Alvita Akiboh, "Imperial Material: National Symbols in the US Colonial Empire" (U Chicago Press, 2023)


This is an ambitious history of flags, stamps, and currency—and the role they played in US imperialism over the 20th century. In Imperial Material: National Symbols in the US Colonial Empire (U Chicago Press, 2023), Alvita Akiboh, Assistant Professor of History at Yale University, reveals how US national identity has been created, challenged, and transformed through embodiments of empire found in US territories, from the US dollar bill to the fifty-star flag. Akiboh argues that these symbolic objects encode the relationships between territories—including the Philippines, the Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam—and the American empire with which they have been entangled. Akiboh shows how such items became objects of power, and how their original intent was changed. For even if imperial territories were not always front and center for federal lawmakers and administrators, their inhabitants remained continuously aware of the United States, whose presence announced itself through localized fights over the predominant currency, stamps, and flags.

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Lachlan McNamee

Lachlan McNamee is a Lecturer of Politics at Monash University. His area of expertise is the comparative politics of settler colonialism, empire, and political violence with a regional focus on the Asia-Pacific.

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