Friday, March 10, 2017

Jason C. Parker's "Hearts, Minds, Voices"

Jason C. Parker is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University. He is the author of Brother's Keeper: The United States, Race, and Empire in the British Caribbean, 1937-1962, which won the Stuart L. Bernath Book Award from the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

Parker applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Hearts, Minds, Voices: US Cold War Public Diplomacy and the Formation of the Third World, and reported the following:
At first glance, I thought my book had “failed” the Page 99 test. The page [inset below left; click to enlarge] drops the reader into the middle of the 1956 Suez Crisis– a milestone of post-World War II international history by any measure, and one of the twelve case-studies in the book– with particular attention to the American, British, and Egyptian “public diplomacy” surrounding it. Upon closer reading and further reflection, though, page 99 nicely encapsulates my larger argument. The Suez Crisis was one of the most important sites of the ongoing collision of decolonization and the Cold War. It was among the earliest such sites to find actors outside the global North vocally and visibly asserting a presence on an increasingly crowded world stage– with far-reaching consequences for the decades to follow.

My book examines the superpowers’ efforts to implant the Cold War in the decolonizing global South via public diplomacy, defined as a state’s attempt to shape foreign opinion in ways that serve a strategic interest. I argue that this– the proverbial campaign to “win hearts and minds”– instead, and quite unintentionally from Washington’s perspective, catalyzed the formation of the “imagined community” of the Third World. The book seeks to historicize that term, which although it has fallen into contemporary disfavor was nonetheless, in its era and to its champions, a positive aspiration if not an epochal destiny. This collective identity had three main components. A focus on the empires’ legacy of colonial poverty and the need for economic development; a vague but powerful sense of racial solidarity among non-European peoples; and a drive for national sovereignty en route to an independent, autonomous geopolitical role had all coursed variously through global-South circuits in the decades preceding the Cold War. But it took the superpower conflict to fuse them together. Most of the soon-to-be-labeled Third World experienced that conflict not as bloody, violent intervention, but rather as a media war– one they joined as soon as national independence permitted. Once they did, their own public-diplomacy initiatives to their neighbors and to the global North made for a noisy and crowded global arena. This tended to crowd out the superpowers’ Cold War messaging– and more importantly, it spurred and gave discursive shape to the Third World Project.
Learn more about Hearts, Minds, Voices at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue