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

“I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century,” an eighty-five-year-old W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in 1953, revisiting his famous claim from fifty years earlier. But the “greater problem,” he now believed, was that war had “become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race.” Empire of Defense reveals how that greater problem emerged and grew from the formation of the Department of Defense in the late 1940s to the long wars of the twenty-first century.
When the Truman administration dissolved the Department of War, a cabinet-level department since 1789, and formed the DOD, it did not, Joseph Darda argues, end war but rather establish new racial criteria for who could wage it, for which lives deserved defending. Historians have long studied “perpetual war.” Critical race theorists have long confronted “the permanence of racism.” Empire of Defense shows––through an investigation of state documents, fiction, film, memorials, and news media––how the two converged and endure through national defense. Amid the rise of anticolonial and antiracist movements the world over, defense secured the future of war and white supremacy.

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