American Empire: The State of the Field

Location: 130 Hesburgh Center

You are warmly invited to attend "American Empire: The State of the Field," an exciting symposium to be held on March 21 and 22, 2014 on the University of Notre Dame campus.  This interdisciplinary meeting will bring together scholars from across the United States and the Notre Dame campus to evaluate the past, present, and future of U.S. empire studies through a keynote lecture, panels, and a film screening and discussion.  Below you will find a brief overview of the events, as well as our rationale and aims for what promise to be two days of fruitful and provocative conversation. 

Please note that all events are free and open to the public, with refreshments provided throughout the meetings.  All that is required to attend is an RSVP, by March 10, to  You can also join our Facebook page for timely updates on the events at  


Keynote: Laura Briggs (University of Massachusetts), Friday, March 21, 4 pm

Film Screening: Amigo (Dir. John Sayles, 2011), Friday, March 21, 7:30pm

Confirmed Panelists, as of February 3: Benjamin Balthaser (Indiana University South Bend), Benjamin Cowan (George Mason University), Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernández (University of Texas), Kristin Hoganson (University of Illinois), Moon-Ho Jung (University of Washington), Simeon Man (Northwestern University), Donald Pease (Dartmouth College), Tom Sarmiento (University of Minnesota), Manu Vimalassery (Williams College), and many more from the University of Notre Dame and beyond.  Panels will take place Friday at 2pm and Saturday, March 22 at 9:30am and 11:30am.


Asserting the existence of an “American Empire” no longer seems a particularly controversial claim. In fact today, academics and pundits alike debate not the existence of such a force, but its character, purpose, and trajectory. Some commentators even project the imminent decline of U.S. empire. This was hardly the case twenty years ago, when the fields of American history and American Studies saw the arrival of The Cultures of United States Imperialism (1993), an anthology edited by American Studies scholars Amy Kaplan and Donald Pease. Coming on the heels of the first Gulf War, this collection of essays on nation-building, race and gender, colonial resistance, and visual culture in U.S. imperial contexts challenged notions of American exceptionalism and called on scholars to address “the absence of the United States from the postcolonial study of imperialism” and “the absence of empire from the study of American culture.” Scholars responded to this summons, riding the transnational and global turns in history and American Studies, to produce what is now arguably an impressive—and still growing—body of scholarship on U.S. imperial formations.

The twenty-year anniversary of The Cultures of United States Imperialism provides us with an opportune moment to reassess the anthology, evaluate the literature that has emerged since its publication and the knowledge produced on the character and scope of U.S. power and resistance to it, and consider the work ahead. “American Empire: The State of the Field” will do just that and forge a dialogue among scholars from Notre Dame and across the nation who work on the history, politics, and culture of U.S. imperialism from the nineteenth century through the present. In a series of roundtables over the course of two days, participants—from senior scholars to graduate students—will engage each other on the past, present, and future of U.S. imperial studies. In the process, this symposium will help to define the contours of this field, mark its achievements, and lay the groundwork for future scholarship.



Rebecca McKenna (History, Notre Dame)

Jason Ruiz (American Studies, Notre Dame)


Key Sponsors:

Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Institute for Latino Studies, The Kellogg Institute for International Studies, Department of History, Department of American Studies, Department of English, Gender Studies Program, Department of Film, Television, and Theatre