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What Classic Texts Would You Like To See for “Lies That Build Empire”?

This image (hat tip to engaged Buddhist and artist Kenji Liu) is just one of the many possible examples of a Right Speech meme that attempts to challenge one of the Lies That Build Empire. Plunking an imperialist nation-state front and center on a map is one way of sending the message: This place is the most important.

A related question is whether the cartographic and ideological centrality of the US is a cause or a symptom of its imperialist power (or some combination of both, and what combination precisely). It’s the kind of question we’re excited to geek out about, here at BPF.

From Andrea Smith to Gayatri Spivak to Edward Saïd, many thinkers have shaped our current consciousness on imperialism, allowing us to see the world in new ways. Who and what are some of the thinkers and texts that have shaped your understanding of empire? What texts (including visual art, music, etc.) would you like to see included in this first installment of The System Stinks curriculum?

Let us know in comments. Happy Tuesday, BPFers!

Comments (5)

  • Richard Modiano

    Blowback, The Sorrows of Empire and Nemesis by Chalmers Johnson are all good descriptions of US imperial ambitions over the last decade. Johnson coined the expression empire of bases to describe how US imperialism operates in the 21st century, and his last book Dismantling the Empire documents resistance.

    Two recent books by Andrew Bacevich, The Limits of Power and Washington Rules, also cover developments during the last decade.

    Other titles that I’ve found useful are The New Military Humanism by Noam Chomsky, Against Empire by Michael Parenti, Confronting the Third World by Gabriel Kolko, Fool’s Crusade by Diane Johnstone, The Roots of American Foreign Policy by Kolko, Year 501: the Conquest Continues by Noam Chomsky, The Age of Empire 1875–1914 by E.J. Hobsbawm, The Accumulation of Capital: A Contribution to an Economic Explanation of Imperialism by Rosa Luxemburg, and Imperialism by John Hobson (first published in 1902.)

  • WhiteDeistWithGuns

    You do realize that the map is made this way to better demonstrate the vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

  • Connor

    Some texts that might be useful in this installment:

    Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
    Earth Democracy by Vandana Shiva

    I am sure there are so many others, but in the essence of time and editing, I will leave you with just those two.

  • Katie Loncke

    Hey, just wanted to check in belatedly and say thanks for these suggestions! We’re in the process of compiling the study guide, and we can’t wait to hear about the kinds of conversations that come about among Buddhists who’ve been reading Luxemburg, Vananda Shiva, Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, etc. Sounds exciting to me.

    To WhiteDeistWithGuns, for some reason your comment has stuck with me for a while, and while I suppose it could be true, I suspect it’s not the whole story. If these mapmakers really did want to emphasize the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, personally I think they could have done a better job with something along these lines. (Although that map also has a skew that disproportionately magnifies the northern hemisphere: you can see that Greenland and Africa look almost the same size, when in reality Africa is nearly 14 times as big as Greenland!)

    Looking forward to more conversations on The Lies That Build Empire, online and in person.

  • Maia Duerr / The Jizo Chronicles

    The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

    War Talk by Arundhati Roy

    Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault (and anything else by Foucault, though it takes a lot of concentrated brainpower to get through them!)

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