Society for Cultural Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
US empire is a military empire (McGranahan and Collins 2018:15), and from WWII to the Global War on Terror, the US military has relied upon Hollywood films to promote the missions and messages of the US military to foreign publics and domestic audiences (Gonzalez 2010; Gonzalez et al 2009). Yet since the 1947 creation of the national security state and growth of the Cold War, there has been a proliferation of less visible interactions between entertainment professionals and the DOD. Building upon Catherine Lutz’s insight that “Empire is in the details” (Lutz 2006: 593), this paper examines how the US military increasingly deploys talents and technologies from Hollywood storytellers to help script national defense scenarios. Drawing on ethnographic research I conducted on military-entertainment collaborations in Los Angeles, I argue that despite its commercial orientation and escapist fare, the US entertainment industry is seen by the national security state as gravely critical to its maintenance and imperial endeavors. The entertainment industry’s and military’s shared need for storytelling tactics and simulation technologies articulate the total mobilization of the national security state and demonstrate the pervasive ambitions of U.S. empire.
Gonzalez, Roberto J. 2010. Militarizing Culture: Essays on the Warfare State. Routledge.
Gonzalez, Roberto J., Hugh Gusterson, and David Price. Introduction: War, Culture and Counterinsurgency. The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2009. p. 1-20.
Lutz, Catherine. 2006. “Empire is in the Details.” American Ethnologist 33 (4): 593-611.
McGranahan, Carole and John F. Collins. 2018. Ethnographies of US Empire (editors). Duke University Press.