, we will engage with historical, methodological, and theoretical questions about transnational history. Topics to be covered include European imperialism, economic exchange and flows of capital, the politics of war and intervention, religious border-crossings, cultural imaginaries, and the work of international organizations, among other topics. Students will be asked to explore a range of materials, including historical scholarship, literary and cultural analysis, theoretical work (theories of the state, empire, discourse, the body, etc.), as well as novels and films.

Learning Goals:

  • Develop an understanding of debates over transnational history, foreign policy, and international history as methods.

  • Develop familiarity with recent historiography on the 20th- and 21st-century United States in a global context.

  • Work with interdisciplinary methods, including archival history, cultural analysis, histories of global processes, and social theory.


  • In a seminar, the active engagement of participants is crucial, as is coming to the meetings prepared, having completed and considered the readings. Weekly attendance and informed participation are crucial.

  • 6 short papers analyzing the readings for a given week: this will be according to groups, as noted.

  • Final paper, 4500-5000 words, primary analysis or synthetic survey of secondary sources. Topic developed in conjunction with me.

Course policies

  • Don’t use laptops, tablets, Kindles, or other computers in class unless there is a compelling reason to do so, and you discuss it with me in advance. In general, laptops are distracting, and students engage with each other less when using them.

  • This policy re: technology will also mean that you should buy and bring hard copies of books to class. Again, this old-fashioned way of assimilating reading material works best for class discussions that may include frequent attention to specific passages.

  • We will have a break in every class meeting. Please don’t eat in class except during the break. You are welcome to bring hydration and/or caffeine, however.

  • Other course policies, on holidays, disability services, etc. are in a document called “Course policies” in the Syllabus section of Blackboard.

Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Harvard UP, 2003).
Judith Butler, Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (Verso, 2009).
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness – ebook on Bb.
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten City (Picador, 2010).
Lorraine Hansberry, The Collected Last Plays (Vintage, 1994, o. 1965).
David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford UP, 2007).
Christina Klein, Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination (U of California, 2003).
Paul Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, The United States and The Philippines (UNC, 2006).
Michael Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution: Modernization, Development and US Foreign Policy from the Cold War to the Present (Cornell UP, 2010).
Ussama Makdisi, Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East (Cornell, 2009).
Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (Verso, 2011).
Christian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence (Nation Books, 2012).
Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North (NYRB Classics, 2009; o. 1966).
Robert Wuthnow, Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches (Univ. of CA, 2010).
Other readings/viewings:
** Readings marked with an asterisk are available on Bb. You are expected to get published articles on your own via library databases.
- Films will be available on Blackboard.

W1 Jan. 14: What and where is Empire?

Conrad, Heart of Darkness

*Edward Said, “Two visions in Heart of Darkness,” from Culture and Imperialism (1994).
W2 Jan. 21: European Culture & Imperialism
Salih, Season of Migration to the North
Patrick Wolfe, “History and Imperialism: A Century of Theory,” American Historical Review (April, 1997).
*Edward Said, selection from Orientalism (1978) in The Edward Said Reader, ed. Bayoumi and Rubin.
*Anne McClintock, “Soft Soaping Empire,” ch 5 of Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (1995).

*Mike Davis, El Niño and the New Imperialism, Part II of Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño, Famines, and the Making of the Third World.

W3 Jan. 28: National and Transnational in the 19th c.

Ussama Makdisi, Artilleries of Heaven

Amy Kaplan, “Manifest Domesticity,American Literature (Sept. 1998).
Andrew Zimmerman, “Africa in Imperial and Transnational History: Multi-sited Historiography and the Necessity of Theory,” Jrnl of African History (Nov. 2013).
W4 Feb 4 US Imperialism
Kramer, The Blood of Government
* Mark Twain, “To a Person Sitting in Darkness,” 1901.
* Donna Haraway, “Teddy Bear Patriarchy,” ch 3 of Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science (1990).
W5 Feb 11 Capital and Capitalists
Grandin, Fordlandia
Recommended: *Steven Topik and Allen Wells, Section 3 of “Commodity Chains in a Global Economy” in A World Connecting, 1870-1945, E. Rosenberg, ed.

W6 Feb 18 Cultural Formations
Klein, Cold War Orientalism, ch. 1-5.

Henry Luce, “The American Century,” 1941.

The King and I (dir. Walter Lang, 1956).

W7 Feb 25 Color Lines
Bortelsmann, The Cold War and the Color Line.
Ruth Feldstein, “Screening Anti-Apartheid: Miriam Makeba, ‘Come Back Africa,’ and the Transnational Circulation of Black Culture and Politics,” Feminist Studies (2013).
Hansberry, Les Blancs (1965).
Recommended: Tony Judt, “A Story Yet to be Told,” New York Review of Books, March 23, 2006 at
W8 Mar 4 Modernization and Development
Latham, The Right Kind of Revolution.

*James Scott, Introduction and Ch. 3 of Seeing Like a State (Yale UP, 1999),

* Carl Bon Tempo “From the Center-Right: Freedom House and Human Rights in the 1970s and 1980s,” in The Human Rights Revolution, ed. Iriye et al.
Spring Break

W9 Mar 18 Humanitarianism

Prof. Ilana Feldman will join us for this class.
*Michel Foucault, “The Birth of Biopolitics,” and “Governmentality” from The Essential Foucault (New Press, 2003).
Michael Barnett, “Humanitarianism Transformed,” Perspectives on Politics (Dec. 2005).
*Alex De Waal, “An Emancipatory Imperium? Power and Principle in the Humanitarian International,” from Contemporary States of Emergency (2010).
Ilana Feldman, Gaza’s Humanitarianism Problem,“ Journal of Palestine Studies (2009).
Peter Redfield, “A Less Modest Witness: Collective Advocacy and Motivated Truth in a Medical Humanitarian Movement,” American Ethnologist 33.1 (2006): 3-26.
*Didier Fassin, “Children as Victims: The Moral Economy of Childhood in Times of AIDS,” in When People Come First, ed. Biehl And Petryna.
W10 Mar 25 Neoliberalism
Harvey, Neoliberalism.
Peter Linebaugh, “Enclosures from the Bottom Up,” Radical History Review (2010).

* Wendy Brown, ch 1of Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (2010).

W11 Apr 1 Power

Class rescheduled on date TBD
Mitchell, Carbon Democracy

Mark Bradley, “American Vernaculars: The United States and the Global Human Rights Imagination,” Diplomatic History (Dec. 2013).

*Alex Lubin, “Black panthers and PLO” ch 4 of Geographies of Liberation: The Making of an Afro-Arab Political Imaginary (UNC, 2014).
Syriana (Dir. S Gagan, 2005)

W12 Apr 8: Global war on Terror

Judith Butler, Frames of War: When is Life Grievable? (Verso, 2009)

* Bruce Hoffman, ch. 8 of Inside Terrorism (2006).
Anne McClintock, “Paranoid Empire: Specters from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib,” small axe (March 2009).
George W. Bush, Address to the Nation, Sept. 20, 2001.
Divine Intervention (Dir. Elia Suleiman, 2003).

Recommended: * Jaspir Puar, ch 1 of Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (Duke UP, 2007).

W13 Apr 15 Trespassings and Depletions
Parenti, Tropic of Chaos.
Recommended: Andrew Guzman, “A Message from Climate Scientists,” ch 2 of Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change (2013).
April 22: No class; Final papers due

W14 Apr 29: Global Christianity

Make up day

Wuthnow, Boundless Faith
* Donald Miller, “Pentecostalism as a Global Phenomenon,” in Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Pentecostalism, ed. Miller et al (2013)
* Afe Adogame, “Refiguring the Global Religious Economy: The Role of African Pentecostalism,” in Spirit and Power.
African Christianity Rising (Dir. J. Ault, 2013)
Directory: sites
sites -> The United States and Post-Castro Cuba
sites -> Fighting Fit: Exploring Military Medicine (1850-1950)
sites -> 9. 5 Political Powers and Achievements Tom Burns- beacon High School
sites -> Indiana Academic Standards Resource Guide World History and Civilization Standards Approved March 2014
sites -> Penn State Harrisburg American Studies/Women Studies 104: Women and the American Experience Spring 2015 Instructor: Kathryn Holmes
sites -> Penn State Harrisburg am st/wmnst 104: Women and the American Experience Spring 2015 Instructor: Kathryn Holmes
sites -> Abolition and Women’s Rights Chap. 14 Se
sites -> In the years between the Seneca Falls Convention and the Civil War, powerful links existed between antislavery and women’s rights advocates. Virtually all women’s rights advocates supported abolition

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