Thinking globally about history
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Echoes of Weimar in American Cold War Politics: An Interview with Daniel Bessner
Interviews | May 30, 2018

Echoes of Weimar in American Cold War Politics: An Interview with Daniel Bessner

In Democracy in Exile: Hans Speier and the Rise of the Defense Intellectual , Daniel Bessner tells the story of a previously little-known German sociologist who changed the way we think about the role of intellectuals in American public policy-making. Speier worked as a lecturer at the Hochschule für Politik, a college of worker's education. With the rise of Nazism, Speier's infatuation with Marxist theory, socialism, and the people waned. Democracy, after all, had put Hitler in charge. When Speier moved to America, he brought the trauma of the crisis of Weimar with him. This crisis was the result of excessive trust placed in an inherently untrustworthy demos. He consequently advocated expert governance as an alternative to broad-based popular rule. To defend democracy against both Nazis and Soviets, Speier argued, the United States had to become more authoritarian. His story traces the rise of the American "defense intellectual" as well as the emergence of what has come to be known as the U.S. "military-intellectual complex."

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The Human Condition and the Laws of War: An Interview with Tanisha Fazal
Interviews | April 25, 2018

The Human Condition and the Laws of War: An Interview with Tanisha Fazal

Fazal argues warring parties have stopped filing formal declarations of war and signing interstate peace treaties in order to create ambiguity as to whether the laws of war apply. An important reason for this development, she claims, is the growing split between the 'lawmakers' (humanitarians) and 'lawtakers' (soldiers). With the declining percentage of military representatives at lawmaking conferences, the laws of war have become increasingly restrictive on those applying them in times of war.

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Guns, Spies and Empire, Or, Why Good People Do Bad Things: An Interview with Priya Satia
Interviews | April 23, 2018

Guns, Spies and Empire, Or, Why Good People Do Bad Things: An Interview with Priya Satia

Priya Satia argues that the making of Britain's "covert empire" was bound up in intelligence-gathering tactics pioneered by British agents in the Middle East (Arabia and Iraq, specifically). The ultimate tool of covert empire—aerial surveillance—came to be used far beyond the Middle East; but, Satia argues, its initial deployment there resulted from the marriage of a cultural epistemology peculiar to British agents in Arabia with the emergence of mass democracy, and a new suspicion of empire, in Britain itself.

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The Arabic Freud: An Interview with Omnia El Shakry
Interviews | April 4, 2018

The Arabic Freud: An Interview with Omnia El Shakry

The Arabic Freud, then, explores the multivalent encounters between psychoanalysis and Islamic thought, turning and returning to the question of the unconscious and the modern subject. At once disruptive of the oppositions that drive narratives of incommensurability between psychoanalysis and Islam (i.e. attempts to "put Islam on the couch" and civilizing missions of psychoanalysis) and conductive of the epistemological resonances between discursive traditions, The Arabic Freud offers and inspires an array of possibilities.

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Global Histories of Neoliberalism: An Interview with Quinn Slobodian
Interviews | March 21, 2018

Global Histories of Neoliberalism: An Interview with Quinn Slobodian

Quinn Slobodian reveals how neoliberal thinkers developed a vision of global free trade in goods and capital, though not necessarily people, during the crises of the 1930s and the era of decolonization. In his book, Globalists, he argues that neoliberal thinkers did not oppose the state and prize individualism, but rather sought to use rules to encase the market away from democratic governance. His discussion with us also presented a chance to explore neoliberals' interpretations of the nexus between law and economics as well as current debates over the significance of racism to neoliberal thought. Slobodian explained the role of Central Europe in the global history of neoliberalism and the legacy of the Habsburg Empire for neoliberals' understanding of political economy. Slobodian addressed the critical conflation of neoliberalism, economism, and pretensions to all-knowability in the recent historiography of the "invention of the economy."

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When the Ottoman Empire Scrambled for Africa: An Interview With Mostafa Minawi
Interviews | March 14, 2018

When the Ottoman Empire Scrambled for Africa: An Interview With Mostafa Minawi

Taking the Ottoman Empire out of the Middle East area studies prison to which it's so often confined, Mostafa Minawi has traced, in detail, many of the long-missed connections between the Sublime Porte – the center of Ottoman governance – and sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, his research has demonstrated how those links played into the Ottoman Empire's participation in the late nineteenth century "scramble" for territory by European empires on the African continent – an episode in which, Minawi argues, the empire played a much more active role than has previously been assumed.

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Revolution in Context: An Interview with Justin du Rivage
Interviews | February 21, 2018

Revolution in Context: An Interview with Justin du Rivage

The American Revolution is the keystone of the US national story and so its origins have garnered much attention from American historians. But to what extent were the Revolution's causes imperial, transnational, or even global in nature? Justin du Rivage's new book Revolution Against Empire: Taxes, Politics, and the Origins of American Independence  makes a powerful argument that competing ideologies of sovereignty developed on both sides of the Atlantic. In this wider context, it becomes clear that 1776 did not erupt from a divide between "British" and "American", but from the clash between establishment, authoritarian, and radical ideologies of governance and reform.

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Writing Global Ecological History 'From Below': An Interview with Gregory Cushman
Interviews | January 31, 2018

Writing Global Ecological History 'From Below': An Interview with Gregory Cushman

To further our understanding of the development of industrial capitalism over the past two centuries Greg Cushman claims, we need to write histories 'from below,' in two senses: first, we need to write histories that consider not just those who 'invented the steam engine', but those which trace the origins of the steam engine's parts (material and intellectual) wherever across the globe that leads us – often far beyond the 'Global North'. Second, we need to investigate our planetary history below the earth's surface. Lithospheric history Cushman calls it.

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Protectionism and Empire: An Interview with Marc-William Palen
Interviews | January 10, 2018

Protectionism and Empire: An Interview with Marc-William Palen

In The 'Conspiracy' of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle Over Empire and Economic Globalisation, 1846-1896, Marc-William Palen traces the roots of the trade liberalisation debate to the United States in the 1840s. There began a political and ideological battle between Victorian free trade cosmopolitanism and economic nationalism which lasted the remainder of the century and beyond. Talks about tariffs dominated American political life. Through them, Palen is able to tell a much broader story. The Republican and Democratic parties were transformed in the process. Debates about trade influenced the character of American imperial and commercial expansion, as well as the contours of the Anglo-American struggle for empire and globalisation. Palen's argument that economic nationalism dominated the period also forces us to rethink received notions of the US Gilded Age, which is usually portrayed as an era dominated by laissez-faire and free trade.

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Reintegrating Apartheid into Post-War Global History: An Interview with Jamie Miller
Interviews | December 21, 2017

Reintegrating Apartheid into Post-War Global History: An Interview with Jamie Miller

In 1975, South African Prime Minister John Vorster met with Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda at Victoria Falls. The purpose of the meeting? To end white rule in Rhodesia. This is not how we usually picture apartheid South Africa. But it sits at the heart of the story told by Jamie Miller in An African Volk: The Apartheid Regime and its Search for Survival. During an interview that lasted several hours, Miller spoke of the importance of taking self-conceptions of apartheid seriously, of historicizing decolonization in all its messy contradictions, and of the role of anticommunism in this history. He also elaborated on the process of writing the book: on his experiences interviewing former apartheid leaders and the ethics of entering the apartheid worldview.

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Hesitant Hegemony for China and the US? An Interview with Lixin Wang
Interviews | December 6, 2017

Hesitant Hegemony for China and the US? An Interview with Lixin Wang

Speculation is mounting that the United States, with Donald Trump cast in the role of president, will step back from the world stage, and China will increasingly lead. But what would China face if it decided to assume international leadership and advance its own ideas and agendas for global order? Drawing lessons from the American experience, Prof. Lixin Wang's new book A Hesitant Hegemony (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 2015) indicates that China should not hastily seek world leadership and that the burden of leading the world is too heavy for China to bear. In the book, Lixin Wang incorporated both a cultural perspective and an international history approach to examine American identity and its search for international order in the first half of the twentieth century.

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Time and Space in the History of Globalism: An Interview with Or Rosenboim
Interviews | November 30, 2017

Time and Space in the History of Globalism: An Interview with Or Rosenboim

In December 1945, a group of intellectuals and academics met in Chicago to devise a world constitution. Just a few months earlier, the United States had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the words of the group's convenor, global control over nuclear weaponry was imperative to prevent "world suicide." Over the course of the next two years, the group met monthly to hash out a plan for world government. But when the results of their deliberations were published as a world constitution in 1948, it was greeted mostly with skepticism and derision. Since the project had begun in 1945, the world had moved on—the bipolarity of the early Cold War had narrowed the possibilities for world cooperation and a whole new set of international institutions (most notably, the United Nations) had been created. This interview ranges from questions of temporality and spatiality to global intellectual histories of "minor thinkers" and the importance of the 1940s in the history of the state.

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The 1970s in Arab-American Perspective: An Interview with Salim Yaqub
Interviews | November 9, 2017

The 1970s in Arab-American Perspective: An Interview with Salim Yaqub

Salim Yaqub's most recent book, Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.–Middle East Relations in the 1970s (Cornell University Press, 2016), examines social and political dimensions of the Arab-US relationship during the 1970s, allowing us to understand the perceptions of two groups toward each other. It also sheds light on how the position of Arab-Americans changed according to the developing political situation in the 1970s focusing, for example, on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The book stresses the need for a global perspective in understanding the roots of contemporary debates on U.S-Middle East politics.

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