“Race-Making and Colonial Violence

in the U.S. Empire: The Philippine-American War

as Race War,” Diplomatic History (April 2006) (PDF)

This essay discusses racialization and colonial warfare as entangled processes during the Philippine-American War.  Changing American visions of the Philippine population, and Filipino efforts to affect those visions, informed the shifting nature of U. S. combat; similarly, the dynamics of combat—especially guerrilla warfare—intensified Americans’ racialization of Filipino combatants and civilians.

“The Water Cure: Debating Torture and Counterinsurgency—a Century Ago,” The New Yorker (February 2008)

This narrative essay tells the story of U. S. soldiers’ use of water torture during the Philippine-American War, its exposure by American anti-colonialist critics, and the ensuing 1902 Senate investigation and public debate over the legitimacy of the “water cure” and U. S. colonial warfare more generally.

“Decolonizing the History of the Philippine-American War,” introduction to Leon Wolff’s Little Brown Brother: How the United States Purchased and Pacified the Philippine Islands at the Century’s Turn (PDF)

This essay introduces a new edition of Leon Wolff’s Little Brown Brother and places the book in the larger context of American historical writing about the Philippine-American War. It argues that the lively narrative history played a critical, if still partial, role in the decolonizing of the war’s history for American audiences.

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“Power and Connection: Imperial Histories of the United States in the World,” American Historical Review (December 2011) (PDF)

This historiographic essay explores recent innovations in the rescaling of U. S. historical writing and makes the case for the imperial as an analytic category necessary to this effort. Thinking with the imperial, it argues, foregrounds asymmetries of power and connections between societies, while facilitating non-exceptionalist comparisons. The essay’s themes include exceptionalism, methodological nationalism, structure and agency, and the oscillating presence of the imperial in U. S. historiography.

“Empire against Exclusion in Early 20th Century

Trans-Pacific History,” Nanzan Journal of American Studies (2011) (PDF)

This essay argues for an imperial lens onto migration history by focusing on “civilized” exemptions to anti-Chinese barriers in the late 19th and early 20th century.  U. S. exporters, missionaries and diplomats opposed totalized Chinese exclusion and lobbied successfully for the exemption of Chinese merchants, students, teachers and tourists, who were seen to be agents of U. S. commercial and cultural power in East Asia.

“Colonial Crossings: Prostitution, Disease and the Boundaries of Empire during the Philippine-American War,”

in Emily Rosenberg and Shanon Fitzpatrick, eds., Body and Nation: The Global Realm of U. S. Body Politics in the 20th Century (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014) (PDF)

The essay explores the U. S. military’s regulation of prostitution during the Philippine-American War, and a resulting scandal, as a lens onto the cultural history of U. S. imperial boundaries. Reformers politicized the program, which mandated the venereal inspection of sex workers in order to protect U. S. soldiers, by raising questions about the permeability of the United States not only to disease, but to colonial influences.

“The Importance of Being Turbaned,” The Antioch Review (Spring 2011) (PDF)

This narrative piece, selected by The Best American Essays 2012 as a “notable essay,” tells the story of Rev. Jesse Routté, an African American Lutheran minister in New York who, in response to racist abuse during a 1943 trip to Mobile, Alabama, returned four years later disguised as a turbaned, Swedish-accented “foreigner.”  When he reported positive treatment, it flaunted contradictions in Jim Crow’s racial definitions.

“Is the World Our Campus? International Students and U.S. Global Power in the Long Twentieth Century,” Diplomatic History (November 2009) (PDF)

This essay argues for the study of international student migration to the United States as an element of U. S. international history, and presents a typology and chronology of student “exchange” since the late 19th century.  It traces the emergence of four modes of student migration (missionary, colonial, self-strengthening, and corporate-internationalist), student migration’s geopoliticization, and a recent, neoliberal turn.

“Transits of Race: Empire and Difference in Philippine-American Colonial History” (PDF)

This essay summarizes the methodological approach and themes of The Blood of Government.  Beginning with a critique of conventional, “export” models of transnational cultural history, it provides a definition of “transnational” history and employs this technique to illuminate Philippine-American colonial encounters of the early 20th century through changing racial discourses constructed in both the United States and the Philippines.

“Race, Empire and Transnational History,” in Alfred McCoy and Francisco Scarano, eds, Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009) (PDF)

This essay briefly summarizes the methodological approach and themes of The Blood of Government.  It provides a definition of “transnational” history and employs this technique to illuminate Philippine-American colonial encounters of the early 20th century through changing racial discourses constructed in both the United States and the Philippines.

“Empires, Exceptions, and Anglo-Saxons:

Race and Rule between the British and United States Empires, 1880–1910,” Journal of American History (March 2002) (PDF)

This essay discusses the profound ways that Americans’ debates about U. S. colonialism after 1898 were shaped by their reflections on British colonialism.  Colonialism’s critics contrasted the British Empire’s tyranny with what they saw as U. S. national-exceptionalist freedom; colonialism’s defenders adapted Anglo-Saxonist ideology to make a racial-exceptionalist case for the inevitability of U. S. colonial rule.

“White Sales: The Racial Politics of Baltimore’s Jewish-Owned Department Stores,” in Avi Y. Decter and Melissa Martens, eds., Enterprising Emporiums: The Jewish Department Stores of Downtown Baltimore (The Jewish Museum of Maryland, 2003) (PDF)

This essay looks at black-Jewish relations in early 20th century Baltimore through the lens of racial practices carried out in the city’s department stores, most of them owned and operated by Jewish families.  Discrimination in these stores—such as a no-returns policy for African-American clothing customers—made them institutions of racial marking, as well as sites of anti-racist protest.

“Pairing Empires: Britain and the United States, 1857–1947,” with John Plotz, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History (Spring 2001)

This article opens a special issue of the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History dedicated to selected papers given at the 2000 conference “Pairing Empires: Britain and the United States, 1857-1947.”  It introduces the papers and discusses the conference’s goal of framing a conversation about inter-imperial scholarship—the study of connections and comparisons between imperial formations—centered on Anglo-American interaction during the era of “high imperialism.”

“Making Concessions: Race and Empire Revisited at the Philippine Exposition, St. Louis, 1901–1905,” Radical History Review (Winter 1999) (PDF)

This article, winner of SHAFR’s Bernath Article Prize, reexamines the racial politics of empire at the 1904 St. Louis Fair with an eye towards the tense intersection of metropolitan and colonial agendas.  Where traditional accounts emphasize the coherence of world’s fair racial hierarchies, the Philippine Exhibition at the St. Louis Fair, to the contrary, saw clashes over the appropriate way to display the United States’ consolidating colonial regime and its subjects.

“Princeton University and the Academic Life of Empire,” PLAS Cuadernos (1998) (PDF)

This essay discusses the ways the Spanish-Cuban-American War and Philippine-American War were experienced at Princeton University.  The wars prompted politics professor Woodrow Wilson to ponder the implications of colonialism for American institutions, served as a topic for inter-collegiate debate, and saw a former undergraduate from Cuba serve as a Spanish-language interpreter for the U. S. military in the Philippines.

“Reflex Actions: Colonialism, Corruption and the Politics of Technocracy in the Early Twentieth Century United States,” in Bevan Sewell and Scott Lucas, eds, Challenging US Foreign Policy: America and the World in the Long Twentieth Century (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011) (PDF)

This essay looks at American civil service reformers’ debates over the administration of U. S. colonies after 1898 and their understandings of colonialism’s impact on metropolitan American politics and vice versa.  Some reformers hoped the colonial state would sponsor innovations in “pure,” expert governance that would—by what they called “reflex action”—spark innovations in the metropole.

"Historias transimperiales: Raíces españolas del estado colonial estadounidense en Filipinas," in Filipinas, Un País Entre Dos Imperios, María Dolores Elizalde y Josep M. Delgado, eds., (Barcelona: Bellaterra Edicions, 2011) (PDF)

This essay argues for the necessity of examining U. S. colonialism in the Philippines in the early 20th century as a self-conscious successor to Spanish colonial rule.  While Americans consistently depicted Spanish colonialism as decadent and oppressive, they also selectively borrowed Spain’s institutional models, personnel and built environment in the Islands; this preliminary exploration, published in Spanish, discusses military, political, legal and racial-scientific dimensions of these “trans-imperial” crossings.

“The Case of the 22 Lewd Chinese Women,”

Slate (April 2012)

This essay discusses present-day anti-immigration laws through California’s 19th-century struggle with the federal government over immigration.  When, in August 1874, 22 Chinese women were barred from landing at San Francisco by a California official who identified them as “lewd and debauched”—undesirable immigrants under state law—they took the case to the Supreme Court.  Its 1876 decision, Chy Lung v. Freeman, asserted federal primacy over immigration while condemning officials’ superficial profiling of immigrants, establishing a durable precedent.

“Region in World History,” in Douglas Northrup, ed.,

A Companion to World History (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) (PDF)

This article discusses the possibilities and limitations of region as a subject and frame for the writing of global histories.  It explores competing definitions of the term “region” and, embarking from constructivist premises that cast regions as socio-political projects embedded in modern state territoriality, reviews some of the ways sub-state regions and multistate regions (such as regional federations and alliance systems) have interacted with the global environment.

“A Useful Corner of the World: Guantánamo,”

The New Yorker (July 2013)

This essay tells the story of the U. S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, emphasizing the ways that controversies over its uses and legal status have long and troubling histories.  US access to the bay emerged from coercive diplomacy between the U. S. and Cuba in the early 20th century; American control, the terms of which were ambiguous from the start, would be challenged by Cubans and Americans, and new uses for the base repeatedly found when older ones collapsed.

“A Useful Corner of the World: Guantánamo” (PDF)

This is a fuller, more detailed version of the above essay, on the history of the U. S. naval base at Guantánamo.

“A Border Crosses,” New Yorker, September 2014

This essay explores the ambiguities and politics of border-making through the history of the Chamizal, an area of about seven hundred acres contested by Mexico and the United States for a century.  In the mid-19th century, American and Mexican boundary surveyors established that the border between the two countries would be located at the Rio Grande's deepest point, but political difficulties arose when the river flooded, geographically connecting what had been established as Mexican territory to the United States' side of the river.  The river's disinterest in serving as a stable boundary-marker proved a thorny issue between states, even as migrants to the Chamizal built a dynamic, cross-border social world.