Webinar with Dr. Paul Kramer, Vanderbilt University
As transnational and global histories emerged in the late 20th century, their foundational, defining problem was connection. How is it that past worlds—previously rendered separate and autonomous by historians--were linked, entangled, and mutually constitutive? How did bringing in “the world” change previous self-enclosed narratives of nation and region? These were essential methodological questions, but to a degree, they displaced necessary questions about transnational equality, justice and freedom. Beyond the question of how the world had become connected, what specifically did historians have to contribute to emerging, multidisciplinary conversations about the past and present of the inequalities, injustices and unfreedoms that structure the world? These were questions that had been posed--explicitly and implicitly--by historical scholarship animated by anti-colonial, diasporic and socialist thought in the mid-to-late 20th century. And while these trajectories remained powerful and compelling influences on certain currents of transnational historical thought, their influence was mitigated by the dominance of what I call "connectionist" modes of scholarship, within and beyond history.
What are the prospects for a transnational and global historiography that self-consciously centers these concerns as their defining problems? What questions would it ask, and how would it go about asking them? How might historians drawn to these questions overcome formidable, sometimes under-recognized tensions between anti-colonial, diasporic and socialist approaches to unequal global power and its histories (as well as novel and emerging approaches)? How, in other words, might transnational and global history be deliberately recast as critical intellectual projects, defined by their denaturalizing, problematizing, and historicizing of consequential transnational and global power relationships? In exploring these questions, this talk will draw from the introduction of the book Paul is currently completing, which employs this approach to make sense of the modern United States' transnational histories.
Paul A. Kramer is an historian of the modern United States whose scholarship centers on questions of racialized, gendered and class inequality, immigration, and US empire. He received his PhD from Princeton University, and is Associate Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. He is author of the prize-winning book The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the Philippines (UNC Press, 2006), as well as numerous academic articles. Prof. Kramer is co-founder and co-editor of Cornell University Press’ “The United States in the World” series, and has received fellowships from Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright, the Smithsonian Institution and the American Council of Learned Societies. He has served as Program Chair for the 2009 annual meeting of SHAFR, on the advisory board of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and on the editorial boards of Diplomatic History, Labor: Working-Class History of the Americas, and Philippine Studies. Alongside his academic work, his public scholarship has appeared in New Yorker, Slate, the New York Times, Foreign Affairs, and other venues on themes relating to the United States’ role in the world, including investigative essays on the US-Mexican border, Hurricane Katrina, and the origins of water-boarding. His latest essay along these lines explores the little-known moment when Los Angeles first—and briefly—declared itself a sanctuary city. He is currently at work on two books: a methodological guide to the transnationalizing of US history, and a geopolitical history of US immigration policy in the long 20th century. His work can be found here.