cover of book

Empire of Defense: Race and the Cultural Politics of Permanent War
by Joseph Darda
University of Chicago Press, 2019
Cloth: 978-0-226-63289-6 | eISBN: 978-0-226-63308-4 | Paper: 978-0-226-63292-6
Library of Congress Classification E745.D373 2019
Dewey Decimal Classification 355.009730904

Empire of Defense tells the story of how the United States turned war into defense. When the Truman administration dissolved the Department of War in 1947 and formed the Department of Defense, it marked not the end of conventional war but, Joseph Darda argues, the introduction of new racial criteria for who could wage it––for which countries and communities could claim self-defense.
From the formation of the DOD to the long wars of the twenty-first century, the United States rebranded war as the defense of Western liberalism from first communism, then crime, authoritarianism, and terrorism. Officials learned to frame state violence against Asians, Black and brown people, Arabs, and Muslims as the safeguarding of human rights from illiberal beliefs and behaviors. Through government documents, news media, and the writing and art of Joseph Heller, June Jordan, Trinh T. Minh-ha, I. F. Stone, and others, Darda shows how defense remade and sustained a weakened color line with new racial categories (the communist, the criminal, the authoritarian, the terrorist) that cast the state’s ideological enemies outside the human of human rights. Amid the rise of anticolonial and antiracist movements the world over, defense secured the future of war and white dominance.

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