Exceptional State

Contemporary U.S. Culture and the New Imperialism

Exceptional State

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: Published: June 2007

American Studies, Cultural Studies

Exceptional State analyzes the nexus of culture and contemporary manifestations of U.S. imperialism. The contributors, established and emerging cultural studies scholars, define culture broadly to include a range of media, literature, and political discourse. They do not posit September 11, 2001 as the beginning of U.S. belligerence and authoritarianism at home and abroad, but they do provide context for understanding U.S. responses to and uses of that event. Taken together, the essays stress both the continuities and discontinuities embodied in a present-day U.S. imperialism constituted through expressions of millennialism, exceptionalism, technological might, and visions of world dominance.

The contributors address a range of topics, paying particular attention to the dynamics of gender and race. Their essays include a surprising reading of the ostensibly liberal movies Wag the Dog and Three Kings, an exploration of the rhetoric surrounding the plan to remake the military into a high-tech force less dependent on human bodies, a look at the significance of the popular Left Behind series of novels, and an interpretation of the Abu Ghraib prison photos. They scrutinize the national narrative created to justify the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the ways that women in those countries have responded to the invasions, the contradictions underlying calls for U.S. humanitarian interventions, and the role of Africa in the U.S. imperial imagination. The volume concludes on a hopeful note, with a look at an emerging anti-imperialist public sphere.

Contributors. Omar Dahbour, Ashley Dawson, Cynthia Enloe, Melani McAlister, Christian Parenti, Donald E. Pease, John Carlos Rowe, Malini Johar Schueller, Harilaos Stecopoulos


“[E]xceptional State makes for an exceptional college text. It is worthy and by and large easy reading across the disciplines that will inspire intense debate, especially by war veterans returning to study in colleges and universities today and tomorrow.” — Jonathan Zilberg, Leonardo Reviews

Exceptional State captures the cultural affirmation, and attendant psychological and sociological ramifications of US imperialism. These essays analyse the subtle and more overt ways the tentacles of hegemony permeate the lives of people all around the world. . . . Exceptional State really is essential reading for anyone who fancies themselves as an enjoyer of freedom and democracy. Get it while you can!” — Megan Yarrow, M/C Reviews

Exceptional State is an important read for scholars interested in issues of gender, race, and religion as they relate to militarization. This, however, is not a book destined to be confined to the ivory tower; it is an accessible discussion of the complex cultural and political issues that have arisen during the past several years. Dawson and Schueller have a keen eye for the problems that attend the global community in an age threatening to repeat the evils of our imperial past, and they have compiled a fitting collection of essays that address them.” — Priya Nelson, E3W Review of Books

Exceptional State is a timely and important collection of essays which together address crucial questions about change and continuity between the current imperial moment and the history of U.S. imperialism.” — Amy Kaplan, coeditor of Cultures of United States Imperialism

“In this superb collection, leading theorists of cultural imperialism adroitly expose why neoliberalism is dangerously beguiling to a nation torn between fear of terrorism and desire to maintain superpower hegemony. Moving from powerful critiques to essays that empower resistance, this volume shows how historical accounts of U.S. imperialism can serve as enabling acts for a democratic future in the making.” — Lee Quinby, author of Millennial Seduction: A Skeptic Confronts Apocalyptic Culture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ashley Dawson is Associate Professor of English at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island. He is author of Mongrel Nation: Diasporic Culture and the Making of Postcolonial Britain.

Malini Johar Schueller is Professor of English at the University of Florida. She is the author of U.S. Orientalisms: Race, Nation, and Gender in Literature, 1790–1890 and The Politics of Voice: Liberalism and Social Criticism From Franklin to Kingston and a coeditor of Messy Beginnings: Postcoloniality and Early American Studies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Rethinking Imperialism Today / Ashley Dawson and Malini Johar Schueller 1

Part 1: Technologies of Imperialism

Culture, US Imperialism, and Globalization / John Carlos Rowe 37

Between the Homeland and Abu Ghraib: Dwelling in Bush’s Biopolitical Settlement / Donald E. Pease 60

Planet America: The Revolution in Military Affairs as Fantasy and Fetish / Christian Parenti 88

Hegemony and Rights: On the Liberal Justification for Empire / Omar Dahbour 105

Part 2: Engendering Imperialism

Updating the Gendered Empire: Where Are the Women of Occupied Afghanistan and Iraq? / Cynthia Enloe 133

Techno-Dominance and Torturegate: The Making of US Imperialism / Malini Johar Schueller 162

Part 3: Imagining Others

Left Behind and the Politics of Prophecy Talk / Melani McAlister 191

Putting an Old Africa on Our Map: British Imperial Legacies and Contemporary US Culture / Harilaos Stecopoulos 221

New Modes of Anti-imperialism / Ashley Dawson 248

Coda: Information Mastery and the Culture of Annihilation / Ashley Dawson and Malini Johar Schueller 275

Bibliography 285

Contributors 301

Index 303
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3820-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3805-5
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