Research Conversations: Postage Stamps as National Symbols in the US Colonial Empire with Alvita Akiboh

Online, Monday, February 5, 2024, at 4 p.m. ET

Alvita Akiboh posing for a photo
Alvita Akiboh

Susan Smith, the Blount Research Chair at the National Postal Museum, spoke with Alvita Akiboh, author of Imperial Material: National Symbols in the US Colonial Empire.

Published by University of Chicago Press in autumn 2023, Imperial Material tells the story of how objects laden with US national symbols—postage stamps, money, and flags—became an arena in which contests over national identity played out in the US colonial empire from the turn of the twentieth century to the post-WWII era of global decolonization. In these overseas colonies occupying the tenuous space between foreign and domestic, these seemingly mundane objects became central for both US imperialists who sought to establish and maintain US colonial rule and for people living in the colonies who made claims to belonging, resisted US rule, and used these symbolic objects to articulate their own understanding of their relationship to the United States.

 
book cover

Alvita Akiboh is an Assistant Professor of History at Yale University. She specializes in the history of US overseas colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific. She earned her PhD in History from Northwestern University and BA in History from Indiana University.Before coming to Yale, Akiboh was a postdoctoral fellow in the Michigan Society of Fellows. Akiboh has conducted research throughout the continental United States and the overseas territories, including American Samoa, Guam, Hawai‘i, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Her work has been supported by a variety of organizations, including the Smithsonian National Postal Museum and National Numismatic Collection, the American Historical Association, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.

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US stamps overprinted for use in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, 1898.