Two Faculty of Arts and Sciences postdoctoral fellows presented their research at the first Global American Studies Symposium in the Barker Center on Friday afternoon.
Allan E. S. Lumba opened the symposium with a talk on his upcoming book, "Monetary Authorities: Economic Policy and Policing in the American Colonial Philippines." He focused on the shifting relations between race, money, and empire in American-occupied Philippines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Shifting ahead to the twenty-first century, Elizabeth Mesok focused on female U.S. marines and the critical role they played in the U.S. counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. In her talk, titled “Warring Subjects: Gender, Liberalism, and U.S. Global Counterinsurgency,” Mesok used three case studies to argue that these female service women inhabited “multiple gendered identities not explainable solely through the binary of masculine and feminine.”
These presentations culminated the first year of the postdoctoral fellowship in Global American Studies offered by the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History.
Launched last year by History professor Walter Johnson and other Warren Center affiliates, the fellowship was designed to fill the void of globally-oriented work within Harvard’s existing American Studies graduate program.
“Harvard wanted to try to imagine a set of questions around ethnic studies and imperialism and empire that weren’t being addressed by American Studies,” Johnson said. “We wanted to create a space where this kind of work would flourish.”
For Johnson and the Warren Center, the 300 applications they received for the two spots in the upcoming 2014-2015 school year indicate the appeal of Global American Studies as an academic field of study.
Before their presentations, each of the fellows met with leading scholars from other universities in seminars to workshop their manuscripts. The Warren Center set up these seminars to give the fellows extremely detailed feedback to help propel their projects forward. For Johnson, these seminars are an essential part of the give-and-take he sees in the program.
“We take young talented scholars not only to expose their ideas to Harvard, but also to give them access to Harvard’s resources to push their careers along,” Johnson said.
Lumba and Mesok spent the year not only furthering their research and developing their projects, but also each teaching an undergraduate course related to their work.
Lindsey A. Claus ’16, a student in Lumba’s course on global capitalism, attended the lecture to hear more extensively about the ideas Lumba presented in the fall. For Claus, the global perspective of Lumba’s research provides an unconventional yet interesting lens to understand political and economic possibilities.
“In this country we are so constrained within the narrow discourse of specific political parties,” Claus said. “Lumba’s work is really interesting because it gets outside of this binary and considers other possibilities for political transformation.”