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Research Interests

My work focuses on the nexus of visual media, marginalized communities at home and abroad, and policymaking from World War II through the post-Cold War period.

My first book, Pulp Empire: Comic Books, Culture, and U.S. Policymaking at Home and Abroad, 1942-1965, is due out in 2018 from the University of Chicago Press. It explores how the global distribution of American comic books shaped U.S. conflicts, policies, and public perceptions of race. During this time publishers sold a billion uncensored commercial comics per year, presenting America as incurably violent, racist, and sexualized. These images created a string of domestic and diplomatic crises for U.S. policymakers. But comics presented an opportunity, as well as a challenge. The sheer popularity and comprehensibility of the comic book made it an irresistible vehicle for state-sponsored propaganda, particularly among societies with low literacy rates. Federal agencies thus co-opted the form, issuing millions of propaganda titles at home and abroad.

Building on these themes, while drawing deeply on personal experience, my current research comprises the first history of combat-induced disability in the U.S. since World War II told through popular visual culture and diplomatic policymaking. It explores a central irony of postwar American policymaking: the medical innovations that saved the lives of and restored some mobility to Americans disabled in global conflicts were coincident with, and driven by, a revolution in military technology targeted against societies in the decolonizing world. It investigates the military-industrial complex that both destroyed and reconstructed American bodies, and the ways these patterns have appeared in visual media, from painful realism to fantasies of bionic reconstruction.

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