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In the decades after World War II, tens of thousands of soldiers and civilian contractors across Asia and the Pacific found work through the U.S. military. Recently liberated from colonial rule, these workers were drawn to the opportunities the military offered and became active participants of the U.S. empire, most centrally during the U.S. war in Vietnam. Simeon Man uncovers the little-known histories of Filipinos, South Koreans, and Asian Americans who fought in Vietnam, revealing how U.S. empire was sustained through overlapping projects of colonialism and race making. Through their military deployments, Man argues, these soldiers took part in the making of a new Pacific world—a decolonizing Pacific—in which the imperatives of U.S. empire collided with insurgent calls for decolonization, producing often surprising political alliances, imperial tactics of suppression, and new visions of radical democracy.
Simeon Man is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego.
"Exhaustively researched and powerfully written, this is a mind-blowing, landmark book. Man brilliantly shows how the freedom and dreams of the formerly colonized, the laboring classes, and the racially marginalized across the Asia Pacific and in the United States came to be mobilized toward the making of the U.S. empire and its perpetual state of war; yet in recuperating largely forgotten transnational oppositional movements he offers hope for a more just future."—Takashi Fujitani, author of Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II
"Soldiering through Empire is a tour de force of methodological innovation that breaks with scholarly traditions of studying national histories in isolation from one another. Instead, Man reveals the mutually constitutive natures of bilateral and polylateral international relations. Moreover, by showing how events and ideas resonate and reverberate over time and place, Man breaks with simple linear causality and explanation to reveal a rhizomatic field of action and a genealogy of domination and resistance that follows no single path. Soldiering through Empire is a major contribution."—George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place
"Soldiering through Empire is an elegant, incisive contribution to the scholarship on the contradictions of racial liberalism during the United States’ post-World War II global ascendency, when claims to liberal inclusion accompanied the modernization of the national security state and expansion of criminal justice, prisons, and border control. Tracing a genealogy of 'good' Asian soldiers and military workers in the Pacific world, and their differentiation from 'bad' Asian communists, anticolonial activists, labor radicals, and Asian enemies at war, the study situates Asia, Asians, and Asian Americans as central to the post-1945 global racial order, and the ‘decolonizing Pacific’ as the many anticolonial projects across Asia and in the Pacific Islands that were interrupted or impeded by U.S. imperial war."—Lisa Lowe, author of The Intimacies of Four Continents