Empire for Hegemony: Race, Hierarchy and 20th Century US State Building Interventions

Stephen Pampinella, State University of New York at New Paltz

New advances in hierarchy studies and hegemonic-order theory allow scholars to analyze the rise and decline of the United States in terms of bargaining and contestation over international governance arrangements. However, we lack a detailed analysis of how the United States synthesized Eurocentric racism and liberal internationalism in the construction of its own hegemonic order. I develop the theoretical framework for such an account by applying postcolonial relationalism to the study of US state building interventions. By studying instances of state building in the context of a Eurocentric global field, we can examine how race structures the dynamics of resistance and cooperation among the United States and occupied peoples. Within the US-hegemonic order, cooperation is made possible on the basis of the standard of civilization upheld by supposedly advanced Eurocentric states. The liberal assimilationist content of Eurocentric narratives thereby enables dominant and subordinate actors to consent to a hierarchical relationship, but they do so by reaffirming the racial hierarchy that already differentiates their unequal rights and obligations prior to the agreement. Polities can advance their position in US-led hegemonic order by claiming a Eurocentric identity but at the expense of reinforcing racial stratification and inhibiting alternative ordering projects.

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 Presented in Session 200. The Politics of Race, Sex, and Ethnicity