Rethinking the Triumph of US Internationalism brings together three scholars from the United States and the United Kingdom with respective backgrounds in religious studies, social history, and American diplomatic history/international relations. Responding to Clifford Geertz and Robert Westbrook’s call for “a social history of the moral imagination,” the group will translate the results of their preparatory individual and collaborative work into a joint study on the transformation of foreign policy–relevant beliefs from the New Deal through the present, focusing on four distinct yet overlapping groups in American civil society: soldiers, mainline Protestant and conservative Evangelical groups, immigrants, and foreign policy intellectuals.
This collaborative project on the disparate visions of America’s role in the world and their transformation from World War II through the Global War on Terror moves beyond official foreign policy ideas and national myths to probe more deeply how Americans experienced and viewed their country’s militarized globalism and how these experiences transformed their sense of national identity. Foreign policy–relevant views are anchored not only in national ideologies, but also in personal beliefs regarding relationship obligations, human nature, history/memory, and ethical commandments. These dispositions are grounded in religious and cultural practices and are expressed in private, sometimes visceral feelings of security, belonging, and duty. This interdisciplinary effort addresses these topics central to the understanding of the interconnectedness between our country’s role in the world and American democracy.