"Empire All the Way Down: Thinking America Through Edward Said"

Wednesday, 24 January 2018 - 4:30pm to 5:50pm

This talk engages the concept of “imperial blowback,” the idea that great imperial powers eventually experience at home the same kinds of racist, authoritarian violence they use to conquer and contain peoples in the colonized world.  The first half of the presentation both agrees with, and expands upon this idea, arguing that its most vocal proponent, Hannah Arendt, correctly linked empire to the rise of totalitarianism in Europe but wrongly concluded that imperialism was “the one great crime in which America was never involved.”  The second half of the talk explores Edward Said’s notion of “counterpoint” as an alternative to “blowback’ and suggests that it both engages American imperial violence, draws upon the enduring intellectual and political resources generated through anti-colonial resistances in the Global South and North, and provides us with a humanist vision of the future that opens our horizons to a more expansively just politics.


photo of Jeannie Morefield.


Jeanne Morefield is Professor of Politics at Whitman College and a Professorial Fellow at Australian Catholic University whose work engages the historical and contemporary intersection of political theory and international relations with a particular focus on British and American imperialism. Her books include Empires Without Imperialism: Anglo-American Decline and the Politics of Deflection (Oxford, 2014) and Covenants Without Swords: Idealist Liberalism and the Spirit of Empire (Princeton, 2005).  She has published articles in Political Theory, History of Political Thought, Theory and Event, and other journals as well as numerous chapters for edited volumes on the history of international and imperial thought. She is engaged in a long-term project on the historiography of human trafficking and is writing a book, Empire as Method: Edward Said and Political Theory. Jeanne is currently Co-President of the Association for Political Theory.