Robert K. Chester

Senior Lecturer

Robert K Chester grew up in England, where he developed a fascination with the films and popular culture of the United States. He moved to the US in 2001 and, after completing an MA in American Studies at the University of Wyoming, came to Maryland in 2003. He has been at UMD – first as a graduate student, then as a member of the faculty – for thirteen years, and his love and enthusiasm for teaching is very much intact. Dr. Chester’s courses and research interests focus on the ways in which popular culture shape narratives of US history, on which of those narratives becomes privileged, and on the place of marginalized groups within those narratives. He has an abiding interest in World War II and popular remembrance of it, and his publications thus far attend to war memories and their deployment to various ideological ends in the postwar period. He lives in Columbia, MD, with his wife and two dogs, and likes to spend his spare time swimming, walking, and following football (soccer).

Research Areas

  • Film history and criticism
  • Popular culture
  • Cultural/collective remembrance
  • Race and critical race theory
  • History of war and US culture
  • International relations


  • Ph.D., American Studies, University of Maryland, College Park
  • M.A., American Studies, University of Wyoming
  • B.A., First Class, American Studies & History, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

Select Publications

  • “The Black Military Image in Roots: The Next Generations,” in Reconsidering Roots, ed. Erica Ball and Kellie Jackson (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2017) (Forthcoming)
  • “World War II in American Popular Culture, 1945-Present,” in Violence in American Popular Culture, Vol. 1, ed. David Schmid (New York: Praeger, 2015), 79-106.
  • “‘Negroes’ Number One Hero’: Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and Retroactive Multiculturalism in World War II Remembrance,” American Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1 (March 2013): 31-61.
  • “‘We Feel the Wound Is Closed’: Red Ball Express (1952), the Department of Defense Pictorial Division, and the Reluctant Embrace of Postwar Integration,” Powerlines: An Interdisciplinary Online Journal Vol. 1, Iss. 1 (April 2013).
  • “Crusading in Africa: Religion, Race, and Post-9/11 Intervention in Antoine Fuqua’s Tears of the Sun (2003),” War and Society, Vol. 32, No. 2 (August 2013): 138-155.

Invited Talks

  • “Identity Unknown: Race and World War II Remembrance in Early Postwar US Culture,” Seaver College Graduate Colloquium, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California, November 7, 2013.
  • “War and Remembrance,” WYPR, Midday with Dan Rodricks, Baltimore, MD, August 1, 2013.
  • “‘Try a Little Tenderness’: Cold War Masculinities in Dr. Strangelove and Strategic Air Command.” Maryland Honors Humanities Series, College Park, Maryland, November 2008.
  • “The Unkicked Syndrome: Vietnam Ghosts and the Persian Gulf Wars,” Rep Theatre, Howard Community College, Columbia, Maryland, June 2008.
  • “Pearl Harbor in American Memory, 1941-2001.” Greenbelt Historical Society, Greenbelt, Maryland, November 2006.

Conference Presentation

  • “The Black Military Image in Roots: The Next Generations.” Organization of American Historians Annual Conference,” New Orleans, April 2017 (forthcoming).
  • Red Ball Express (1952): The Department of Defense Pictorial Division and the Reluctant Embrace of Postwar Integration.” American Studies Association Annual Meeting, San Antonio, Texas, November 2010.
  • “Hell to Obscurity: World War II, Latino Veterans, and National Remembrance in Battle Cry (1955) and Hell to Eternity (1960).” History Graduate Students Association Conference, College Park, Maryland, February 2009.
  • “Defending the Honor, Integrating the Past: Latino Cultural Memory and Ken Burns’ The War (2007).” Chesapeake American Studies Association Conference, College Park, Maryland, April 2008.
  • “Retroactive Multiculturalism: Race, Nation, and the Second World War in U.S. Cultural Memory.” Structures of Everyday Life Symposium, College Park, Maryland, February 2008.
  • “‘Negroes’ Number One Hero’: Doris Miller and Pearl Harbor in American Cultural Memory.” Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference, Boston, Massachusetts, April 2007.
  • “‘A Beautiful Blindness to Color’: French Racelessness, American Racism, and the Negotiation of Whiteness and Heterosexuality in Kings Go Forth (1958).” Mid-Atlantic American Studies Association, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, March 2006.
  • “Saving Africa: Diaspora, Religion, and Post-9-11 U.S. Interventionism in Tears of the Sun (2003).” Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico, February 2006.
  • “Uncomfortable Memories: Admiral Husband E. Kimmel and Hollywood’s Pearl Harbor.” Film and History League National Conference, Fort Worth, Texas, November 2004.
Robert K. Chester
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