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Public lecture on America’s obsession with security

Public lecture on America’s obsession with security

The American obsession with security will be the topic of a public lecture at the University of Auckland this month.

Professor Elaine Tyler May, Regents Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Minnesota will present a lecture on “The United States, Global Power and the ‘Culture of Security’” on Thursday 27 February.

The lecture will look at Americans obsession with both national and personal security for the last half century. Citizens across the political and economic spectrum have come to live by a pervasive belief that the world is a dangerous place and that our nation, and ourselves, are at risk of invasion and attack.

Deeply ingrained attitudes, political developments, and public policies have heightened that sense of vulnerability and also fostered widespread agreement that individuals are responsible for their own protection.

This preoccupation with personal security transcends culture wars and partisan politics, weaving its way tightly into the fabric of American society.

Professor May explores how and why that culture of security emerged, how it changed over time, and its impact on how Americans pursue their daily lives, act politically, and relate to each other. We are left wondering, are we any safer as a result of all the effort poured into achieving security? What have we gained – and what have we lost?

Professor May is a University of Auckland Distinguished Visitor 2014. She is the author of six books and editor of two. Her most important and influential research has been on the culture, politics, and legacy of the Cold War in the United States and abroad.

Her book Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, first published in 1988 and reprinted three times, most recently in 2008, and her co-edited book with Reinhold Wagnleitner, Here, There, and Everywhere: The Foreign Politics of American Popular Culture (2000), connect United States national and international developments, domestic and foreign policy, the personal and the political. Her current work, from which this talk is drawn, is on Americans’ quest for national and personal security.

Professor May’s lecture is on Thursday, 27 February from 6.30-7.30pm in Room 209, Arts 1, 14A Symonds Street.


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