Taking Back Empire: Political Economy, Militarism, and Decolonial Movements

Fall 2022
Winter 2023
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 75
16 Credits per quarter
Log in to add this offering to your saved list.
Taught by

The United States can be understood, as George Washington defined it, as a country “in the scale of Empires.” This program will look at the expansion of U.S. empire, from Manifest Destiny to overseas conquests and present-day resource wars. It will examine the political, economic, military, and cultural domination of the U.S. in its global sphere of influence, how it has shaped peoples and lands at home and abroad, and how people have in turn resisted, reshaped, and rolled back the empire.

We will examine the continuous historical arc of imperial expansion, from the “frontier wars” in Native American nations, to colonialism in the Pacific / Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, to occupations in Middle East “tribal regions.” This expansion comes full circle as immigrants arrive from formerly colonized lands, and militarized “wars at home” are waged against occupied communities within U.S. borders.

The program will aim to interconnect global and local scales, foreign and domestic policies, and past histories and present-day legacies. It will examine the lasting imprints of imperial control on real local places, through political destabilization, military interventions and bases, corporate trade and debt mechanisms, resource and labor extraction, pervasive cultural influence, and enforcement of racial and gender hierarchies.

In fall quarter, we will examine colonialism, expansion of imperial influence, and settler colonialism, and historic and contemporary resistance to them. As their fall-quarter project, students will focus on a single place-based case study, writing essays on the historical and contemporary background of a local place shaped by U.S. empire, and an interview (of refugees, veterans, or activists) shaped by the place. Students will also begin turning in a weekly synthesis paper connecting their readings to other learning.

In winter quarter we will focus on social movements taking back empire. As their winter-quarter project, students will focus on social movements, by documenting community organizing and activism against militarization, corporate resource and labor extraction, financial control, and cultural hegemony. This inquiry will include the role of women’s movements that question masculinist discourses of domination, and the growth of Indigenous movements for self-determination.

Learning modes will include faculty lectures, guest speakers, films, workshops, seminars, and field trips. The class will learn about and visit local Indigenous nations, refugee communities, and military installations. While some of the histories of conflict and suffering may be difficult to learn, studying imperial places also offer stories of cooperation and resilience, healing, and hope.


Fall 2022 Registration
Winter 2023 Registration

Academic details

Preparatory For

Economics, Education, Community-based Organizations, Foreign Service,Government and Non-Governmental Agencies, Law, Indigenous Studies, Political Science, Public PolicyInternational Organizations, Geography,Immigrant Rights,

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing

$250 in fall quarter for a 3-day field trip to Washington military bases.


In Person or Remote
In Person (F)
In Person (W)
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule