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Historical Studies Program and Dean of the College Present

Monday, February 11, 2019
Policing the Greatest Generation: Carceral Controversies and Service-Member Activism, from World War to Cold War
Olin, Room 102
5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Tejasvi Nagaraja
Postdoctoral Fellow in Global American Studies
Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University
In examining the intersecting ties across foreign and domestic realms, scholars have considered how warfare infrastructures interact with social diversities, opportunities, and inequalities in each country. Americanist scholarship has evaluated the complex relationship between the “hard” power of national security, with “soft” realms such as the welfare state and civil rights. Yet historians have yet to adequately interpret the ties across the two spheres of “hard” power, foreign policy and criminal justice. How does our story of U.S. global power and security statecraft change when we attend to contestations over policing and incarceration, particularly as they affected service members?

From the Second World War into the early Cold War—the signal era of mass citizen-soldiering—diverse GIs and their loved ones grappled with experiences of military policing, courts-martial, incarceration, and execution as well as the civilian justice system’s treatment of service members. This talk considers popular concerns about crime and punishment, as they made a fundamental mark on American experiences of military service and foreign policy. These cases and causes took place across the U.S. South, U.S. North, and overseas, affected individuals from all three spheres, and inspired popular advocacy across all three too. This talk situates this carceral through line in the context of a larger book project—about labor, race, and international relations within the process of midcentury U.S. global militarization. This book presents U.S. service members and their loved ones as protagonists within American and transnational debates about economic, criminal justice, and geopolitical affairs. It argues that U.S. foreign policy’s statecraft was deeply entangled and embattled in relation to intersecting “domestic” social movements.

For more information, call 845-758-7395, or e-mail

Time: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

Location: Olin, Room 102