Empires have existed since the pre-modern era, and until the mid-twentieth century imperial states were the dominant form of government. Today, no state refers to itself as an empire--yet the term is still widely used. Some call modern American foreign policy "imperialist." Other react that American power is a stabilizing force. The purpose of this course is to examine critically the meaning of the term "empire." What do empires have in common? What are the political causes of empire, and what are its effects on the colonizer and the colonized? What are the common attributes of this form of governance across time and space? Is economic dominance without political conquest "imperial" in any meaningful sense of the word? If the United States has an empire, what exactly does this mean? Do American interactions with other peoples reflect earlier patterns of imperial dominance, or do users of the term "empire" (perhaps willfully) mischaracterize the phenomenon of benign American hegemony? Students attempt to answer these questions through critical examination of historical forms of empire and contemporary accounts of American political and economic policy. Students should complete PG 103 and have a basic familiarity with international relations theory and social science methodologies prior to taking the course.
Prerequisites: PG 103 or instructor permission.