Transnational nation

The Japanese translation of Transnational nation has been published (Tokyo: Akashi-shoten, 2010). Thanks go to the wonderful work of the translator, Professor Shigeo Fujimoto, Faculty of Humanities, Tezukayama University! The English version of the preface is published below.


It gives me great pleasure to be associated with the translation of Transnational Nation into Japanese. The newer approaches to U.S. history incorporated in this book include recognition of the important reciprocal relationships between East Asia and the United States, and the interpenetration of Asian and American cultures since the 19th century. The topic of the Pacific Ocean, its constituent peoples, and those of the Pacific Rim is becoming more important in world history, but American involvement in the region was always part of a global outlook and global connections that individuals, groups, and governments made over the course of two hundred years. Transnational approaches to history involve the flow of people, goods, ideas, institutions across national boundaries and the impact that those phenomena have upon the shaping of nations. Reflecting upon the period since the original publication in English has reinforced the importance of transnational history to a better understanding of the relations between peoples. I hope this translation will contribute. Events of the last few years have brought home the interconnectedness of the world’s peoples. The great financial crisis of 2008-09 has shown the entanglement of American affairs in the socio-economic history of other countries. This process is not new, though the level of global integration of economies since the 1980s, shown in the book, has increased, and the effects have been momentous for human welfare and security.

Barack Obama’s election as President has created new opportunities for multilateral engagement between the United States and other nations, including those in East Asia. It will take decades for historians to judge how significant a turn the 2008 Presidential election is for American integration into the global community. The older pattern of exceptionalism persists in criticism of Obama. The attacks of Sarah Palin and other Republican politicians reveal a continuing tension between more parochial and more cosmopolitan views. President Obama’s very election is a tribute to a growing acceptance of multiculturalism and racial tolerance, yet there are many grumblings of discontent, rooted in unwillingness to accept that an African American can legitimately be the nation’s leader. Witness the agitation in Washington by tea-party activists and hysterical Obama “birthers” (who seek to deny Obama the Presidency on grounds of his alleged birth in Kenya, but really on grounds of race).

The nation therefore stands poised in the balance still, as it was in 2007: will it proceed towards greater integration and international cooperation, or will a less tolerant and more short-sighted mood prevail? Will the elements of U.S. exceptionalism persist? The trajectory of events portrayed in the book suggests a more hopeful picture, but the change in human institutions is slow and uneven, and the traditions of the past powerful. Great power politics still impede the networks of international cooperation, as shown in the Copenhagen conference of 2009 and stalled climate change legislation. History does not end, and is open to alternative paths, but greater enlightenment on the patterns of the past must guide the way.

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