Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Hiroshi Kitamura

Committee Member

Charles McGovern

Committee Member

Leisa Meyer

Committee Member

Brian Rouleau


“Seen and Unseen Friends” studies citizenship education in the U.S. empire from 1914 to 1941. During this period, global citizenship became a defining feature of citizenship training in the U.S. and the country’s overseas colonies. Key to global citizenship training was a child-centered pedagogy called “learning-through-doing.” This pedagogy encouraged primary and secondary students to write, draw, build, and create to learn about the world. It also identified reading another student’s words or receiving a piece of artwork from them as the best means to foster affective ties across racial, national, and imperial boundaries. Pairing adult-produced sources like the papers of educators with students’ own letters, artwork, and school assignments, this dissertation argues that global citizenship training elevated students to political actors who could support Americanization efforts, imperialism, and the spread of Western values. Of course, using education to raise students worldwide who shared Anglo-American ideals was a continuation of processes that teachers, missionaries, and the government had long pursued both in the contiguous U.S. and overseas. What made these efforts distinct in the period under consideration was the unprecedented direct involvement of schoolchildren as allies in these processes. Not all students, however, were willing accomplices. Schoolchildren throughout the U.S. and around the world spoke back to educators and their student allies who promoted a vision of the world narrowly defined by Anglo-American values and beliefs. In other words, students are not passive recipients of educators’ agendas in this dissertation. They are critical agents in the making of U.S. internationalist and imperial politics.



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