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Special Forum

Circa 1898: Overseas Empire and Transnational American Studies

Introduction to the Special Forum entitled "Circa 1898: Overseas Empire and Transnational American Studies," edited by Hsuan L. Hsu

Staging Unincorporated Power: Richard Harding Davis and the Critique of Imperial News

This essay contextualizes the work of war correspondent Richard Harding Davis within an evolving “imperial news apparatus” that would culminate in his reporting of the Spanish-American War. Critics have conventionally framed Davis squarely within the imperial cause, associating him with his admirer Roosevelt and naval admiral Alfred T. Mahan. Contrary to readings of Davis as an apologist for US imperialism, Trivedi contends that Davis understood how US imperial power relied on an information apparatus to communicate to an increasingly media-conscious American public through culture, that is, via familiar narratives, symbols, and objects—what Trivedi calls “imperial news.” The essay follows Davis’s development from his fictional representation of the new war correspondent in “The Reporter Who Made Himself King” to his own war correspondence before and after the Spanish-American War as collected in the memoirs A Year from a Reporter’s Notebook (1897), Cuba in War Time (1897), and Notes of a War Correspondent (1912). Davis’s war correspondence and fictional work effectively stage US imperialism as “unincorporated power”: that is, as power reliant on a developing news-making apparatus that deploys particular discursive strategies to validate its political claims. This staging critiques strategies of US imperial sovereignty—specifically its “privatization of knowledge” and its promotion of the war correspondent as nothing more than a spectator and purveyor of massacres.

Discontiguous States of America: The Paradox of Unincorporation in Craig Santos Perez’s Poetics of Chamorro Guam

Eclipsed by other islands incorporated into the United States after the Spanish-American War of 1898, Guam has nevertheless played a crucial role in the development of the American Pacific as a strategic military site. Like other territories of the United States, Guam’s ambiguous legal status and the presence of native peoples, cultures, and histories signal the paradox of unincorporated territories that troubles the issues of belonging and identification as “American.” This essay takes up poet-scholar Craig Santos Perez’s work to assert the primacy of Indigenous Chamorro histories, languages, and cultures in understanding the island’s place in and out of the American Empire. Perez’s experimental, decolonial poetics fracture narratives of America as a benevolent force in the Pacific; of English as the only relevant language of the Mariana Islands and America; of Spanish and Catholic domination as a relic of the past; of environmental transformations wrought by the intimacies of empire; and of simplistic accounts of assimilation or resistance to militarization and colonialism. Furthermore, by foregrounding “Discontiguous States of America” as an organizing trope for comparative understanding of unincorporated territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, American Indian reservation spaces on the continent, and the outlying states of Alaska and Hawai‘i, this essay argues that transnational American Studies must look within its territorial possessions to Indigenous sovereignty claims as well as outside to global flows in order to offer a truly critical, transnational American Studies.

Empire’s Mastheads: Rewriting the “Correspondents’ War” from the Edge of Empire

This essay recovers a forgotten moment in the print culture history of US empire by examining a handful of newspapers and periodicals—American Soldier, Manila Outpost, Soldier’s Letter, Co. F Enterprise, and Volunteer—that were founded and written by and for US soldiers in the Philippines and Cuba. Unlike their more famous stateside counterparts who produced the “correspondents’ war” and trafficked in national culture’s romantic sensationalism, soldier-correspondents mapped the everyday culture of their imperial community, reporting on ordinary, everyday events of daily life in the imperial outpost like baseball games, debate clubs, popular barbers, robberies, sanitation violations, mail deliveries, and local advertisements. Such publications revise and remediate the dominant romantic ideology of empire at the turn of the century, creating an imagined community of empire far different from that produced by the “correspondents’ war.” Revising the romantic paradigm into an alternative narrative of everyday habit, ordinary routine, and mundane desire, soldier-newspapers produce a flat account of empire that endows the project of empire-building with a sense of the mundane and the nonheroic. This quotidianizing of empire not only conceals the violent realities of imperial encounter behind the dull shimmer of newsprint, but also remodels the romantic spaces of the public’s imperial imagination into the familiar spaces of everyday life, a process that normalizes empire as a way of life for soldiers.

Racial Geographies, Imperial Transitions: Property Ownership and Race Relations in Cienfuegos, Cuba, 1894–1899

This article explores race relations in the provincial city of Cienfuegos, Cuba, during a time of immense political change from 1894 to 1899. In those five years, Cuba was transformed from a Spanish colony struggling for independence to an occupied territory of the United States. This political transformation brought into direct confrontation two models of race relations: one Spanish, characterized by racial integration, and the other American, renowned for Jim Crow segregation. This essay examines the lived significance of this political transformation through interracial property transactions recorded in the notarial protocols of Cienfuegos. The findings suggest that the final war of independence provided opportunities for Afro-descendants to purchase prime properties within the official city bounds. Yet, with US intervention in 1898, a subtle but increasing marginalization of men and women of color from the market in urban property is evident. Lucero contends that this marginalization reflects a shift in race relations due to the American imperial presence.

Obtaining “Sympathetic Understanding”: Gender, Empire, and Representation in the Travel Writings of American Officials’ Wives, 1901–1914

How do women’s travel writings affirm official reports about imperial conquest, and how may they offer narratives reflecting other modes of control and subjugation? Of what value are empathy and sorrow in attaining political aims? This essay addresses these issues by focusing on travel writings by wives of American officials during the first decade of American rule in the Philippines. Officials’ wives offer an intimate and sentimentalist account of the ceremonies they participate in, threats of violence, and their pursuit of “sympathetic understanding” between Filipinos and the American official community. Through letters written to families and friends, they provide an “unofficial” story behind the narrative of colonialism and articulate thoughts resulting from their direct personal connection to American empire and its subjects. Their writings reflect their ambivalent position as agents of empire: considering themselves racially superior, these women are subordinate to the prevailing patriarchal order. While participating in the agenda of colonial expansion, they redefine traditional gender roles. The inclusion of women’s travel writing in the present literature broadens, reconfigures, and challenges conventional accounts, revealing reveal incongruities and complicating generally accepted truths about colonial administration, assimilation, and resistance. The texts examined—Helen Taft’s Recollection of Full Years, Edith Moses’s Unofficial Letters of an Officials’ Wife, and entries from the unpublished diary of Nanon Fay Worcester—were produced by spouses of officials in the Second Philippine Commission (the Taft Commission), charged with establishing civil governance in the Philippines from 1900–1902.

A New Factor in American Destiny: Visions of Porfirio Díaz and the Politics of “Logical Paternalism”

This essay interprets American representations of dictator Porfirio Díaz in relation to the “economic conquest” of Mexico that took place during his long rule (1876–1911, a period known as the “Porfiriato,” in which Americans invested more than $1 billion). No single person inspired as much attention from travelers, reporters, and photographers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as Díaz, and their visions of the President helped to shape perceptions of Mexico as a desirable field in which to expand US capitalism and influence. Travelers clamored to meet him and his sophisticated young wife, and their travelogues were rich with descriptions of such encounters. Reporters, dazzled by the rapid transformation of Mexico during his 35-year rule, described Díaz in such terms as “the Mexican Wizard” and “the maker of modern Mexico” until the very end of his regime. Photographers, working in a relatively new medium, amassed a huge body of works devoted to the dictator; even at an advanced age late in his rule, the President’s image adorned postcards and commemorative cartes-de-visite that posited him in heroic and hypermasculine terms (not unlike those of his US counterpart, Theodore Roosevelt). Ultimately, this essay argues that representations like these reflected American desires for a Mexican body politic that was amenable to economic and social transformation under the inextricable banners of “progress” and US capitalism. Prevailing images of Díaz and his family suggested that Mexico was as friendly to foreign investors as it was to foreign visitors.

Colonial Photography Across Empires and Islands

When the US acquired its colonies of Puerto Rico and the Philippines in the aftermath of the 1898 war with Spain, those colonies had to be made known to American citizens. Lanny Thompson has described what he calls the “principle narratives” of the different colonies, and the ways that those narratives helped shape political debates about those colonies. Thompson notes that photography played an instrumental role in developing and representing those narratives. “Colonial Photography Across Empires and Islands” discusses the specific uses of photography in the US colonial regimes in the Philippines and Puerto Rico, the two colonies most frequently deemed “unfit” for self-rule. It traces the contours of those themes and ideas that were shared across the different colonies, as well as the particular subject matter that photographers were attracted to in each colony. It also finds points of connection and continuity between US colonial photography, and photography in the Philippines in the Spanish colonial era. The triangulation of these three colonial contexts helps clarify both the generalized nature of colonial photography and the specific uses of photography in particular colonial contexts.

“The future holds more than the past has yielded”: T. S. Eliot’s Invention of Tradition and the St. Louis Exposition of 1904

This essay offers a new interpretation of T. S. Eliot’s central concept of tradition by reading “Tradition and the Individual Talent” in light of the representation of America’s conquest of the Philippines at the 1904 World’s Fair held in Eliot’s hometown of St. Louis. Against the stated ideology of the modern—which dismisses tradition as the inevitable cost of an ever-progressive modernity—Eliot recuperates the notion of tradition by showing how it is always engaged in a dialectical relation to the present. In this way, Eliot resists both the primitivism that reifies tradition as an unchanging realm of ancient values and the notion of historical progress intimately tied to the development of imperial capital. Furthermore, Eliot’s notion of tradition is fundamentally transnational—albeit limited in scope to Europe—which highlights the constitutive relationship between nationalism and the concept of development embedded within the discourse of progress. Modernist tradition becomes, in this account, a way to resist the historical ideology of the developing American empire.

Post-1898 Imaginative Geographies: Puerto Rico Migration in 1950s Film

This essay studies cultural representations of Puerto Rico’s economic boom and 1952 shift in legal status to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It suggests that apprehending these events requires the reframing of Puerto Rican migration as global phenomena. Drawing on the historical and cultural scholarship on Puerto Rican migration, Operation Bootstrap, and US empire, Tolentino analyzes the famous musical film West Side Story (1961), but also the Hollywood film Sabrina (1954) and Island productions El Otro Camino (The Other Road, 1955) and Maruja (1958). In contrast to prevailing views, she interprets these films as narratives about migration and modernization that engage the discourse of sentimental modernization, the figure of the jíbaro, and the idea of small town Puerto Rico. In so doing, they reveal the global vision at the center of the Operation Bootstrap development plan and Commonwealth formation. The concluding section suggests how the films take up issues in Puerto Rico’s historiography. Rather than merely illuminating a forgotten historical period of 1950s Puerto Rico, the 1950s films negotiate Puerto Rico’s geographical, political, and cultural locations by rethinking institutionalized meanings of 1898 in discourses of Puerto Rico historiography and US empire. Proposing new ways of interpreting the introduction of the Commonwealth in 1952 makes possible the revision of dominant conceptions of 1898 rooted in nation, government, and constitutional law.

Being Blue in Hawai‘i: Politics, Affect, and the Last Queen of Hawai‘i

For Hawaiian self-rule activists, who retain ties to the land and forms of sociality emerging out of the land, the US is regarded as an occupier force, and nonnative ownership, whether white or Japanese, a blighting catastrophe justifying resentment and rage. The demise of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, when an oligarchy of US white settler businessmen overthrew Queen Liliʻuokalani (1838–1917) in 1893, reduced aloha ‘āina (or land-cherishing) to a ghostly affect; to be blue in Hawai‘i, today, is to be in a state of ongoing and implacable mourning. This essay explores several affective historical scenes of Hawaiian injury: from the early nineteenth century, when Protestant missionaries began their effort to transform Hawaiian sensibilities; onto the Queen’s forced abdication via the McKinley 1898 annexation; and finally to the contemporary era of Hawaiian nationalist protest. The Queen’s story, contextualized by brief case studies of native bereavement earlier in the century (David Malo and Henry Obookiah), leads in the final sections to a query of the relation of affect—whether melancholic or rageful—to political effect. The essay concludes with a critical coda on President Obama’s declaration (in a speech given in Hawai‘i, before elected) that the “Aloha spirit” is “what America is looking for right now.” The problem with liberalism, as it is with certain versions of local/global studies, is that wounded, grievous affect cannot readily be translated (there is no efficacious transference) into specific political praxis.

Confirmed: Sonia Sotomayor and Latino Political Incorporation

This essay explores how the 2009 confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor once again transformed the process to become a Supreme Court Justice as new political fault lines reached the nation’s highest court. Although the majority of political supporters emphasized Sotomayor’s individual and professional qualifications as the crucial factors that made her confirmable, what ultimately became confirmed through her appointment was the increasing, if uncomfortable, weight of Latino identity as a relevant category of social difference in contemporary American politics. This essay engages with the confirmation process’s discarded and expanded plotlines to produce an acceptable story, in order to understand Sotomayor’s appointment not simply as the culmination of Latino achievement or collective empowerment but as a way to assess the current price of the ticket for Latino political incorporation.


Forward Editor’s Note

Forward Editor’s Note for JTAS 3.2

Excerpt from Dead Stars: American and Philippine Literary Perspectives on the American Colonization of the Philippines

Dead Stars: American and Philippine Literary Perspectives on the American Colonization of the Philippines examines the American colonization of the Philippines from three distinct but related literary perspectives. The first is the reaction of anti-imperialist American writers Mark Twain, W. E. B. Du Bois, and William James to America’s first foray into the role of colonizer and how their varied essays, letters, and speeches provide an incisive delineation of fundamental conflicts in American identity at the turn of the twentieth century. The book then analyzes how these same conflicts surface in the colonial regime’s use of American literature as a tool to inculcate American values in the colonial educational system. Finally, Dead Stars considers the way three early and important Filipino writers—Paz Marquez Benitez, Maximo Kalaw, and Juan C. Laya—interpret and represent these same tensions in their fiction.

Excerpt from Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific

Foregrounding indigenous and feminist scholarship, this collection analyzes militarization as an extension of colonialism from the late twentieth to the twenty-first century in Asia and the Pacific. The contributors theorize the effects of militarization across former and current territories of Japan and the United States, demonstrating that the relationship between militarization and colonial subordination shapes bodies of memory, knowledge, and resistance.

Excerpt from Pluralist Universalism: An Asian Americanist Critique of U.S. and Chinese Multiculturalisms

Pluralist Universalism: An Asian Americanist Critique of U.S. and Chinese Multiculturalisms is an extended comparison of US and Chinese multiculturalisms during the post–Cold War era. Her book situates itself at the intersection of Asian American literary critique and the growing field of comparative multiculturalism. Through readings of fictional narratives that address the issue of racial and ethnic difference in both national contexts simultaneously, the author models a “double critique” framework for US–Chinese comparative literary studies.

The book approaches U.S. liberal multiculturalism and China’s ethnic policy as two competing multiculturalisms, one grounded primarily in a history of racial desegregation and the other in the legacies of a socialist revolution. Since the end of the Cold War, the two multiculturalisms have increasingly been brought into contact through translation and other forms of mediation. Pluralist Universalism demonstrates that a number of fictional narratives, including those commonly classified as Chinese, American, and Chinese American, have illuminated incongruities and connections between the ethno-racial politics of the two nations.

The “double critique” framework builds upon critical perspectives developed in Asian American studies and adjacent fields. The book brings to life an innovative vision of Asian American literary critique, even as it offers a unique intervention in ideas of ethnicity and race prevailing in both China and the United States in the post–Cold War era.

Excerpt from Triangulations: Narrative Strategies for Navigating Latino Identity

Just as mariners use triangulation, mapping an imaginary triangle between two known positions and an unknown location, so, David J. Vázquez contends, Latino authors in late twentieth-century America employ the coordinates of familiar ideas of self to find their way to new, complex identities. Through this metaphor, Vázquez reveals how Latino autobiographical texts, written after the rise of cultural nationalism in the 1960s, challenge mainstream notions of individual identity and national belonging in the United States.

In a traditional autobiographical work, the protagonist frequently opts out of his or her community. In the works that Vázquez analyzes in Triangulations, protagonists instead opt in to collective groups—often for the express political purpose of redefining that collective. Reading texts by authors such as Ernesto Galarza, Jesús Colón, Piri Thomas, Oscar “Zeta” Acosta, Judith Ortiz Cofer, John Rechy, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, Vázquez engages debates about the relationship between literature and social movements, the role of cultural nationalism in projects for social justice, the gender and sexual problematics of 1960s cultural nationalist groups, the possibilities for interethnic coalitions, and the interpretation of autobiography. In the process, Triangulations considers the potential for cultural nationalism as a productive force for aggrieved communities of color in their struggles for equality.

Excerpt from Subverting Exclusion: Transpacific Encounters with Race, Caste, and Borders, 1885–1928

The Japanese immigrants who arrived in the North American West in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included people with historical ties to Japan’s outcaste communities. In the only English-language book on the subject, Andrea Geiger examines the history of these and other Japanese immigrants in the United States and Canada and their encounters with two separate cultures of exclusion, one based in caste and the other in race.

Geiger reveals that the experiences of Japanese immigrants in North America were shaped in part by attitudes rooted in Japan’s formal status system, mibunsei, decades after it was formally abolished. In the North American West, however, the immigrants’ understanding of social status as caste-based collided with American and Canadian perceptions of status as primarily race-based. Geiger shows how the lingering influence of Japan’s strict status system affected immigrants’ perceptions and understandings of race in North America and informed their strategic responses to two increasingly complex systems of race-based exclusionary law and policy.

The Several Lives of Joan the Spinner

This essay is a study of Honoré Beaugrand’s Jeanne la filieuse. Beaugrand’s work, a fictional narrative of French Canadian migration to New England originally published in serial form in 1878, is at once a political tract on emigration and French Canadian society, a pioneering diasporic novel, and a muckraking study of New England industrialism. Shanahan shows how the appearance of multiple editions of the work, spaced across time and national borders, highlights the shift in meanings and the conflicting messages intended to be drawn from it by its publishers.

The essay was originally published in the journal Je Me Souviens.


Cultural Nationalism, Orientalism, Imperial Ambivalence: The Colored American Magazine and Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins

This essay examines African American novelist Pauline Hopkins’s deployment of the trope of respectable domesticity to contest black disenfranchisement in the context of African Americans’ ambivalent relationship to late-nineteenth-century US imperial expansion in the Asia Pacific. This essay analyzes Contending Forces (1900) in relation to two crucial yet underexplored contexts: first, Hopkins’s commentaries on international race relations; second, African American intellectuals’ commentaries on US imperial ventures in the Asia Pacific and on Chinese immigration in the Colored American Magazine, where Hopkins’s fictional works were serialized. Situated within these contexts of comparative racialization, Hopkins’s works offer critical responses to the masculine nationalist representations of black–Asian relations, illuminating the divisive effects of nationalist identification on differentially racialized subjects, the uneven effects of marriage on the black community, and this institution’s structural ties to imperialism and to the color-based class hierarchy within the imagined black community—all of which call for radical reimagining of race relations beyond the nation form.

Threatening “the Good Order”: West Meets East in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Cheat and John Updike’s Terrorist

Despite almost a hundred years of separation, both Cecil B. DeMille’s film The Cheat (1915) and John Updike’s novel Terrorist (2006) deploy a clear-cut territorial divide between Western and Eastern spaces in order to envision a unified American space. These narratives superimpose a “natural” division on these historically opposed spaces and thereby suggest that any contact between these spaces will have dangerous consequences. These consequences include the potential dissolution and eventual destruction of American productivity, surveillance, and territorial integrity. DeMille’s film and Updike’s novel represent America as a nation-state that must be protected from the East. In 1915, The Cheat warned against an interracial America and the upsurge in immigration that characterized the turn of the century. Nearly a century later, Terrorist presupposes an interracial America but still constructs an East that threatens the security of America. While registering the particular concerns of two distinct historical moments, these narratives represent a larger attempt in American aesthetics to imagine an East that jeopardizes the utopian possibilities of an overly idealized American space.

“All for the sake of Freedom”: Hannah Arendt’s Democratic Dissent, Trauma, and American Citizenship

As an intellectual Jewish immigrant, Hannah Arendt’s work is informed by two key factors: the failures of German intellectuals regarding the rise of fascism and the promise of American democracy. Arendt was haunted by the past and the memories of how the democratic structures of the Weimar Republic had been undermined, manipulated, and finally transformed into a totalitarian terror regime. The issues of freedom, equality, and the shortcomings of democratic societies form a transcultural nexus in her oeuvre. This reading of Arendt will reveal how her efforts to deal with a transatlantic traumatic past shaped the felt need to voice democratic dissent in the United States. While much has been said about her theoretical groundwork on the mechanisms of totalitarian systems, Arendt’s living conditions as a naturalized foreigner, her enthusiasm for American democracy, and her refusal to return to Germany have been largely neglected. Arendt is usually rooted firmly in a European philosophical context. She has been canonized as one of the foremost philosophical thinkers from Germany on the emergence of totalitarian systems and the Holocaust. This transatlantic force field looms large over the second half of the twentieth century in the realm of culture and politics. Among her fellow intellectual émigrés and exiles such as Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, or Fraenkel, Arendt stands out. She decided not to return to the new democratic Germany with its Grundgesetz fashioned along the lines of the American Constitution. Instead, she insisted on becoming naturalized and used her transnational background as a basis to address democratic gaps from the vantage point of an American citizen. First, Mehring shows in which ways Arendt identified herself as an American and wished to become recognized as an American citizen. Second, he reconnects Arendt’s democratic dissent with her efforts to become recognized as an American citizen.

Neoliberalism, Global “Whiteness,” and the Desire for Adoptive Invisibility in US Parental Memoirs of Eastern European Adoption

This essay explores the recent surge in US parental memoirs of adoption from Russia and Ukraine. This analysis of the most influential works speculatively highlights underexamined connections between the US media focus on adoption failures and the centrality of race in adoptions from Eastern Europe. In the memoirs under examination, parents eschew the traditional humanitarian narrative of adoption and portray themselves as consumers who have the right to select “white” children from an international adoption market in order to form families whose members look as though they could be biologically related. The authors’ belief that they share a preexisting racial identity with children from Eastern Europe expands to the global plane the US notion that “whiteness” accords racial and economic privilege to all those of European descent in the United States. While the myth of a shared racial identity confers immense and immediate privilege onto Eastern European adoptees even before their arrival in the United States, it also enables parents to ignore their children’s national differences, as well as the neoliberal transformations in the former USSR that have shaped the conditions for their children’s relinquishment and displacement from their birth countries, languages, and cultures through transnational adoption. Coupled with the emergence of a neoliberal adoption market, the search for adoptive invisibility may help explain the significant numbers of abuse and death cases of Eastern European adoptees at the hands of US parents as compared to other adoptee populations.

“Deep Maps”: A Brief for Digital Palimpsest Mapping Projects (DPMPs, or “Deep Maps”)

This article proposes a potentially fruitful “next step” for transnational American Studies, inviting colleagues around the world to collaborate on Digital Palimpsest Mapping Projects—DPMPs, or “Deep Maps.” “Deep Maps,” curated collaboratively by scholars in multiple locations, would put multilingual digital archives around the globe in conversation with one another, using maps as the gateway. “Deep Maps” could be read as palimpsests, allowing multiple version of events, texts, and phenomena to be written over each other—with each version visible under the layers. “Deep Maps” would bring multilingual perspectives from multiple archival locations together to complicate our understanding of topics that engaged people across the globe. Links to secondary sources and interpretive frameworks introducing the topic of any given “Deep Map” would help tell transnational stories in fresh ways. “Deep Maps” would not replace traditional scholarship; rather, they would present it in new contexts, amplifying its impact. Some examples of “Deep Maps” currently under construction are explored. By requiring collaboration—across borders, languages, nations, continents, and disciplines—Digital Palimpsest Mapping Projects would bring our interdependence—as scholars, as citizens, as human beings—to the foreground and could help us take the field of transnational American Studies in some exciting new directions.

The Propositional Logic of Mapping Transnational American Studies—A Response to “‘Deep Maps’: A Brief for Digital Palimpsest Mapping Projects”

This response to Shelley Fisher Fishkin's “‘Deep Maps’: A Brief for Digital Palimpsest Mapping Projects” explicates the layers of complex interconnected practices that Fishkin’s paradigm of Deep Maps instates. Bishop notes that Fishkin’s trope of palimpsests “depends on a scholarly methodology that privileges the transnational as a structure, a means, and a dynamic site of excavation for intellectual inquiry” and “provides for new forms of collaborative writing and new reading practices” in which scholars, students, and even members of the general public can build geo-archives together. Fishkin’s Deep Maps project, Bishop concludes, foregrounds a construction of place in a “self-reflective placial exercise” that accepts “other national literatures and histories [with] . . . their own ways of understanding and engaging with the transnational.”


Reprise Editor's Note

Reprise Editor's Note for JTAS 3.2

Locas al Rescate: The Transnational Hauntings of Queer Cubanidad

“Locas al Rescate: The Transnational Hauntings of Queer Cubanidad” (originally published in Cuba Transnational) offers a significant contribution both to transnational American Studies and to gender studies. In telling the insider story of the alternative identity formation, practices, and forms of “rescue” initiated by the affective activism of the Cuban American society in drag in 1990s Miami/South Beach, Lima resuscitates the liberatory gestures of a subculture defined by its pursuit of its own acceptance, value, and freedom. With their aesthetic and political life on a raft, the gay micro-communities inside Cuban America asserted their own islandic space, Lima observes, performing “takeovers” in and of parks and bars and beaches—creating a post-Habermasian sphere of public activism focused on private parts, saving themselves from AIDS, from the disaffection and disaffiliation of the right-wing Cuban immigrant community, and from the failure of their own yearning to belong, to be wanted, to be embodied as the figure of their compelling Cubanidad. Against the hegemony of the invented collective politics of the sacrificing immigrants whose recognition of the queer side of being (of a being constituted by identity loss) is yet to come, Lima suggests a spectral return—a personal and transnational reckoning of those whose lives the dream of freedom drowned.

Performance and Politics in the Public Sphere

Pia Wiegmink’s timely examination of the transforming transnational spaces of protest in a globalizing and technologically mediated public sphere in “Performance and Politics in the Public Sphere” offers a well-researched review of contemporary theory surrounding ideas of the political (Chantal Mouffe), the public sphere (Jürgen Habermas), the transnational public sphere (Nancy Fraser), and the reterritorialized transnational public sphere (Markus Schroer) as the basis for her analysis of how the performance of political action in public—virtual or physical—is transformed by the capacity of the local to be played on a global stage, thus turning the citizen-actor into a cosmopolitan, transnational force. Tracing examples from the Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization meetings in 1999 by the Global Justice Movement to the work of the Electronic Disturbance Theater, from the civil rights movement to the subject matter of her larger study, “The Church of Life After Shopping,” “Billionaires for Bush,” and “The Yes Men,” Wiegmink provides an important analysis of the “alternative aesthetics” of the counterpublics’ formation, dissent, and action in and against hegemony. This selection is taken from her monograph, Protest EnACTed: Activist Performance in the Contemporary United States, a strong, cultural studies–focused contribution to transnational American Studies.

“A garden in the middle of the sea”: Henry James’s The Aspern Papers and Transnational American Studies

Nicole Waller’s study of Henry James’s The Aspern Papers examines how conventional literary studies’ approaches (those that depend on biography and character analysis) may tether James’s work to a set of values that reinscribe the hierarchies that his narrative specifically sets adrift. Reviewing various newer paradigms in American Studies—the border, immigrant studies, the Black Atlantic, Native American encounters—Waller relies on a subset of transnational studies, Atlantic studies, to utilize the metaphors of circulation and exchange, of fluidity and drift, of space and dislocation, to argue for a reading of James’s The Aspern Papers as a dislocated response to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s work The House of the Seven Gables. Reading The Aspern Papers closely against Hawthorne’s work, and comparing the European perspectives in both James’s and Hawthorne’s works, Waller suggests that in The Aspern Papers James affords a reading of the transnational experience as a generative gesture, where a Venetian “garden in the middle of the sea” may serve as an abode more fruitful (despite losses) and more productive than the fires to which Hawthorne condemns Italian villages in The Marble Faun. Waller’s interest in the fluid spaces between the works of James and Hawthorne is echoed by both transnational American Studies and the essay itself in the unnamed narrator’s instructions to the gondolier: “Go anywhere. . . .”

The Politics of Transnational Memory in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club

“The Politics of Transnational Memory in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club” sees Tan’s representation of memory as either a function of loss (and limited recovery) or of distance (whether temporal or physical). For Schultermandl, the text suggests that familial or national relationships built on generational and immigrant memory cannot really create conditions of solidarity or identification and are thus doomed to failure—either that, or what is “memory” must be transformed by “experience” and then be understood, what Schultermandl calls “belated memory.” Schultermandl offers an account of the failure of the narrative to provide for a bond between the generations of women—immigrant mothers and American-born daughters. This conceptual problem is represented by the novel’s end, where the overriding implication of the narrative is that in order to reconcile and occupy the identity of a Chinese American one must somehow be both Chinese and American, an experience of being that Schultermandl questions. Additionally, in not representing modern China or modern Chinese women, Schultermandl argues, the novel gives up an opportunity to create a “transnational solidarity” among women in favor of a national identity that supersedes the individual, who in Tan’s text becomes a mere stand-in for traditionally held ideological and national stereotypes.