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

Fall 2022
Winter 2023
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 50
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 and "global apartheid." 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 Indigenous nations and other 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. Students will also turn in a biweekly synthesis assignment connecting their readings to other classroom learning.

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 research local historical and contemporary sites in Olympia that are connected to colonial control, militarization, and global trade and inequality, and corporate resource and labor extraction, and how social movements have organized against these injustices.

In winter quarter we will examine community organizing and activism against militarization, corporate resource and labor extraction, financial control, and cultural hegemony. We will develop the fall research findings into a series of ArcGIS StoryMaps self-guided walking tours, contributing to the “Olympia’s Hidden Histories” project. Student teams will use textual narratives, maps, graphics, and audio-video clips to tell the stories of local connections to empire-building, and community activism to expose these connections. Students will learn StoryMaps techniques by participating in ArcGIS trainings embedded in the program.

Learning modes will include faculty lectures, guest speakers, films, workshops, seminars, and field trips. 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

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 10098
Winter 2023 Registration

Students joining in winter need to read:  

- “Olympia’s Hidden Histories” walking tours: Introduction, Steh-Chass, Tidelands, Chinatowns, & Dam,  produced by “American Frontiers” students at https://artforces.org/hiddenhistories 

- Vine, David, The United States of War, Part V Hyperimperialism (pp. 257-330). Available through Evergreen Library in Research Databases - JSTOR: https://www-jstor-org.evergreen.idm.oclc.org/stable/j.ctv153k68c


View the asynchronous film The Oil War (David Schissgall, 2020, 84 min.). The film is free on Tubi TV (register for free) at https://tubitv.com/movies/682742/the-oil-war

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (16): 20155

Academic details

Preparatory for studies and careers in

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


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

First Meeting

SEM 2 E1105 - Lecture


Date Revision
2022-05-31 Jon Davies no longer part of the teaching team and the program size has been reduced to 50 seats.
2022-04-22 Field trip is canceled