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An overview of my current and future academic projects. Updated October 2023.

Book Manuscript

Empire by Contract

The Political Economy of the Post-1945 Security State

An interdisciplinary project working at the intersections of archival history and political theory, Empire by Contract weaves together news media, journalist accounts, blogs, films, legal cases, fresh archival material, Congressional hearings, and governmental reports to analyze PMCs as under-studied brokers of U.S. empire and state power in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.


The project makes two primary interventions. First, it historicizes the role of corporations in the structural, and specifically economic, development of the U.S. security state since World War II. Second, it theorizes private military contracting as an emergent form of corporate governance at odds with traditional liberal-democratic governance in the post-9/11 U.S. security state, as well as its client states in Iraq and Afghanistan. Where traditional accounts of neoliberalism emphasize state contraction since the 1970s, Empire by Contract argues through a history of defense contracting since 1945 and especially since 2001, that corporations have taken a decisive role in underwriting and undertaking the work of U.S. militarism and empire in an ostensibly post-imperial age.

Shock and Awe Revisited: Legacies of the Iraq War 20 Years Later

Conference Event | March 31, 2023

The twenty-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Baghdad provided an important occasion for a collective remembering of the Iraq War, and an opportunity to analyze its long-term implications and impacts with fresh eyes. In the Mershon Center's tradition of bringing the humanities into dialogue with conventional security studies, I organized a one-day in-person conference event in Columbus, OH that gathered experts from history, anthropology, journalism, and other fields to discuss the costs, consequences, and historical legacies of the Iraq War.

Breaking from a traditional format of presenting full individual papers, I asked panelists to prepare preliminary answers to pre-circulated discussion questions, so that we could build off each other's insights in a more spontaneous and free-flowing way. This approach proved generative in facilitating vibrant, wide-ranging, and sometimes provocative conversation between participants themselves, and with the audience present both in person and on Zoom.

Over the course of the day, three panels convened to discuss three broad topics. First, Zainab Saleh (Haverford College), Bridget Guarasci (Franklin & Marshall College), and Catherine Lutz (Brown University) offered insight into the social and political costs of intervention. Second, Osamah Khalil (Syracuse University), Carly Krakow (New York University), and Alex Lubin (Pennsylvania State University) situated the Iraq War in broader historical and transnational contexts. Finally, Rajiv Chandrasekaran (formerly of The Washington Post), Deepa Kumar (Rutgers University), and Moustafa Bayoumi (City College of New York) examined news media narratives around the war-- what we might call the first draft of history as it unfolded in real time.


A roundtable of essays based on the themes of the conference event will be published in Passport in September 2023.


Learn more about the process of conceiving and planning the "Shock and Awe Revisited" event in this video, shot and edited by Mershon's Communications Specialist Andrew Mackey!

Behind the Scenes

Upcoming Articles


"Rich Muslim, Bad Muslim: Islamophobia and Global Capitalism" (with Thomas S. Dolan)

In this essay, we theorize Islamophobia not as a cogent racism in its own right, but as one civilizational discourse among many that legitimizes the violent disciplining of those that threaten the interests of capitalist imperialism. Specifically, we show that a focus on political economy yields a view of Islamophobia that is riddled with messy moments of "exception"-- such as when European and American oil companies were willing to incorporate Muslims as part of their profit-seeking ventures, when the U.S. government recruited Islamic allies as potential bulwarks against Soviet communism, and when lucrative security partnerships in the so-called "War on Terror" drew some in the Islamic world closer into the U.S. while others were subject to violent military action. Added together, we argue that these moments demonstrate a deep continuity through the 20th and 21st century that holds despite the rupture of 9/11: though Islamophobia became more overtly racialized, Muslims were still eligible for inclusion if their political willingness and/or access to capital could be deployed in service of U.S. national security goals. Islamophobia in the 21st century could, in other words, function as a rationalizing heuristic for a global U.S. campaign that did not hew to traditional state-military-oriented warfare.

meet your local merchant of death_edited

"Democracy vs. Security: Confronting the U.S. Security State from Above and Below, 1969-1976"

The simultaneous and overlapping convergence of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the Watergate scandal forced a unique and seismic moment of public reckoning in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the structural violence embedded in American life. In this essay, I examine the ways in which Americans specifically engaged with the national security apparatus from 1969 to 1976— its institutional scope, its violations of domestic civil liberties as well as state sovereignty abroad, and in particular its partnerships with corporate actors. I focus on the innovative investigative work of two particular groups: the National Action/Research on the Military Industrial Complex (NARMIC), a Quaker research collective organizing against the Vietnam War; and the Church Committee, which held public hearings scrutinizing the FBI, CIA, and NSA.


"Field Manual as Postcolonial Theory?: Counterinsurgency in the History of U.S. War-Making"

In 2006, as the U.S. campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan suffered dire setbacks, counterinsurgency (COIN) emerged as a revolution in military strategy. A combination of doctrine and political theory, COIN was touted by General David Petraeus as "not just thinking man’s warfare," but “the graduate level of war.” In this essay, I argue that the 2006 manual was more than an operational textbook for Army or Marine Corps commanders. Rather, I show that it was self-consciously styled and advertised as political theory that provided an intellectual and material blueprint for how to maintain U.S. hegemony through an indirect, disavowed mode of governance that fundamentally compromised the ability of Iraqis and Afghans to meaningfully shape the distribution of their own political power or material resources.

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