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How to Hide an Empire: The Story of the Greater United States

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With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Monday, October 26, 2020

Look at a map of the United States and you'll see the familiar cluster of states in North America, plus Hawai'i and Alaska in boxes. But what about Puerto Rico? What about American Samoa? The country has held overseas territory--lands containing millions of U.S. nationals--for the bulk of its history. They don't appear often in textbooks, but the outposts and colonies of the United States have been central to its history. Boston Public Library President David Leonard talks with Daniel Immerwahr to explore what U.S. history would look like if it weren't just the history of the continental states but of all U.S. land: the Greater United States. This conversation at the Boston Public Library, with the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library, is part of the esteemed Lowell Lecture Series. The event is free to the public.

President of the Boston Public Library, leads the 170-year old institution, one of Boston’s great educational, cultural and civic treasures. David began working at the BPL in 2009, bringing a wealth of experience from the technology, management and consulting fields.
Daniel Immerwahr is an associate professor at Northwestern University, specializing in twentieth-century U.S. history within a global context. His first book, Thinking Small (Harvard, 2015), offers a critical account of grassroots development campaigns launched by the United States at home and abroad. It won the Merle Curti Award in Intellectual History from the Organization of American Historians and the Society for U.S. Intellectual History's annual book award. His second book, How to Hide an Empire (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), tells the history of the United States with its overseas territory included in the story. That book was a national bestseller and a New York Times critic's choice for one of the best books of 2019. Immerwahr's writings have appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, the Washington Post, The New Republic, The Nation, Dissent, Jacobin, and Slate, among other places.
Garrett is the Curator of Maps and Director of Geographic Scholarship at the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library. He is interested in the processes through which human and nonhuman systems cohere together into distinct geographic entities called “places.” Very broadly, this means that I’m curious about how we construct and identify discrete geographic objects like neighborhoods, cities, districts, and regions, and then use these objects as meaningful categories in social and political life. He has studied this question from several different perspectives, ranging from the history of urban and regional planning to big-data analyses of economically-integrated megaregions. Because the tension between unity and differentiation works itself out in terms of both ideological and empirical arguments about inclusion and exclusion, he is interested in both how places come to be seen as provisionally whole, as well as what the consequences are of such boundary-drawing decisions. He strongly believes in the integrative impulse in geography and in the necessity of using techniques drawn from fields as diverse as spatial analysis, cartography, ethnography, social theory, and visual studies.