University College Dublin | An Coláiste Ollscoile, Baile Átha Cliath

UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland | Director: Professor Liam Kennedy

Global Irish Civic Forum
June 2015

Prospective Students

    President Clinton addresses the Institute Sept 2010

War and American Identity

David Ryan (Project Director)
Department of History
University College Cork


The research project has a number of objectives arising out of the broad aims.

A key objective is to address the manner in which wars in which the United States has participated since the 1930s has been represented, communicated and narrated within and beyond US culture and to analyse these contributions to US identity formation.

Much work within the field of American Studies has either underplayed the role of war in identity formation or concentrated their analytical scope on a narrow 'archive' representing the dominant modes of cultural production within the United States. This project will engage this literature, but will encourage participants to simultaneously examine the disparate cultural zones within the United States and also situate our work in a post-nationalistic framework. Thus the politics of identity formation will also engage with narratives produced beyond the borders from for example Europe and Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East.

US identity is a highly contested subject. This project will attempt to examine through a range of disciplines the disparate constructions of the United States during and after pivotal wars in the mid to late twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. Participants will examine the dominant sites of identity formation and contestation within the United States, analyse its projection but crucially the project will also consider identity formation at the so-called periphery. It will for example deal with the construction of the traditional meta-narrative of US diplomacy and war aims, with the discourses both domestic and foreign on the US 'empire', with the literature and archives associated with 'victory culture' and more recently, with the 'culture of defeat' by way of example.

Participants will be encouraged to focus on a particular aspect within the parameters of the project. They will do so by decentring traditional approaches to the subject. They will be encouraged to engage a range of methodologies that transcend their traditional disciplines and participants from American Studies departments will be encouraged to operate in the post-nationalist context.

The project will not provide a survey of the relationship between war and identity formations so much as showcase particular case studies from across the period since the 1930s that analyse a particular war, or period, but use an innovative methodological approach to the topic. Moreover, while war is the operative subject of investigation, a range of prescient narratives associated with race, class, ethnicity, regionalism and cultural production will be analysed. Nevertheless, wars have played a significant role in the definition, representation and negotiation of identity. While the project's focus is on the contemporary period it is important to take in a temporal framework that will facilitate the enormous US contribution to World War II and the cultural impact of that period. Similarly, it is important that this project encompasses a wide geographical scope.

The wars and questions of identity with be explored through a variety of sources such as: historical resources, text based archives, memoir, literature, film. photography, memorials, collective memory, popular culture, media, annual celebration and commemorative events. Participants will be encouraged to decentre the approach they take to their particular 'archive' to facilitate analysis of the contested character of US identity.

Initial Participants:

Dr. David Ryan, Department of History, University College Cork,

Current research interests involve an investigation into the impact of the 'Vietnam syndrome' on US intervention in regional conflict since 1975. The study incorporates an analysis of the US executive decision making process (through primary record at the Presidential Libraries from Ford to Bush), Congressional oversight, public opinion polls, and the impact of the cultural influences on executive decision making processes. This project has involved research at the Reagan and Ford Presidential Libraries, the National Archives, the National Security Archives and the Library of Congress. The research will lead towards the publication of a monograph of Collective Memory & US Intervention since Vietnam . David is the co-Chair of the Transatlantic Studies Association and a member of numerous other international associations of American Studies and Diplomatic History. He is a member of the editorial board for three journals including The Journal of Transatlantic Studies. His publications have focused on US foreign policy and history including: US-Sandinista Diplomatic Relations (1995), with Victor Pungong (eds). The United States and Decolonization (2000), US Foreign Policy in World History (2000), The United States and Europe in the Twentieth Century (2003), Frustrated Empire (2007), Vietnam in Iraq with John Dumbrell (eds). Collective Memory & US Intervention since Vietnam. (London and New York: forthcoming 2008).

Dr. John Morrissey, Department of Geography, NUI Galway

John lectures on historical, political and cultural geography at NUI Galway. His research centres on two interrelated areas: identity and representation. His interest in identity lies in exploring the tensions of cultural belonging and its historical and contemporary relations to colonialism, nationalism and racism in their diverse forms. His work on representation is driven by a passion for interrogating the politics and power relations of dominant signifying practices in the modern world. In exploring sites of cultural representation ranging from monuments in public spaces to cinematic images on film, his research centres on the ways in which specific representations are prioritised, produced and consumed. His current research explores the connections between the dominant geopolitical representations of American military power in the Middle-East by US CENTCOM and the frequently invisible spaces of violence and occupation of the 'Global War on Terror' (GWOT). As a Visiting Scholar at UCC in 2006, John is currently writing the Historical Geography book in the Key Concerts in Geography Series for Sage, London.

Professor Lloyd Gardner, Department of History, Rutgers University

One of the leading historians of US diplomacy and foreign policy, Lloyd is Charles and Mary Beard Professor in the History Department at Rutgers University and author of more than a dozen books on the history of US foreign policy including Approaching Vietnam and Pay Any Price: Lyndon Johnson and the Wars for Vietnam. With Marilyn Young, he recently co-edited The New American Empire.

Professor Charles Gannon, American Literature, St. Bonaventure University

Charles is Associate Professor of English with research interests and publications relating to American Literature, Popular Literature, Film and narrative structure, science and politics. he is the author of numerous works of fiction as well as Rumours of War and Internal Machines: Technomilitary Agenda-setting in American and British Speculative Fiction (2005).

Professor Marilyn Young , Department of History, New York University

Professor in the Department of History at New York University. She has written and researched extensively on US foreign policy and US-Asian relations and most pertinently for this project is the author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990 and Vietnam and America (with Marvin Gettleman, Jane Franklin and Bruce Franklin), and Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism, 1959-1975, two volumes. The Vietnam Wars was recipient of the Berkshire Women's History Prize.

Professor Liam Kennedy, Director of the Clinton Institute for American Studies at University College Dublin

He has diverse research interests and teaching experiences, spanning the fields of American urban studies, visual culture, globalisation and transatlantic relations. He is the author of Susan Sontag: Mind as Passion (1995) and Race and Urban Space in American Culture (2000). He is co-editor of Urban Space and Representation (1999) and City Sites: An Electronic Book (2000) and editor of Remaking Birmingham: The Visual Culture of Urban Regeneration (2004). Professor Kennedy's work is interdisciplinary, blending cultural and political modes of scholarly analysis, and represents American Studies as a valuable framework to study both American domestic and international affairs. He is currently researching a monograph on photography and international conflict, and preparing two edited books - on urban photography and on cultural diplomacy and US foreign policy.

Professor Scott Lucas, Department of American and Canadian Studies, University of Birmingham

Professor Lucas works in the areas of US politics, international relations and diplomatic history. In recent years he has become more interested in the relationship between 'culture' ideology, and US foreign policy since 1945. His publications include : The Betrayal of Dissent: Beyond Orwell, Hitchens, and the New American Century (2004), George Orwell (2001), Freedom's War: The US Crusade Against the Soviet Union, 1945-1956 (1999), The Lion's Last War: Britain and the Suez Crisis (1996), Divided We Stand: Britain, the US, and the Suez Crisis (1991).

Dr. Michaela Hoenicke-Moore, Department of History, University of Iowa, USA

Dr. Hoenicke Moore is currently working on aspects relating to the construction of US nationalism. Her previous publications include: Know Your Enemy: The American Debate on Nazism, 1933-1945 (2003), which explored US popular and official interpretations of the Third Reich and The Uncertain Superpower (2003).