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Imperial Material

National Symbols in the US Colonial Empire

Imperial Material

National Symbols in the US Colonial Empire

An ambitious history of flags, stamps, and currency—and the role they played in US imperialism.
In Imperial Material, Alvita Akiboh reveals how US national identity has been created, challenged, and transformed through embodiments of empire found in its territories, from the US dollar bill to the fifty-star flag. These symbolic objects encode the relationships between territories—including the Philippines, the Hawaiian Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam—and the empire with which they have been entangled. Akiboh shows how such items became objects of local power, transmogrifying their original intent. For even if imperial territories were not always front and center for federal lawmakers and administrators, the people living there remained continuously aware of the imperial United States, whose presence announced itself on every bit of currency, every stamp, and the local flag.

320 pages | 54 halftones | 6 x 9

History: American History, General History


“With crisp prose and a sweeping narrative arc, Akiboh offers an original, ambitious, and deeply researched work of scholarship. By focusing on the uses and meanings of US national symbols that were exported to the colonies—flags, stamps, and currency—Akiboh uncovers the quotidian practices that made real the experience of colonialism. These symbols were everyday reminders to colonial subjects that they were living under US rule. And they were never just symbols. As Akiboh compellingly demonstrates, they have been at ‘the center of debates about national identity, inclusion, and exclusion in the US colonial empire.’”

Sarah Miller-Davenport, Columbia University

“This is terrific scholarship. Akiboh presents a highly original, impressively researched, clearly written, and helpfully illustrated study of the official accoutrements of US imperialism.”

Bartholomew Sparrow, University of Texas at Austin

Table of Contents

List of Figures
A Note on Terminology: On Mainlands and Americans
Introduction: National Symbols in the US Colonial Empire
1 What Followed the Flag
2 Pocket-Sized Imperialism
3 Symbolic Supremacy
4 The Object(s) of Occupation
5 Symbolic Decolonization

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