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Legitimizing Empire

Legitimizing Empire: Filipino American and U.S. Puerto Rican Cultural Critique

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Legitimizing Empire
    Book Description:

    When the United States acquired the Philippines and Puerto Rico, it reconciled its status as an empire with its anticolonial roots by claiming that it would altruistically establish democratic institutions in its new colonies. Ever since, Filipino and Puerto Rican artists have challenged promises of benevolent assimilation and portray U.S. imperialism as both self-interested and unexceptional among empires. Faye Caronan's examination interprets the pivotal engagement of novels, films, performance poetry, and other cultural productions as both symptoms of and resistance against American military, social, economic, and political incursions. Though the Philippines became an independent nation and Puerto Rico a U.S. commonwealth, both remain subordinate to the United States. Caronan's juxtaposition reveals two different yet simultaneous models of U.S. neocolonial power and contradicts American exceptionalism as a reluctant empire that only accepts colonies for the benefit of the colonized and global welfare. Her analysis, meanwhile, demonstrates how popular culture allows for alternative narratives of U.S. imperialism, but also functions to contain those alternatives.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09730-0
    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. 1-20)

    Willie Perdomo, a Nuyorican poet, articulates the power of naming in the above excerpt. He represents the disconnect between an author’s self-perception and the various ways an author and an author’s works are categorized and marketed for a mainstream American audience. The different ways he is packaged as a poet indicate his increasing success and notoriety. He starts off as a street poet, denoting his work to be new, edgy, and gritty. At the end he is a born-again Langston Hughes, a downtown performance poet. Comparing him to Langston Hughes legitimizes his work, placing it within the African American literary...

  5. 1. Consuming (Post)Colonial Culture: Multicultural Experiences in Travelogues and Ethnic Novels
    (pp. 21-46)

    In his introduction toThe Ethnic Canon, David Palumbo-Liu argues that the formation of the ethnic literary canon coincides with the corporate recognition of the changing demographics of the U.S. workforce. The implementation of ethnic studies curricula and the teaching of the ethnic canon at universities can thus be understood as perfunctorily incorporating ethnic differences to manage an increasingly diverse U.S. workforce.¹ Uncritical additions of diverse cultural narratives do not transform our understanding of U.S. history and society but serve instead to affirm and institutionalize the hegemonic narrative of the United States as a colorblind, multicultural, egalitarian society where one’s...

  6. 2. Revising the Colonialism-as-Romance Metaphor: From Conquest to Neocolonialism
    (pp. 47-72)

    Esmeralda Santiago’sAmérica’s Dreamand Jessica Hagedorn’sDogeaterseach contain a particularly brutal rape scene. Not all literary representations of rape are necessarily metaphors for foreign invasion and subjugation, but given the history of U.S. colonialism in Puerto Rico and the Philippines, I argue that the rape victims in these two novels represent their respective island nations. Colonialism has long been understood through gendered and sexualized rhetoric. Masculine explorers conquer native lands, laying claim and penetrating its innermost territories. Through the act of civilizing the land and its natives, European powers reproduced their own cultures and societies.¹

    At the beginning...

  7. 3. Bastards of U.S. Imperialism: Demanding Recognition in the American Family
    (pp. 73-104)

    If heterosexual relations, whether consensual or nonconsensual, are a metaphor for the United States’ relationships with the Philippines and Puerto Rico, then by extension the products of these relationships—the resulting governments, the hybrid cultures, the subsequent im/migrants to the United States, and so on—are these relationships’ offspring. The United States’ disavowal of empire further casts these populations, societies, and their cultures as bastards of U.S. imperialism—the illegitimate children of colonial relationships that have been willfully forgotten.

    In the previous chapters the comprehensive critiques of neocolonialism inDogeatersandAmérica’s Dreamwere undermined by packaging that incorporated the...

  8. 4. Performing Genealogies: Poetic Pedagogies of Disidentification
    (pp. 105-142)

    The racist metaphor of turn-of-the-century colonies as unruly, orphaned children in need of a paternal figure not only justified the U.S. conquest of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and other island territories, but it also reinforced the representation of U.S. imperialism at the turn of the century as a democratic pedagogical project. Many political cartoons at the time depicted U.S. territories as children in schoolrooms with Uncle Sam as their teacher. These cartoons echoed the rhetoric of benevolent assimilation that constructed the colonial project in the Philippines and Puerto Rico as political education.¹ As the exemplar of democracy, the United States...

  9. Conclusion: Imagining the End of Empire
    (pp. 143-154)

    The institutionalized history of U.S. imperialism in the Philippines and Puerto Rico tells a story of benevolent assimilation. In this narrative the United States reluctantly and selflessly developed the Philippine and Puerto Rican economies, offered these islands military protection, established “sovereign” democratic governments, and provided public education to civilize racially inferior Filipinos and Puerto Ricans. The United States recognized when its good work on these islands was completed and left Filipinos and Puerto Ricans to manage their own affairs. Any subsequent problems after the end of the colonial relationship are the responsibility of the islands and not of the United...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 155-168)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-180)
  12. Index
    (pp. 181-190)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-194)