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Full-time Academic Staff: Teaching Staff

Professor Wesley Attewell

BA Hon; MA; PhD (UBC)

Assistant Professor 




Room 10.16

391 77025

HKU Scholar Hub
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Professor Attewell works at the intersection of human geography, American studies, and Asian diaspora studies to map the transnational geographies of US empire-building from the Cold War into the present. His work seeks to better understand how the US has combined military, development, and capitalist interventions to pacify colonized subjects across Asia, the Pacific, and the Middle East.


Thus far, Professor Attewell’s research agenda has focused on the two moments of militarized empire-building that have come to define the long American century. His first book, The Quiet Violence of Empire: How USAID Waged Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, is forthcoming in Spring 2023 from the University of Minnesota Press. It has been reviewed as a rich account of how the US transformed post-1945 Afghanistan into a key site for reimagining development into a liberal form of counterinsurgency. Since 2017, however, Professor Attewell has also been working on a second book, tentatively titled The Lifelines of Empire: Logistical Life in the Decolonizing Pacific. It maps the transpacific logistics infrastructures and the racialized labour regimes that the US assembled to supply its race war in Vietnam. Over time, Professor Attewell has come to see Afghanistan and Vietnam not as siloed theatres of empire-building, but rather, as interconnected frontiers of the US’ long war against global moments for decolonization. Such connections across space and time are enabled through the everyday workings of the US military-industrial-development complex, which produces various geographical formations – such as logistics cities, model villages, and camptowns – as a way of expressing and reproducing its pwer across the decolonizing world.


At HKU, Professor Attewell will teach courses in political and urban geography on topics ranging from infrastructure, geopolitical economy, imperialism, colonialism, militarization, migration, labour, sub/urban development, and diasporic place-making. He is interested in supervising capstone projects on transpacific infrastructures, diasporic (sub)urbanisms, the geographies of militarism, and the logistical life of global Asia.

Research Interests
  • Political Geography
    Counterinsurgency, race war, empire-building, settler militarisms, decolonization, development, humanitarianism

  • Economic Geography
    Logistics and infrastructure, geopolitical economy, diasporic/migrant labor, social reproduction

  • Urban Geography
    Diasporic sub/urbanisms, gentrification, enclave economies, carceral urbanisms, community organizing, abolition

  • Historical Geography
    Archival methods, oral histories, visual cultures



Environmental Change and Socio-political Conflicts



Annual; 1st Semester


Geographies of Transpacific Empire



Annual; 2nd Semester


Philosophical Issues in Geography



Annual; 2nd Semester

Selected Publications


  • The quiet violence of empire: How USAID waged counterinsurgency in Afghanistan (Minneapolis: The University of Minnesota Press).


  • Attewell, Wesley and Wong, Danielle. “Donut time: Refugee place-making in a time of afterwar”. Canadian Literature. 246.


  • Attewell, Wesley and Attewell, Nadine. "'Sweating for their pay': Gender, logistical labor, and photography across the decolonizing Pacific." The Journal of Asian American Studies. 24.2: 183-217.


  • Attewell, Wesley, Pangilinan, James, and Peralta, Christine. “Between caregiving and soldiering: Filipina non-citizens and relational settler militarisms in the US and Israel”. Amerasia Journal. 46.2: 183-199.


  • Attewell, Wesley. "Just-in-time imperialism: The logistics revolution and the Vietnam War." The Annals of the American Association of Geographers. 111.5: 1329-1345.


  • Attewell, Wesley. “The lifelines of empire: Logistics as infrastructural power in occupied South Vietnam”. American Quarterly. 72.4: 909-937.


  • Attewell, Wesley and Attewell, Nadine. “Between Asia and empire: Infrastructures of encounter in the archive of war”. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies. 20.2: 162-179.


  • Attewell Wesley. “‘From factory to field’: USAID and the logistics of foreign aid in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan”. Environment and Planning D. 36.4: 719-738.

Current Projects
  • The lifelines of empire: Logistical life in the decolonizing Pacific

  • "War travels: Militarized (de)tourism and the Vietnam War"

  • "Towards a geographical theory of empire"

  • "Boba militarism"

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