Associate 2010-11

Moon-Kie Jung


Constituting the U.S. Empire-State and White Supremacy

With the ongoing U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there has once again been much talk of an “American empire.” Despite sharp disagreements, the general consensus has been that the United States is a relatively new and a decidedly informal or noncolonial empire, particularly compared to the European powers of the past. Even for many of the dissenters, the only true foray into formal empire-building by the United States was at the turn of the last century, consequent to the Spanish-American War. Otherwise the United States has been distinctly a nation-state, even if an informally imperialist one.

Against the prevalent assumption that the United States is and has been a nation-state, Professor Jung proposes to reconceptualize it as an empire-state, a state encompassing hierarchically differentiated spaces and peoples and one that dates back to its very founding. Such rethinking has far-reaching implications for U.S. social science, much of which takes the nation-state for granted as the natural unit of analysis. For the present research it provides a firmer basis for understanding the United States as a racial state, a state of white supremacy.

Compiling a comprehensive database of U.S. Supreme Court cases having to do with race, broadly defined, Professor Jung is examining the early development of the U.S. empire-state during the long nineteenth century. In part through network analyses of opinions on Native sovereignty, slavery, territories, citizenship, and immigration, he seeks to make unified sense of and see connections between seemingly disparate histories of racial subjection, including those of Blacks, American Indians, Asians, and Latina/os. The study spans two book projects. During his Center appointment he will complete the first, titled Outline of a Theory of Racism, the final part of which is a theoretical mapping of an empire-state approach to understanding the United States.