A People's Geography of American Empire

Fall 2018
Winter 2019
Class Size: 25
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

2020 Grossman, Zoltan
geography, Native American studies

This program will look at U.S. expansion, from Manifest Destiny and overseas imperial conquests, to present-day resource wars. It will focus on the place-making processes inherent in each stage of expansion, and on the imprints they have left on the human and physical landscape. It will examine imperial places that have been shaped by each era of expansion, and in turn have shaped each era.

We will examine the continuous historical arc of expansion, from the Indian frontier wars to colonialism in the Pacific and Caribbean, to occupations in Middle East tribal regions. This expansion comes full circle as immigrants arrive from formerly colonized lands, and wars at home are waged against occupied communities. In addition to the origins and rationales underlying each stage of expansion, we will explore how and to what extent the world's landscape reflects and helps to (re)produce imperial power.

The program will aim to interconnect global and local scales, foreign and domestic policies, and past histories and present-day legacies. It will examine the lasting imprints of imperial control on real local places, in particular the expanding network of U.S. military bases and counterinsurgency campaigns around the world.

As their fall-quarter project, students will focus on a single local-scale case study, writing separate essays on its past history, present-day landscape, and a resident interview (of activists, refugees, or veterans). Students will also turn in a weekly synthesis paper on their readings and other learning. A fall-quarter overnight field trip will introduce students to military installations and locations Indigenous-settler interactions. In the winter-quarter project, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and other Northwest military installations will be researched and documented as case studies of land acquisition, place-making, deployment, and dissent.

The program will make a geographical contribution to the study of American Empire by examining the making and remaking of imperial places, and using place-based approaches to examine hierarchies of race, nationality, class, and gender. Book and article authors include Cynthia Enloe, Catherine Lutz, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, David Vine, Howard Zinn, Patricia Limerick, Leslie Marmon-Silko, Dahr Jamail, Richard Drinnon, Jean Bricmont, Rinku Sen, Jeremy Scahill, Robert Kaplan, and Michael Ignatieff. While some of the histories of conflict and suffering may be difficult to learn, imperial places also offer stories of cooperation and resilience, healing, and hope.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

community studies, geography, and international studies.


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

$135 in fall for entrance to the Squaxin Island Museum and an overnight field trip to military installations.  $10 in winter for entrance to the Joint Base Lewis McCord Museum.

Class Standing: Sophomore–Senior
Class Size: 25

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019 - 9:30 am
SEM 2 D3109 - Seminar

Located in: Olympia