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The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power

Hosted by the Department of International History

32L.G.03, LSE, United Kingdom

Speakers

Dr Megan Black

Dr Megan Black

LSE

Dr Kasia Paprocki

Dr Kasia Paprocki

LSE

Professor Andrew Preston

Professor Andrew Preston

University of Cambridge

Chair

Dr Padraic X. Scanlan

Dr Padraic X. Scanlan

LSE

Book Launch

The Department of International History hosted Dr Megan Black’s book launch on Tuesday 19th March. Dr Black, Assistant Professor in the International History Department, was joined by Dr Kasia Paprocki (Department of Geography and Environment, LSE) and Professor Andrew Preston (Clare College, University of Cambridge.)

The public lecture discussed Dr Black’s new book, Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power, which explores the workings of the US Department of the Interior both domestically and abroad. Dr Black convincingly argues that the Department of the Interior, a government organ best known for managing domestic natural resources and operational national parks, was actually fundamental to US global expansion and the promotion of American imperialism. The Department of the Interior consistently pursued strategic minerals across American borders.

It was able to do this so successfully, both in the US with the expropriation of indigenous land and abroad with mineral deposits, due to the perception that nature is neutral, thus non-political. As Dr Paprocki added, the process of how the environment and frontiers were imagined, for example through the discourse of wasteland, validated the dispossession of these lands. It is clear through Dr Black’s text that the ability to extract resources is inextricably linked to the political sovereignty of a country. This sometimes had the support of local elites, as in the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, whilst in other areas it was resisted.

Dr Black’s analysis of the Department of the Interior additionally enables us to see empire in a different form through challenging its conventional portrayal as something overt. Professor Preston commented that Black’s work also challenges many dichotomies that have been portrayed in the existing literature, including the foreign and the domestic, conservation and exploitation, and the political and the private. He continued by stating that the Global Interior is a strong contribution to this field by highlighting the significant role of institutions and their ability to evolve, which have so far been ignored.

This event is not available as a podcast.

The Department of International History (@lsehistory) teaches and conducts research on the international history of Britain, Europe and the world from the early modern era up to the present day.

View images of the event in our Facebook page.

Participants

Dr Megan Black is author of The Global Interior: Mineral Frontiers and American Power, released by Harvard University Press in October 2018. She is Assistant Professor of International History with research interests in the United States and the world, environmental history, and political economy. Her current research explores the role of the U.S. Department of the Interior in spearheading the pursuit of minerals beyond U.S. formal sovereignty in indigenous lands, formal US territories, nations throughout the global South, the oceans, and outer space. In the process, the Interior Department forged powerful linkages between the histories of US settler colonialism and US global reach. Her book manuscript, 

Dr Kasia Paprocki joined the Department of Geography and Environment in 2017. Her work addresses issues within and between the study of the political economy of development, political ecology, social movements, and agrarian change. Her research is regionally focused in South Asia, particularly Bangladesh. Kasia holds a PhD in Development Sociology from Cornell University. She has received fellowships and awards from the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Program, and the Social Science Research Council.

Professor Andrew Preston is Professor of American History and a Fellow of Clare College at Cambridge University. His work focuses on war and foreign relations, including how it intersects with domestic politics and culture. He is the author or editor of seven books, including Sword of the Spirit, Shield of Faith: Religion in American War and Diplomacy (Knopf, 2012). He is currently writing a book on the idea of national security in American history as well as editing Volume 2 of The Cambridge History of the Vietnam War and Volume 3 of The Cambridge History of America and the World.

Dr Padraic X. Scanlan is an historian of Britain and its relationship to the wider world, with a particular focus on histories of slavery, capitalism and emancipation from the early seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. His research centres on the practices and material history of the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, and the effects of abolition on the governance of Britain and the British empire. He is also broadly interested in the social and administrative histories of bureaucrats and bureaucracies, and in the history of everyday economic life.

Accessibility

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Photo credit: "The U.S. Interior Department building in Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2008", Anchorage Daily News.

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