This article uses a close history of the early years of the Fulbright program to explore the emergence of the global cultural program of the postwar U.S. state. While the Fulbright program has commonly been seen as either an exceptional example of U.S. global benevolence, or as part and parcel of the Cold War cultural offensive, I argue that the program emerged from a unique moment of cultural globalism in the liminal period between the end of World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Tracing the history of the exchange program to its curious origins in the foreign disposal of military surplus material, I show how both the practice and ideology of liberal educational exchange emerged from the global conflict with fascism, and reveal the nationalist assumptions and power-politics that underpinned the first U.S. state attempt to create a global flow of culture.

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