Social Scientists as Colonial Governors: Knowledge, Expertise, and Professionalization in the Early Twentieth Century

Emily Hauptmann, Western Michigan University

The early twentieth century social sciences and especially the forerunner of the field we now call “international relations” were preoccupied with race, colonialism, and imperialism. Though many early twentieth century social scientists who wrote about these issues emphasized their benevolent commitments to “racial development” or “racial uplift,” such commitments were rooted in deeply held beliefs of the racial superiority of whatever racialized label its purveyors attached to themselves – be it Anglo-Saxon, Teuton, or even “English-speaking.” Numerous scholars of the US’s debut as a colonial power in the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, including Jessica Blatt, Julian Go, Paul Kramer, and Robert Vitalis, have shown how essential this discourse was to the US’s self-understanding and self-justification as a colonial power; they have also noted how social scientists from a range of disciplines contributed to that discourse. Though this part played by social scientists has been increasingly well-analyzed, the direct involvement of social scientists in the US’s colonial governments of Puerto Rico and the Philippines has received less attention. In this paper, I focus on the positions three social scientists – David Barrows, Bernard Moses, and W. F. Willoughby – held in these colonial governments. I explore what they themselves and others cited about their academic backgrounds that qualified them for these positions. I also consider how they drew on their experience as colonial officials to participate in and shape the early lives of the academic professional associations to which they belonged.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 139. Building the Racial Nation