We have recently received review copies of Molly Geidel new book on the Peace Corps published by the University of Minnesota Press. Within the next month or so we will be reviewing the book as well as interviewing the author. Molly Geidel is from southern Vermont. She received her BA from Brown, her masters from UMass in Boston, and her PhD from Boston University. This book is a revised version of her PhD dissertation. Dr. Geidel taught briefly at Harvard and Cornell and moved to the UK this fall where she is an assistant professor in American studies at the University of Manchester.
Molly’s argues the case in her book that while in the “popular imagination of the United States to this day, it [Peace Corps] is a symbol of selfless altruism and the most successful program of John F. Kennedy’s presidency,”….in reality the “agency’s representative development ventures also legitimated the violent exercise of American power around the world and the destruction of indigenous ways of life.”
Molly goes onto write that in the 1960s, the practice of development work, embodied by “iconic Peace Corps Volunteers,” allowed U.S. policy makers to “manage global inequality while assuaging their own gendered anxieties about postwar affluence.”
(Gee, I thought I was just teaching sophomore English in Addis Ababa.)
Geidel has done her homework. There are forty + pages of Notes at the end of her 238 page book. It appears that her central thrust is focus on the PCVs of Bolivia and it also appears to be the only Peace Corps country she visited.
One line in her Introduction jumped out at me. She writes, “To put it another way, doesn’t development actually help people? In response, I would say of course, sometimes.”
Much more later on this website about Peace Corps Fantasies: How Development Shaped the Global Sixties.
- Dr. Molly Geidel