Andrew Friedman on our “Covert Capital” and “Landscapes of Denial”

Andrew Friedman, who teaches history at Haverford College, has a superb-looking new book Covert Capital: Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia (University of California Press, 2013).

While I wait to get my copy, let me reproduce the description on his home page:

Covert Capital is a cultural and spatial history that chronicles how the CIA and other “national security” institutions that defined U.S. foreign policy in the era of global decolonization created domestic space around their own headquarters and abroad. The project argues for an alternate genealogy for U.S. migration by tracing the social, work and family relationships, formed during violent U.S. endeavors, which carried American agents abroad and migrants from Vietnam, El Salvador, Iran, the Soviet Union, Cuba and elsewhere home to the D.C. suburbs. As U.S. empire expressed itself abroad by developing roads, embassies and villages, its subjects arrived in the covert capital as real estate agents, home owners, mall builders and landscapers, constructing places, living monuments and a complex political space that nurtured, reflected and critiqued U.S. foreign policy and global operations after World War II. Ushering the study of U.S. empire into everyday life, the book explores how an imperial U.S. citizenship was lived and disavowed in everyday space, and re-narrates the history of postwar suburbanization as the spatial device that helped produce an imperial citizenry and subjectivity.

You can also read the Introduction on Amazon preview. A sample:

By studying the landscape’s close interweaving of national security institutions, houses for covert agents, and sprawling suburbs, I reveal how the geography of empire established abroad by the United States reproduced itself at home in architecture and spatial relations, and how that home front, in turn, incubated empire.

As a former resident of this landscape, I have to say how much this resonates with me. While “covert capital” may be hyperbole (the “real” DC is literally next door), it’s superb hyperbole to point out that this “war-torn” landscape (the Crystal and Pentagon Cities, Falls Church, Arlington National Cemetery, Tyson’s Corner, Maclean et al.) as we might call it, is a landscape of “denial.” I’d add in all the defense and intelligence contracting that Tim Shorrock has brilliantly exposed (see his photo essay here on the very places Friedman is talking about), and the think-tanks and academic support structures (eg., NSF).



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