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Imperial Archipelago

Imperial Archipelago: Representation and Rule in the Insular Territories under U.S. Dominion after 1898

Lanny Thompson
Copyright Date: 2010
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  • Book Info
    Imperial Archipelago
    Book Description:

    Imperial Archipelagois a comparative study of the symbolic representations, both textual and photographic, of Cuba, Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico that appeared in popular and official publications in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War of 1898. It examines the connections between these representations and the forms of rule established by the U.S. in each at the turn of the century-thus answering the question why different governments were set up in the five sites.

    Lanny Thompson critically engages and elaborates on the postcolonial thesis that symbolic representations are a means to conceive, mobilize, and justify colonial rule. Colonial discourses construe cultural differences among colonial subjects with the intent to rule them differently; in other words, representations are neither mere reflections of material interests nor inconsequential fantasies, rather they are fundamental to colonial practice. To demonstrate this, Thompson analyzes, on the one hand, the differences among the representations of the islands in popular, illustrated books about the "new possessions" and the official reports produced by U.S. colonial administrators. On the other, he explicates the connections between these distinct representations and the governments actually established. A clear, comparative analysis is provided of the legal arguments that took place in the leading law journals of the day, the Congressional debates, the laws that established governments, and the decisions of the Supreme Court that validated these laws.

    Interweaving postcolonial studies, sociology, U.S. history, cultural studies, and critical legal theory,Imperial Archipelagooffers a fresh, transdisciplinary perspective that will be welcomed especially by scholars and students of U.S. imperialism and its efforts to "extend democracy" overseas, both past and present.

    54 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6045-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-21)

    This book is about the connections between representations, both textual and photographic, and rule in the U.S. imperial archipelago—that is, island territories under U.S. military and political dominion after 1898, namely, Cuba, Guam, Hawai‘i, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. After the United States took control over these diverse and wide-ranging islands, many turn-of-the-century authors used the term “new possessions” to refer to them, and it was commonplace for popular books, periodicals, pamphlets, legal discussions and recommendations, official reports and studies, congressional speeches and debates, and political platforms to mention all, or any combination, of these distinct, and in many...

  6. Chapter 1 The Imperial Problem and the New Possessions
    (pp. 22-44)

    In 1898, the United States began to build an imperial archipelago, constructed from the remnants of the Spanish empire and the erstwhile Republic of Hawai‘i. In April of that year, the United States declared war on Spain, with the expressed intent of liberating Cuba from the vestigial Spanish empire, which was fragmented and vulnerable. However, the war began in the Philippines, far from the epicenter of the Cuban revolution, when, in May, the U.S. Navy attacked and roundly defeated the decrepit Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. Filipino revolutionaries quickly established control throughout the northern provinces, leaving the Spanish garrison in...

  7. Chapter 2 Islands of Women
    (pp. 45-87)

    During the nineteenth century, hegemonic discourses of civilization circulated widely. The rhetoric of male supremacy was a common trope. White males, who embodied the fittest in the evolutionary struggle, were the agents for social progress. They were a kind of chosen people responsible for the advancement of civilization. The rest of humankind, whether women or men of the lower races, must inevitably yield to their leadership and authority, and it was “imperative to all civilization that white males assume the power that would ensure the continued advancement of white civilization.”¹ Pronounced gender differentiation was an important indicator of advanced civilization....

  8. Chapter 3 Narratives of Evolution
    (pp. 88-140)

    The theory of social evolution informed much of the thinking about the peoples of the imperial archipelago. An English author, Benjamin Kidd, was widely read in the United States; his book,Social Evolution, published in 1894, was very popular, and a second edition followed the year after. In 1898, he publishedThe Control of the Tropics, in which he applied his evolutionary ideas to the “foremost question occupying the attention of the American people”: what would be the future government of the tropical regions? He argued that tropical products were extremely important for world trade, but tropical peoples had not...

  9. Chapter 4 Strategies for Americanization
    (pp. 141-182)

    One of the most prevalent tropes of the nineteenth century was that of the “family of man.” It provided an image of legitimate and intimate social hierarchy based upon unequal relationships among races, genders, and classes. The normative middle-class nuclear family of the nineteenth century—understood as the subordination of women and children under the authority of the husband and father—provided a model for the male authority over social inferiors, including peoples of other cultures or races. The science of zoology provided the theoretical basis for this metaphor by means of the principle that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”—that is,...

  10. Chapter 5 Legal Foundations of Colonial Rule
    (pp. 183-226)

    This chapter will explore the connections between representations of alterity as a means to conceive, mobilize, and justify imperial rule and the concrete forms of government established throughout the imperial archipelago. I will argue that the elaboration of cultural difference was fundamental in the conceptualization and establishment of different governments, in particular the civil governments for the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Throughout the legal debates, official reports, court decisions, and congressional debates, participants used the metaphors of femininity, childishness, and race to evaluate the capacity of the various subject peoples for self-government. These representations expressed the cultural contrasts of the...

  11. Chapter 6 Guam: The Ship Metaphor and Military Rule
    (pp. 227-245)

    In January 1899, the commander of the collierBrutus, Lieutenant Vincedon Cottman, arrived in Guam and immediately set about to produce the first official report for the secretary of the navy. Although it was never published nor presented to Congress, this report would establish the basic principles and justification for military rule.¹ Cottman’s chief interest was the preparation of Guam for use as an adequate naval station. Toward this end, he addressed the issues of harbors, coaling stations, weather conditions, and navigation charts. In addition, he dedicated much of the report to the health of the inhabitants, agricultural production, the...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 246-254)

    The symbolic representations and narrative expositions—the imaginary, if you will—were not capricious fantasies about exotic peoples. These representations—frequently expressed in gender, infantile, and racial vocabularies—and narratives—which told of the past, present, and a projected future—were fundamental to the creation of different governments throughout the imperial archipelago. The many participants—travel writers, photographers, lawyers, colonial administrators, legislators, and judges—produced a complex archive of imperial discourse, comprising illustrated travelogues, official reports, legal studies, congressional debates, legislation, and Supreme Court decisions. The operative principle of this imperial discourse was that the multiple imperial subjects were to...

    (pp. 255-270)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 271-282)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 283-285)