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Islands of Empire: Pop Culture and U.S. Powerby Camilla Fojas
Synopses & Reviews
Camilla Fojas explores a broad range of popular culture media—film, television, journalism, advertisements, travel writing, and literature—with an eye toward how the United States as an empire imagined its own military and economic projects. Impressive in its scope, Islands of Empire looks to Cuba, Guam, Hawai‘i, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, asking how popular narratives about these island outposts expressed the attitudes of the continent throughout the twentieth century. Through deep textual readings of Bataan, Victory at Sea, They Were Expendable, and Back to Bataan (Philippines); No Man Is an Island and Max Havoc: Curse of the Dragon (Guam); Cuba, Havana, and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (Cuba); Blue Hawaii, Gidget Goes Hawaiian, and Paradise, Hawaiian Style (Hawai‘i); and West Side Story, Fame, and El Cantante (Puerto Rico), Fojas demonstrates how popular texts are inseparable from U.S. imperialist ideology. Drawing on an impressive array of archival evidence to provide historical context, Islands of Empire reveals the role of popular culture in creating and maintaining U.S. imperialism. Fojas’s textual readings deftly move from location to location, exploring each island’s relationship to the United States and its complementary role in popular culture. Tracing each outpost’s varied and even contradictory political status, Fojas demonstrates that these works of popular culture mirror each location’s shifting alignment to the U.S. empire, from coveted object to possession to enemy state.
Ceded to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War of 1898, Puerto Rico has since remained a colonial territory. Despite this subordinated colonial experience, however, Puerto Ricans managed to secure national Olympic representation in the 1930s and in so doing nurtured powerful ideas of nationalism.
By examining how the Olympic movement developed in Puerto Rico, Antonio Sotomayor illuminates the profound role sports play in the political and cultural processes of an identity that developed within a political tradition of autonomy rather than traditional political independence. Significantly, it was precisely in the Olympic arena that Puerto Ricans found ways to participate and show their national pride, often by using familiar colonial stricturesandmdash;and the United Statesandrsquo; claim to democratic valuesandmdash;to their advantage. Drawing on extensive archival research, both on the island and in the United States, Sotomayor uncovers a story of a people struggling to escape the colonial periphery through sport and nationhood yet balancing the benefits and restraints of that same colonial status.
The Sovereign Colony describes the surprising negotiations that gave rise to Olympic sovereignty in a colonial nation, a unique case in Latin America, and uses Olympic sports as a window to view the broader issues of nation building and identity, hegemony, postcolonialism, international diplomacy, and Latin Americanandndash;U.S. relations.
About the Author
Antonio Sotomayor is an assistant professor and librarian of Latin American and Caribbean studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
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Arts and Entertainment » Film and Television » History and Criticism