Race, Security, and Modernization: Policing the Global Color Line
Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Annual Meeting
Thursday, June 23, 2016 - 11:45
Room A, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego
Panel: The Color of Modernization: American Racial Politics and International Development
Modernization theory is typically understood as a discourse (and practice) of development directed outward from the United States toward the third world. Yet recent scholarship has shown that many security and development practices of the modernization era were linked in conceptualization and realization to domestic programs and priorities. This type of research aids rethinking how race and racism functioned in modernization theory. Racial liberals anxious about domestic racial unevenness were moderinization’s authors; these anxieties shaped it. Looking at policing and counterinsurgency expertise, I argue that modernization expressed and redrew the global color line in response to shifting US race relations.
Scholars now agree that development, and its accelerated permutation, modernization, are history. But is the function of race in development part of this history? A critique leveled against modernization thinking while it was still a live paradigm was that it was Eurocentric, infused with Darwinist sentiment about relative fitness for social progress that consigned whole regions of the globe to an inferior status. Further, postcolonial critiques have lambasted modernization for its complicity in imperialism and its homogenizing tendencies in the face of the diversity of subaltern life-worlds. Do these now-familiar critiques withstand historical scrutiny? In this panel, we will revisit the place and role of race and racism in development and modernization, arguing that, in different ways, the paradigms were structured by race. We will thus reassess and update earlier critiques in light of the past 15 years of new historical scholarship on modernization.