Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

American Tropics

Articulating Filipino America

2006
Author:

Allan Punzalan Isaac

American Tropics

How America’s image of the Philippines reflects the U.S. inability to see its own imperialism

In American Tropics, Allan Punzalan Isaac explores American fantasies about the Philippines and other “unincorporated” parts of the U.S. nation that obscure the contradictions of a democratic country possessing colonies. Isaac examines the American empire's images of the Philippines in Hollywood films such as Blue Hawaii and novels such as Carlos Bulosan's America Is in the Heart and Jessica Hagedorn's Dogeaters.

Through skillful and elegant close readings of cinematic, historical, legal, and literary texts, Allan Punzalan Isaac weaves a GRIPPING chronicle of American imperial odyssey that juxtaposes colonial yearnings with a general historiographical amnesia.

Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora

In 1997, when the New York Times described Filipino American serial killer Andrew Cunanan as appearing “to be everywhere and nowhere,” Allan Punzalan Isaac recognized confusion about the Filipino presence in the United States, symptomatic of American imperialism’s invisibility to itself. In American Tropics, Isaac explores American fantasies about the Philippines and other “unincorporated” parts of the U.S. nation that obscure the contradictions of a democratic country possessing colonies.

Isaac boldly examines the American empire’s images of the Philippines in turn-of-the-century legal debates over Puerto Rico, Progressive-era popular literature set in the Latin American borderlands, and mid-century Hollywood cinema staged in Hawai‘i and the Pacific islands. Isaac scrutinizes media coverage of the Cunanan case, Boy Scout adventure novels, and Hollywood films such as The Real Glory (1939) and Blue Hawaii (1961) to argue that territorial sites of occupation are an important part of American identity. American Tropics further reveals the imperial imagination’s role in shaping national meaning in novels such as Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart (1946) and Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters (1990), Filipino American novels forced to articulate the empire’s enfolded but disavowed borders.

Tracing the American empire from the beginning of the twentieth century to Philippine liberation and the U.S. civil rights movement, American Tropics lays bare Filipino Americans’s unique form of belonging marked indelibly by imperialism and at odds with U.S. racial politics and culture.

Awards

Association for Asian American Studies' 2006 Book Award in the Cultural Studies

American Tropics

Allan Punzalan Isaac is assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University.

American Tropics

A welcome and incisive addition to the ever-growing scholarship on transnationalist, postcolonial, and Asian American Studies. A wonderfully engaging and valuable scholarly resource, American Tropics queries new field alignments and pushes for more disciplinary intersectionalities.

MELUS

Through skillful and elegant close readings of cinematic, historical, legal, and literary texts, Allan Punzalan Isaac weaves a GRIPPING chronicle of American imperial odyssey that juxtaposes colonial yearnings with a general historiographical amnesia.

Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora

Isaac is bold in his examination of America’s images of the Philippines and Filipinos as depicted in law, media coverage, literature, and Hollywood cinema.

Colonial Latin American Historical Review

Allan Punzalan Isaac’s American Tropics is a welcome and original contribution to the recent surge of scholarship on Filipinos and Filipino Americans and their wide-ranging coordinates within the U.S. imperial cosmology. Isaac commands the reader’s attention through his thoughtful, consistent, and serious critique of hypocrisies and aporiae within empire, as well as by his smart and engaging narrative. American Tropics is a noteworthy and important text, one that will compel scholars to redraw the cartographies of Filipino/American imaginaries.

Journal of American Ethnic History

American Tropics

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. American Tropics

I. An Imperial Grammar

2. Disappearing Clauses Reconstituting America in the Unincorporated Territories
3. Moral Sentences Boy Scouts and Novel Encounters with Empire
4. Imperial Romance Framing Manifest Destiny in the Pacific

II. Toward an American Postcolonial Syntax

5. Reconstituting American Subjects Proximate Masculinities
6. Reconstituting American Predicates Troping the American Tour d’Horizon

Coda
Notes

Index