I am a historian who specializes in the multiple “global visions” produced by and for Americans. In my writing and teaching, I focus on the ways in which cultural and political history intersect, and on the role of religion and culture in shaping US “interests” in other parts of the world. My own interests include nationalism and transnationalism; cultural theory; religion and culture; the rhetoric of foreign policy; and cultural and media history (including television, film, print, and digital). I am also an avid fan of science fiction, both literature and film, and am determined that one day I will write about China Miéville.
I am a proud graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where I attended as a Morehead Scholar. I received my PhD from Brown University’s American civilization program.
My first book was Epic Encounters: Culture, Media, and US Interests in the Middle East since 1945. The book originally appeared in 2001, and it was received in the context of the September 11 attacks and the ensuing wars in the Middle East. I published a revised edition, with a new chapter that addressed the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, in 2005. In both editions, the book sold widely, and has been taught in courses ranging from US history to sociology to media to Middle East Studies. In 2008, I co-edited a book with R. Marie Griffith (Washington Univ. of St. Louis), Religion and Politics in the Contemporary United States. That book was originally a special issue of American Quarterly.
I recently completed The Kingdom of God Has No Borders: A Global History of American Evangelicals, which explores how US evangelical Christians, white and black, have constructed their understandings of — and relationships with — people in the Middle East and Africa. The book explores US evangelical investments, from their fears of decolonization in the 1960s to activism on international religious freedom in the 1990s to responses to the Iraq war after 2003. The book starts with US missionary responses to the decolonization of Congo in 1960 and ends with the debates over the Anti-Homosexuality Law in Uganda in 2014. It is forthcoming in spring 2018.
I have published in a broad range of academic journals and newspapers, and have spoken to a broad range of media outlets, including PBS, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Irish Radio One, and national television stations in Germany, Austria, and Iran.
I have begun working on a book that examines the global response to the Biafra crisis – the events surrounding the civil war in Nigeria from 1967-70. The study is tentatively titled, “’Keep Biafra Alive!’: Religion, Global Media, and Popular Humanitarianism during Nigeria’s Civil War,” and I am thrilled to say that the project is being supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, which will allow me that chance to do research in Europe and Nigeria in 2017-18.
The book will explore the involvement of both religious and secular NGOs in the US and Europe in crafting a humanitarian response to the war and particularly to the images of starving children that circulated globally. It examines the international affairs projects of ordinary people, exploring how the humanitarian politics surrounding Biafra emerged in a global context, including the social movements that responded to the Vietnam War and apartheid. The book explores the history of international relations, broadly conceived, by combining media studies, visual culture analysis, social movement history, religious studies, and political history.
As part of my interest in Biafra, I worked with two other GW faculty members to organize a spring 2017 conference, http://www.rememberingbiafra.com/, to mark the 50th anniversary of the start of the Biafra war.
In addition, I am co-editing volume 4 of the forthcoming Cambridge History of the US in the World, along with Max Friedman and David Engerman. The general editor of this exciting (and massive) project is Mark Bradley.
I am very involved with the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, and am on the editorial board for the new journal Modern American History.