Ann Stoler’s volume, Haunted by Empire, aids in upending the notion of the United States as exceptionally non-imperial. Responding to Stoler’s consideration of intimacy – its (non)physical forms, spaces, and role in meaning-making (15) – scholars from an array of disciplines incorporate micropolitics and human interaction into the larger scheme of the United States’ imperial project. These “geographies of intimacy” are traced along bodies and land, as notions of mixedness mirror those of borderlands.* Physical and ideological proximity yield the inevitability (and threat) of intermixing blood and culture, producing “interior frontiers” wherein constructions of race and nationhood are complicated by “people who [move] within, between, and outside of imperial boundaries” (57). As Linda Gordon asserts in “Internal Colonialism and Gender,” what constitutes domestic or foreign territory – inside or outside U.S. borders – is an ideology based on Manifest Destiny, claiming free land that naturally belonged within the scope of an unborn nation (429).
"Tu Cuerpo Es Una Frontera I." Celeste De Luna.
Accessed March 27, 2018. litebluna.wix.com/artists-website.
Damon Salesa’s essay on “Samoa’s Half-Castes” discusses mixedness as “a state of ‘becoming’ – a liminal position outside of the category of ‘Samoan’ yet not fully, nor permanently, U.S. citizens” (82). Hybrid people, borders, and citizenship** illuminate the tensions between defining inside and outside when both can be embodied within – space and the body politic, race and nationhood. In “National Liberation and Culture,” Amilcar Cabral discusses assimilation as a means of cultural erasure, highlighting the “value of culture as an element of resistance to foreign rule” and the endurance of the “historical reality of the society already under domination” (45). The interaction, intermixing, and dependency fostered by culture clash is not necessarily a subsummation or restructuring of an indigenous*** culture, but perhaps a perversion of the dominant culture by minority elements. Indeed, who is the influencer and who is influenced – acting or acted upon, entering or being encroached upon, inside or outside?
In “His Kingdom for a Kiss,” Tiya Miles remarks that “the Americans were able to endure the cognitive dissonance of devastating native populations … while valorizing the image of the Indian through their own appropriation of Indian-like ideals, appearances, and behaviors” (169). Miles cites Daniel Richter’s Facing East from Indian Country, discussing scholarly debates surrounding how much native peoples inspired American political frameworks. Does subaltern agency necessarily need to be defined in terms of how much it can influence an oppressor? In denying victimhood, do we absolve aggressors of their sins? Richter, referencing Richard White’s The Middle Ground, remarks that “the old balance-of-power diplomacy was perhaps gone forever, but Native people in the continental interior**** were once again finding productive means of accommodation with the transatlantic European imperial world” (210). Do narratives of adaption and survival, hybridity and influence comprise a true middle ground?
This volume primarily treats sex as (1) reproductive – a means of complicating racial categories through the birth of mixed people – (2) sentimental – an act of tenderness that toes the line between coercion and consent, muddling the binary narrative of aggressor versus victim – and (3) violent – phallocentric and symbolic of activity/passivity, penetration, and imperial domination. The only example of “homosexual” activity is featured in Nayan Shah’s “Adjudicating Intimacies,” wherein the seemingly nonconsensual sodomitic act committed against a young white male by three South Asian men acts as a foil for a discussion of “heterosexual” manhood and marriage (127-130). But I am interested in how we might queer intimacy. We may consider “homosexual” relations, wherein symmetrical power dynamics between people of the same gender throw asymmetrical race and class dynamics into sharp relief. We may also consider “nonnormativity” – how taboo acts and sentiments, or queer bodies (mixed people), or queer geographies (borderlands) complicated imperial circumscriptions.
* This premise connects well to Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), 25 & 102. Excerpts below.
** How do we define citizenship, beyond legal protections, as a social and political identity? To what land or nation does one belong? If bodies and borders are in flux, what makes a citizen?
*** How do we define indigeneity? Who was “first” to a land? Is nativity inherently geographic in scope? To what place are migratory populations indigenous?
**** Are continents imperial constructions, too?