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American Tropics: Articulating Filipino America

Allan Punzalan Isaac
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    American Tropics
    Book Description:

    In American Tropics, Allan Punzalan Isaac explores American fantasies about the Philippines and other “unincorporated” parts of the U.S. nation that obscure the contradictions of a democratic country possessing colonies. Isaac examines the American empire's images of the Philippines in Hollywood films such as Blue Hawaii and novels such as Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart and Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9555-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxx)

    One of U.S. imperialism’s great architects, Theodore Roosevelt, once dreamed of a U.S. island empire consisting of an insular chain connecting the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the continual reinvention of the frontier and manifest destiny propelled Americans across the continent and into the Caribbean and the Pacific.¹ The United States claimed the Philippine archipelago as property in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War (1898) and the more bloody Philippine-American War (1899–1902), in which one out of seven Filipinos was killed. Against the national aspirations of the short-lived Philippine Republic (1896–98), the United...

  5. 1. American Tropics
    (pp. 1-20)

    “Tropic,” Hayden White writes, “is the shadow from which all realistic discourse tries to flee. This flight, however, is futile; for tropics is the process by which discourse constitutes the objects which it pretends only to describe realistically and analyze objectively.”¹ American Tropics interrogates the constitution of this fearsome shadow from which imperial discourse flees, making the U.S. nation-state legible and legitimate. Focusing on the Philippines and Filipino America as crucial parts of that shadow, the American Tropics turns upon “America” to demonstrate how America not only is itself a trope but continually gyrates and generates tropes about itself to...

  6. I. An Imperial Grammar

    • 2. Disappearing Clauses Reconstituting America in the Unincorporated Territories
      (pp. 23-47)

      A year after Cunanan’s spree killing on the centennial of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit heard the case ofValmonte v. INS. The case involved a Filipina plaintiff, Rosario Santillan Valmonte, born in 1934 during the Philippine Commonwealth era. She claimed U.S. citizenship based on the equal protection and citizenship clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which she claimed extended to the Philippines, then a U.S. territory. The final ruling upheld an immigration judge’s decision to deny the petitioner’s stay of deportation and to proceed with said deportation. The court held that birth in...

    • 3. Moral Sentences Boy Scouts and Novel Encounters with Empire
      (pp. 48-78)

      While touring the Philippine Islands in 1914, an American society woman, Mrs. Spencer of Newport, approached one Lieutenant Sherman Kiser, an officer in the occupying forces stationed in the southern Philippines, and told him of her son’s involvement in the Boy Scout movement in New York City. Her son was Lorillard Spencer Jr., who organized the first American Boy Scout organization in New York City in December 1910. She suggested that Lieutenant Kiser might do the same for the native boys to make useful citizens of the lads. A year later, Lieutenant Kiser formed a Boy Scout troop among “Moro”...

    • 4. Imperial Romance Framing Manifest Destiny in the Pacific
      (pp. 79-118)

      Whereas early-twentieth-century popular literature imagined the adventures of Boy Scouts in the borderlands, mid-century Hollywood produced movies recounting the heroic exploits of Americans in the Pacific. U.S. films and musicals would continue to resonate with tropes of masculinity, heroism, nationalism, and benevolence throughout the Pacific region. The spaces of tropical America would incorporate Asian and Pacific bodies in their visual, and this time hetero erotic field. Saved by the white man’s burden, the American boys must now grow up to weave more complex stories about difference within the bounds of their moral compass. Much as the tropical mise-en-scène would seduce...

  7. II. Toward an American Postcolonial Syntax

    • 5. Reconstituting American Subjects Proximate Masculinities
      (pp. 121-148)

      These instances of dislocation and disappearance in Piri Thomas’sDown These Mean Streets(1967) and Carlos Bulosan’sAmerica Is in the Heart(1946) stage their respective problem of locating a narrative voice in the process of textual self-creation in the autobiography. While explaining the condition of being a dark-skinned Puerto Rican in the suburbs, Thomas faces not simply the discomfort ofnotbelonging as a “house pet” but the possibility of disappearing entirely without knowing it. In the second instance, Allos, the protagonist, while working in his brother’s employer’s house, has disappeared entirely from the narrative for he is neither...

    • 6. Reconstituting American Predicates Troping the American Tour d’Horizon
      (pp. 149-177)

      In his essay “On National Culture,” Frantz Fanon underscores the psychic transformations in the colonized subject who is forced “to recognize the unreality of his ‘nation,’ and in the last extreme, the confused character of his own biological structure.”¹ Fanon does not argue that culture in some form distinct from the colonizer’s ceases to exist. The evacuation of the colonized subject for the colonizer’s presence may fracture national and bodily borders to make them confused and unrecognizable, but this site also seems to be the source of reanimation of a different system of understanding. How is the “zone of occult...

  8. Coda
    (pp. 178-184)

    The readings of various American texts across the twentieth century are testament to one fact: 7,100 islands did, in fact, float away from Latin American shores to settle for the moment in Asia, only to shuttle back and forth across the Pacific and the Caribbean. Such a critical mass has left a trace along the equatorial axis of the Americas. This isthmian connection marking insular tropes and multiple American identities issues from the initial misrecognition of the Philippine archipelago.

    Hagedorn and Bulosan illustrate the contradictions and difficulties that obtain in the term “Filipino American,” its “ethnic” formation in relation to...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 185-200)
  10. Index
    (pp. 201-206)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 207-207)