Artifacts of Empire

Despite a plethora of books with empire in the title, however, scholars have virtually no empirical idea how the broad mass of people in the United States see the nexus of their nation, power, and the rest of the world. This is an eminently ethnographic question, especially important to ask within the ranks of those who are or will be soldiers, and of their parents and school teachers, and of much potential utility for the growing counterrecruitment movement and the antiwar and anti-imperial movements, more generally…

Studies are needed that examine how U.S. residents, in all of their social heterogeneity, view their identity as Americans in a world of nations or transnations, how they view the power and role of the United States, and with what passions or indifference they hear statements that the United States is the most powerful or envied or hated country in the world…

We might heed the insight of Hardt and Negri, that “truth will not make us free, but taking control of the production of truth will”, and twin the critical project of questioning the empire’s common sense with activism around the conditions of knowledge production in the university…

What we can trace, as ethnographers, is how people and groups come to grips with empire and how ideological change might happen…The dilemmas, contradictions, and vulnerabilities of empire are many, but it is often only in the details that they become visible. With them, the empire looks less invincible, and what David Graeber suggests is the “moral imperative of optimism” becomes intellectually possible as well.

[ from Empire is in the details by Catherine Lutz ]

~ by Jay Taber on February 5, 2007.

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