Ethnographies of U.S. Empire

A huge and hugely exciting collection of essays is coming out from Duke Press in August 2018 edited by Carole McGranahan and John CollinsEthnographies of U.S. Empire. A precis and contents list can be found on Carole’s website:

This volume engages contemporary U.S. empire from an ethnographic perspective. This means that we hope to add field-based anthropological research findings, questions, contradictions borne of embodied experience, and manners of examining systems of knowledge and social ontologies to the historical and political analyses that have dominated the field of colonial and imperial studies. But it also means that we are seeking to do more than “add ethnography and stir” or inject some facile, “presentist” perspective into the sort of interrogation that requires analysts to consider empire as not simply an object, but a set of shifting conjugations that alter the grammars within and through which we find ourselves making claims. Therefore, in taking up calls for more and sharper ethnographies of empire, and in agreeing that empire “is in the details,” we seek to perform a collective double move.  This involves bringing anthropology and its established methods to bear on U.S. empire, but also requires a consideration of how empire in turn shapes and re-shapes ethnography, and thus those methods. What, we ask, does it mean to examine empire ethnographically? How might an apparently enduring or reanimated imperial present be addressed and contested through painstaking, self-reflexive, and empirically-grounded, anthropological research and what might “empiricism” look like in such contexts? How might anthropologists develop ethnographic questions, agendas, and methods adequate to considerations of contemporary imperial formations? What might such an anthropological project mean in relation to broader politics and knowledge practices outside academia? Most basically, then, how might the study of empire alter what ethnography is and does, and how might such shifts contribute to political change in the world?

The chapter list is truly multidisciplinary and includes a ‘conversation’ with Ann Laura Stoler. Lots of the titles suggest a reflexive concern not just to document U.S. imperial formations but reconsider what research is denied and made possible by them:



1.  Introduction: Ethnography and Empire

                       John Collins and Carole McGranahan

Part I              Settlement, Sentiment, Sovereignty

2.  The ‘Affects’ of Empire: Fearing for the Osage Mineral Estate Trust

Jean Dennison

3.   Milking the Cow for All Its Worth: Settler Colonialism and the Politics ofImperialist Resentment in Hawai’i

J. Kehaulani Kauanui

4.         Sovereignty, Sympathy, and Indigeneity

Audra Simpson

Part II             Colonialism By Any Other Name 

5.         A School of Addicts: The Coloniality of Addiction in Puerto Rico

                        Adriana Garriga López

6.         Inhabiting the Aporias of Empire: Protest Politics in Contemporary Puerto Rico

Melissa Rosario

7.         Training for Empire?: Samoa and American Gridiron Football

Fa’anofo Lisaclaire Uperesa

8.         Exceptionalism as a Way of Life: U.S. Empire, Filipino Subjectivity, and the Global Call Center Industry

Jan Padios

Part III            Logics of Empire

9.         (Re)creating Spaces and Times: The Cottica Ndyuka in Moengo

Olivia Maria Gomes da Cunha

10.       Shifting Geographies of Proximity: Korean-led Evangelical Christian Missions and the U.S. Empire

Ju Hui Judy Han

11.       Sites of the Postcolonial Cold War

Heonik Kwon

12.       Time Standards and Rhizomatic Imperialism

Kevin Birth

Part IV            Military Promises

13.       Islands of Empire: Military Bases and the Ethnography of U.S. Empire

David Vine

14.       Domesticating the U.S. Air Force: The Challenges of Anti-Military Activism in Manta, Ecuador

Erin Fitz-Henry

15.       The Empire of Choice and the Emergence of Military Dissent

Matthew Gutmann and Catherine Lutz

Part V             Residue, Rumors, Remnants

16.       Locating Landmines in the Korean Demilitarized Zone

Eleana Kim

17.       Love and Empire: The CIA, Tibet, and Covert Humanitarianism

Carole McGranahan

18.       Trust Us: Nicaragua, Iran-Contra, and the Discursive Economy of Empire

Joe Bryan

18.       Empire as Accusation, Denial, and Structure: The Social Life of U.S. Power at Brazil’s Spaceport

Sean T. Mitchell 

Part VI            9/11, the War on Terror, and the Return of Empire

19.       Radicalizing Empire: Youth and Dissent in the War on Terror

Sunaina Maira

20.       Deporting Cambodian Refugees: Youth Activism, State Reform, and Imperial Statecraft

Soo Ah Kwon

21.       Shooting a Deer: Empire in the New Jersey Highlands

John Collins

22.       From Exception to Empire: Sovereignty, Carceral Circulation, and the ‘Global War on Terror’

Darryl Li


23.       Disassemblage: Rethinking U.S. Imperial Formations

Ann Laura Stoler, in conversation with Carole McGranahan


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