Haunted by Empire describes both the cast that imperial formations spread
over people’s intimate social ecologies and the shadowy pall of U.S. empire
over those of my generation who have studied the colonial and found U.S.
intrusions to subjacently shape their intellectual choices and academic lives.
I ﬁrst began work in Indonesia in the early 1970s, near the end of the war
in Vietnam, and it was U.S. imperialism as I then understood it that held
my political and scholarly attention. I identiﬁed it with the undeclared vio-
lence of ‘‘strategic hamlet’’ operations inVietnam, as boldlyembodied in the
‘‘Green Revolution,’’ the introduction of insecticides, fertilizers, and high-
yielding ‘‘miracle’’ rice varieties that were hailed as boosts to agricultural
production and—for the land poor of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Phil-
ippines—drastically reduced labor opportunities; in family-planning poli-
cies introduced by the Agency for International Development (aid) and
the World Bank; and, not least, in what ‘‘everyone knew’’ but about which
few dared to speak publicly: the cia-backed coup that deposed Indonesia’s
socialist president, Soekarno, and resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of
thousands of alleged communist sympathizers and the annihilation of Asia’s
second-largest communist party. Still, therewere no immediate signs of U.S.
empire in rural labor relations that I could easily name.
For my dissertation research in the late 1970s on Dutch colonial and
multinational agribusiness in North Sumatra, U.S. empire had a stronger
presence. Uniroyal and Goodyear’s vast holdings loomed large in my po-
litical vision, if less in my ethnographic work on the ground. While I
combed the colonial and postcolonial plantation company archives housed
in Medan and in the Netherlands, those of Goodyear’s in Akron, Ohio,