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Talk by Dr. Lauren Hirshberg: Reef Crossings: Navigating the Segregated Spaces of U.S. Empire in the Marshall Islands

Thursday, October 19, 2017,
  • Location: Benson Hall TN
  • Room: 200

As part of the History Department's Global History Seminar Series, Dr. Lauren Hirshberg will speak about militarization and US military basing in the Cold War Pacific. Her pre-circulated paper will be available in the history department office. The abstract of Dr. Hirshberg's paper is below:

During the Cold War, the U.S. military carried out some of its most destructive weapons testing in the Marshall Islands. After concluding the nuclear campaign in the northern Marshall Islands, the military transformed the Marshallese island of Kwajalein into a missile base, mapping the island with a segregated suburban landscape to help recruit the nation’s top scientists and engineers to move their families to the Central Pacific to operate the range. While Kwajalein housed American families in a tropical Levittown setting, three miles away on Ebeye Island resided those Marshallese colonial subjects who the military displaced for missile testing and those comprising Kwajalein’s segregated service sector. When formal U.S. colonialism ended in 1986, the military provided a concession to ease tensions between the segregated communities, school integration on Kwajalein.The program intended to ease diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the Marshallese after a series of protests in the 1970s and 1980s against U.S. colonialism in the region. 

This paper traces the history of the military's postcolonial school integration program on Kwajalein, focusing on what this program reveals about the nature of U.S. empire in the postwar period. In so doing, I also hope to expand urban and suburban historiography’s foundational interventions of analyzing structural segregation from metropolitan and nation-state registers, pushing these into the realm of U.S. Empire.