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Dr. Susan Sage Heinzelman, Director 2505 University Avenue, A4900, Burdine Hall 536, Austin Texas 78712 • 512-471-5765

Naomi Paik

Core Faculty Ph.D., American Studies, 2009, Yale University

Assistant Professor

WGS 340 • United States, Race, & Empire

48027 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm BUR 228
(also listed as AAS 320, AMS 370 )
show description

This interdisciplinary course invites students to thoughtfully examine histories and narratives of U.S. imperialism and racism. Its investigation begins from the following concepts: that the United States has long held and continues to maintain imperial powers across the globe and that U.S. imperial power is inextricably tied to the workings of racial difference and hierarchy. Further, it examines U.S. racism and imperialism not solely as political and military ventures, but also a cultural project.  Drawing on methods from cultural studies, comparative ethnic studies, and feminist studies, this course will focus on the movement of imperial and racial power not only in more obvious sites (like military bases or warfare), but also in an extensive range of everyday practices in which ordinary people participate. We will therefore examine histories and narratives of U.S. imperialism in historical texts and government documents and in works of cultural production, like literature, film, and visual culture.

Some of the questions that will guide us through the material include: How has U.S racial imperialism been historically produced? What has made it possible?  By what (multiple) means has it been accomplished economically, politically, and culturally?  How is it experienced “over there” and “at home”?  How has U.S. racial imperialism helped define U.S. national culture and subjectivity?

 Objectives of this course include:

•                 Advancing deeper, critical understandings of U.S. racism and imperialism in history and culture

•                 Fostering self-reflective critique of the U.S. nation-state and its global (imperial) power

•                 Advancing critical reading/interpretation skills across a range of texts

•                 Promoting and putting into practice all stages of the writing process, includingplanning and                 organization, writing drafts, and revision and editing

•                 Cultivating mutually respectful, collaborative work on group and individual assignments

U.S. Race and Empire is an advanced undergraduate, reading- and writing-intensive seminar.  A background in ethnic studies or women’s, gender, and sexuality studies is very strongly recommended.  A strong work ethic is absolutely necessary.  Do not enroll in this class unless you are ready to work.



5 page paper

5 page draft of selection of final paper, and peer-review

10-12 page final paper

Group presentation

Reading responses to Blackboard (every class)

Class participation


Possible Texts

Jana K. Lipman, Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution

Amy Kaplan and Donald E. Pease, eds., Cultures of United States Imperialism

Setsu Shigamatsu and Keith Camacho, Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific

Alex Gibney, Taxi to the Dark Side

Errol Morris, The Fog of War

R. Zamora Linmark, Rolling the R’s


Upper-division standing required. Students may not enroll in more than two AMS 370 courses in one semester.

Flag(s): Writing


Current Book Project

Rightlessness: Testimonies from the Camp in the Era of Rights Ascension. Book manuscript under review. 

Peer Reviewed Articles 

“Education and Empire, Old and New: H.R. 3077 and the Resurgence of the U.S. Imperial University." Cultural Dynamics, 25:1 (March 2013): 3-28.

“Carceral Quarantine at Guantánamo: Legacies of U.S. Imprisonment of Haitian Refugees, 1991-1994.” Radical History Review, 115:1 (Winter 2013): 142-168.  Special Issue on “Haitian Lives/Global Perspectives,” edited by Amy Chazkel, Melina Pappademos, and Karen Sotiropoulos.

“Testifying to Rightlessness: Haitian Refugees Speaking from Guantánamo.” Social Text, 28:3 (Fall 2010): 39-65. Special issue on “Dislocations Across the Americas,” edited by Micol Siegel and David Sartorius.   

“Living in a Dying Situation’: Preserving Life at Guantánamo.” Article in Progress (2013).


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