Doc Savage Saves the World: A Pop Culture Origin Story for US Modernization and Development, 1933–1949

Abstract: This article contends that important scripts for US-led modernization were trademarked not by political and academic elites of the Cold War era, but rather by low-brow cultural producers of the New Deal period. It pinpoints key characterizations, motivations, plotlines, and settings associated with international development in the long-running pulp magazine series starring “Doc Savage” (1933–1949). Through historical analysis and close readings, the article offers a fresh account of how US audiences came to imagine technical assistance as a proper course for American power while also revealing paradoxes underpinning the modernization agenda’s overt commitments to race neutrality and self-determination.

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