UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Imperial archipelago : Representation and Rule in the Insular Territories Under U.S. Dominion After 1898… Petersen, Glenn Sep 1, 2012

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata


52387-S45.pdf [ 61.33kB ]
JSON: 52387-1.0045047.json
JSON-LD: 52387-1.0045047-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 52387-1.0045047-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 52387-1.0045047-rdf.json
Turtle: 52387-1.0045047-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 52387-1.0045047-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 52387-1.0045047-source.json
Full Text

Full Text

Pacific Affairs: Volume 85, No. 3 – September 2012 686 mining practices are relatively recent: the phenomenon itself is ancient but its presence in anthropological inquiry, emerged in the 1980s looking at the culture and society of miners and their communities. Accordingly, the anthropological focus on mining, by and large, has been on mineral economics, demographic studies of mining communities and the rituals, beliefs and ideologies of miners, and here it has stagnated. Nicholas Bainton’s Lihir Destiny pushes through this wall by looking not at miners per se but rather at the broader communities in which mining occurs. Thus, this text is less a study on mining in and of itself but rather on how local communities become imbricated in globalizing forces. Though some readers may be inclined to see analytic limitations in such a precise empirical scope, Lihir Destiny is predicated on a comparative ontology that situates the “Local World Histories” (8) of Melanesian “particulars” in a universalizable perspective of globalization. Truly au courant, this book examines the friction, social reconfigurations and reforms found at the sites of interaction between Melanesian Custom and global mining practices. As such, this is a timely contribution to anthropological studies of both domains, but also more broadly for those engaged with studies of “glocalization.” The Lihir Destiny is possessed of insight for those studies that interrogate the impacts of large-scale resource extraction on local communities as well, and herein lies the novelty of this book: in Bainton’s words, the “purpose in this book is to … understand the intersections or the hybrid space or the creative synthesis that is formed in the process” (7). Concordia University, Montreal, Canada Geoffrey Hobbis IMPERIAL ARCHIPELAGO: Representation and Rule in the Insular Territories Under U.S. Dominion After 1898. Writing Past Colonialism. By Lanny Thompson. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2010. xi, 282 pp. (Tables, maps, B&W photos.) US$28.00, paper. ISBN 978-0-8248-3488-3. Despite repeated protestations to the contrary, expressed over the course of several different historical periods, the United States has had a long history of colonial expansion, and has proceeded either to incorporate the conquered peoples of other lands into its body politic or to establish some more obviously imperial form of rule over them. This book closely examines one of those expansionist bursts, the conquest and/or acquisition of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawai’i, the Philippines and Guam in 1898, and provides a careful comparison of how the United States then set about establishing its dominion over them. Thompson’s goal here is to examine the ways in which various writers, photographers and functionaries represented the peoples and cultures of these islands to the American government and populace in words and photographs, and to then consider the relationships between Book Reviews 687 the specific discursive strategies and the kinds of administrative and legal solutions ultimately applied to the political status of each. He concludes that “the operative principle of this imperial discourse was that the multiple imperial subjects were to be ruled differently, according to their level of civilization and capacity for self-government” (246). He employs two overarching approaches. In the first, he focuses particularly on gender, race and class, and on the ways in which each region’s potential for political development and eventual self-government or incorporation into the union is gauged as a consequence of imagined masculine, white and elite virtues, or the absence of them. In the second, he demonstrates, with notable success, the attention given to ethnic, racial, religious and geographic differences within and between the different island possessions. Perspectives drawn from understandings of Darwinian evolution popular at the time loom large, but even more prominent are the social evolutionary categories that were being formulated by thinkers such as L.H. Morgan and E.B. Tylor, with their sociocultural hierarchies leading through stages characterized as “savage,” barbarian” and “civilized.” We can see here an early example of the ways in which the social sciences were put to use serving government policy. At the time, enormous attention was paid to the intersecting questions of where exactly these peoples were located on an evolutionary scale and just how feasible it would be for outsiders—American administrators—to advance them along the scale. Thompson captures this well: “[T]he theory of social evolution deployed both a trope of classification and a narrative of progress. On the one hand, peoples were classified, ranging on a scale from the most backward to the most advanced. On the other hand, the narrative of progress held out the hope that backward peoples could advance, especially under the tutelage of superior civilizations” (90). To my mind, however, he falls a bit short when it comes to evaluating the contradictory perspectives that lay behind these positions. In the same way that expansionists were conflicted about whether and how to bring “inferior” peoples into the fold, anti-imperialists, it should be remembered, also struggled with their own doubts about the right thing to do: should the United States simply walk away or should Americans help the peoples they subdued and, if they did, how would the US ever be able to walk away from these commitments? Such questions continue to plague Americans today as they contemplate their country’s involvements in Afghanistan, Iraq and a dozen other situations. There is also a thoughtful chapter dealing with the legal wrangles entangled in establishing the new patterns of government in each of the territories. In the “insular cases” the Supreme Court had to decide islands’ status within constitutional bounds, and questions about who had ultimate authority over them. Its majority opinion defended the country’s right to conquer territory and to subjugate the inhabitants; it further held that “We are also of the opinion that the power to acquire territory by treaty implies Pacific Affairs: Volume 85, No. 3 – September 2012 688 not only the power to govern such territory, but to prescribe upon what terms the United States will receive its inhabitants, and what their status shall be in … the ‘American Empire’” (207). While rendered well over a century ago, these rulings continue to inform American control over Puerto Rico and Guam, and remain relevant to issues in Hawai’i and elsewhere. I would point briefly to two drawbacks in what is an otherwise excellent work. First, Thompson has an unfortunate tendency to repeat, in slightly paraphrased terms, almost every quote he employs; I suspect that most individuals likely to read this would be able to glean the meanings without this redundancy. Second, because the book focuses so much on representations, it relies extensively on period photographs. Unfortunately, the University of Hawai’i Press, which is otherwise to be praised for its willingness to produce work of this sort, has for some time now failed to provide much in the way of support for its authors, who are charged with nearly all the tasks ancillary to publication. This undoubtedly accounts for the rather mediocre quality of the reproductions here. When we are being asked to carefully consider details in photo after photo, it is frustrating to gaze at images that do not enable us to see the details. City University of New York, New York, USA Glenn Petersen CULTURES OF COMMEMORATION: The Politics of War, Memory, and History in the Mariana Islands. Pacific Islands Monograph Series, no. 25. By Keith L. Camacho. Honolulu: Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai’i, Mānoa; University of Hawai’i Press, 2011. xvii, 225 pp. (Figures, maps.) US$52.00, cloth, ISBN 978-0-8248-3546-0; US$25.00, paper, ISBN 978-0-8248-3670-2. Most of the literature on memory and commemoration of World War II has focused on Europe, and analyzed its chosen subjects at the level of the nation-state. The US and Britain have dominated the output and have been mostly content with the verdict of history because, like Churchill, they wrote it. Professor Camacho’s study, then, is welcome on many fronts: its subject is the war in the Pacific Theater, examined at the level of a single island chain, the Marianas, the author’s homeland. The book’s unwavering focus is on the native inhabitants, the Chamorros. It thus joins that small but growing body of work that gives a voice to the commonly forgotten third party in island warfare, who in this case survived decades of intense colonial intrusions from Japan and the United States before, during, and after the war. Camacho shows their reigns to have been self-regarding, rife with arrogance, racism and land grabs (by both), as well as rape and murder (by Japan when occupying Guam). Throughout the book Camacho explicates the Chamorros’ pressing need to meet these colonialisms head on through imaginative and intertwined


Citation Scheme:


Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics



Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            async >
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:


Related Items