Miller Center

Betsy Beasley

American Studies, Yale University

“Serving the World: Energy Contracting, Logistical Labors, and the Culture of Globalization, 1945-2008”

Beasley photo

Betsy A. Beasley is a Ph.D candidate in American Studies at Yale University.  Her dissertation traces the rise of Houston as a global city in the half-century following World War II, arguing that the city’s business elite, especially those in oilfield services companies including Brown & Root, Schlumberger, and Hughes Tool, imagined and enacted a new vision of globalism.  Vehemently resistant to the demands of labor unions, corporate executives positioned the U.S. not as a center of manufacturing and production but as a white-collar headquarters offering expertise in logistics, engineering, and resource management to the rest of the globe.  This project charts the material developments that established Houston as a global center of petrochemical services alongside the cultural narratives that influenced and helped make sense of social, political, and economic change. 

Whereas the most common vision of American global power in the postwar years emphasized the U.S. as an industrial producer whose commodities and high standard of living would be exported around the world, this project highlights an alternative vision based on exporting service and expertise and importing commodities and raw materials, a different globalism that would come to dominate American culture and politics in the post-industrial 1970s.  Drawing methodologically from geography, cultural history, and the history of capitalism, Beasley examines a management vision of U.S. global power while also exploring the resistance of organized labor to this imperial project and the attempts of executives to convince global oil consumers to support U.S. expertise as the best means to ensure access to inexpensive petroleum.   

Beasley holds a B.A. in history from the University of Georgia and an M.S. in Urban Affairs from Hunter College of the City University of New York.  Her work has been supported by the American Historical Association, the New Orleans Center for the Global South at Tulane University, and the Coca-Cola World Fund. She co-hosts and produces "Who Makes Cents: A History of Capitalism Podcast" with David Stein.

Fellowship year: 2015

Mentor: Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania

Selected Recent Publications

Fighting for a Radical City: Student Protesters and the Politics of Space in 1960s and 1970s Downtown Manhattan.Urban History Review 37, no. 2 (March 2009)

Another New Kind of Marriage.Public Seminar,  July 20, 2015.

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