Wai Kit Choi, "Empire, Psychological Warfare, and the Allure of Behavioral Modification"

Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building & Via Zoom

In the Western, or more specifically, U.S.-dominated social sciences, people of color outside or within the West have historically been reduced to “research subjects,” and their role as knowledge producers has been marginalized. Precipitating such practices was the European and U.S. formal colonization of different parts of the world. In recent decades, there have been efforts to decolonize social science. Does greater “inclusion” of scholars of color within the existing knowledge production system achieve the decolonization goal? Or does the U.S. fundamentally reproduce the same hierarchical power relations within its informal empire through such “inclusion”? To address these questions, I will introduce the concept of “control by manipulation,” which is divided into “psychological warfare” and “behavioral modification,” and sketch a model of the way the U.S. has exercised manipulative control from the end of World War II to the present. From this model, I will develop an account of the relationship between the U.S. empire and knowledge production that will help address the question of “inclusion.”


Dr. Wai Kit Choi is a Professor of Sociology at the California State University, Los Angeles,

where he also serves as the Interim Chair of Asian and Asian American Studies. His research

interests include social theory, political economy, revolution, and historical sociology. Dr. Choi

is a Fulbright Scholar and has published in journals such as New Political Science, the

International Journal of Labor and Working-Class History, the Journal of Historical Sociology,

and various edited volumes.