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British Association for American Studies


Report from Paul McGarr, Eccles Centre Fellow in North American Studies 2013


Report from Paul McGarr, Eccles Centre Fellow in North American Studies 2013

[vc_row margin_bottom=”23″][vc_column][dt_banner image_id=”12335″ bg_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.17)” min_height=”270″][/dt_banner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][dt_quote]As an Eccles Centre Fellow in 2013, I was able to benefit from the wide range of resources available at the British Library for my research on US intelligence activity and American diplomacy in South Asia, says Paul McGarr. Researching this nexus of the on-going ‘War on Terror’ required many costly and time consuming research visits to libraries across the United States, but this need was obviated by the British Library’s extensive suite of digital primary materials.[/dt_quote][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]As an Eccles Centre Fellow during 2013, I was able to benefit from the wide range of resources available at the British Library for the study of American foreign policy in a transnational context. My research project, which has since resulted in the publication of peer reviewed articles in prominent journals such as Diplomatic History and History, book chapters with Bloomsbury, Manchester University Press and Georgetown University Press, and a forthcoming monograph, involved examining aspects of the interrelationship between US intelligence activity and American diplomacy in South Asia, a nexus of the on-going ‘War on Terror’. Alongside broad considerations of the political, economic and cultural implications of intelligence[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]and security connections forged between the United States, India and Pakistan, from late 1940s to the present, I wanted to explore how relationships conceived by American intelligence agencies and South Asian governments for the purposes of promoting regional stability and democracy, evolved into justifications for conflict and repression. Moreover, there was the challenge of evaluating why Americans had come to think of intelligence primarily in terms of surveillance, personal freedom and civil liberties, while in South Asia, it is associated with covert action, subversion and grand conspiracy. My overall objective was to assess whether, in an age when the United States has championed democracy promotion, neo-imperialist labels attached to American intelligence activities in the Indian subcontinent can be considered reflective of a collective South Asian cultural neurosis.

Access to the Library’s exceptional collections of literature addressing the evolution of American intelligence activity after 1947, and more particularly that within South Asia, proved invaluable in providing the research with firm conceptual anchors. From a North American perspective, I was able to access a wide range of primary sources illuminating key aspects of the post-1945 US foreign policy. Notably, the need to undertake many costly and time consuming research visits to the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, and Presidential Libraries across the United States, was obviated to a considerable extent by access afforded to the Library’s extensive suite of digital primary materials. The on-line Declassified Documents Reference System, Digital National Security Archive and Foreign Information Broadcasting Service Records, yielded especially rich and significant insights into the impact of American intelligence activity on wider US representation in, and relations with, the Indian subcontinent. Equally, digital access to records of Congressional hearings and other legislative documents enabled my work to reflect upon broader legislative and public voices, and contrast these with official government narratives.

Crucially, the Library’s collections also facilitated the incorporation into my work of a strong and distinct sense of South Asian agency. The diverse private papers and institutional records contained within the India Office Records, offered up priceless perspectives on shifts in the subcontinents political and cultural responses to Western intelligence activity, from the British colonial period through to the present. Likewise, the Library’s comprehensive holdings of South Asian newspapers, published in India and Pakistan, and in English and vernacular languages, provided a means of evaluating how intelligence issues were covered in the subcontinent, and the sociopolitical significance that they came to occupy in public discourse.

My research has benefited immeasurably from the opportunities opened up by an extended period of work at the Library. The breadth and depth of secondary and primary materials available for consultation, and the expert assistance and sage advice offered by Philip Davies and the staff at the Eccles Centre, proved crucial in transforming an embryonic research project into a series of published articles, edited chapters and a forthcoming book. Moreover, my fellowship has left me with a far deeper and more nuanced understanding of the innumerable ways in which the resources of the Library and the Eccles Centre (both intellectual and material) can serve as a catalyst for original research and knowledge exchange in the field of American Studies.

Paul McGarr is Assistant Professor in American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]