Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Faking It

U.S. Hegemony in a “Post-Phallic” Era

1999
Author:

Cynthia Weber

Book Default Image

An outrageous look at U. S. Foreign relations through the lens of queer theory.

Forget Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam-is the United States queer? Is the American body politic in drag? Cynthia Weber thinks so, at least in terms of recent American foreign relations with Cuba and other Caribbean countries. In Faking It, she queers heterosexual codes of sex and gender and offers a provocative and sometimes hilarious take on U.S. foreign policy that one reader compared to “a combination of Woody Allen and Friedrich Nietzsche finding themselves in a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Compact and droll. . . . In a startlingly original argument, Weber pushes gendered and sexualized metaphors as far as she can, showing them to carry considerable analytic weight in accounting for power relations between the United States and the Caribbean. The result is provocative and sometimes hilarious-like a combination of Woody Allen and Friedrich Nietzsche in a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Kathy E. Ferguson, University of Hawai’i, and coauthor (with Phyllis Turnbull) of Oh, Say, Can You See? The Semiotics of the Military in Hawai’i

Forget Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam—is the United States queer? Is the American body politic in drag? Cynthia Weber thinks so, at least in terms of recent American foreign relations with Cuba and other Caribbean countries. In Faking It, she queers heterosexual codes of sex and gender and offers a provocative and sometimes hilarious take on U.S. foreign policy that one reader compared to “a combination of Woody Allen and Friedrich Nietzsche finding themselves in a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

Weber scrutinizes popular conceptions of how the United States is embodied, arguing that the quality of queerness is both absent and present in these imaginings. She argues that in the U.S. wooing of Castro’s Cuba in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution of 1959—an event that “grafted Castro’s hypermasculinity onto the iconic femininity of prerevolutionary Cuba”—the American body politic was symbolically castrated. This event triggered the current, “post-phallic” era in U.S. foreign policy, one that has critically queered American hegemony.

In tracing the subsequent U.S. interventions in the Caribbean—its invasion of the Dominican Republic under Johnson, of Grenada under Reagan, and of Panama under Bush, as well as its intervention in Haiti under Clinton-Weber contends that United States policy in the Caribbean consists of a series of strategic displacements of castration anxiety. Since 1959, then, Weber argues that the U.S. has been “faking it”—“it” being a straight, masculine, hegemonic identity and the phallic power that comes with such an identity.

Weber locates her disruptions smack in the middle of the “serious business” of governing a superpower. Compact and droll, lively and accessible, Faking It offers new ways to think about American identity and its public construction.

Book Default Image

Cynthia Weber is professor of politics and international studies at the University of Leeds and the author of Simulating Sovereignty (1995) and coeditor (with Thomas Biersteker) of State Sovereignty as Social Construct (1996).

Book Default Image

Faking It is a book about the relationship between state identity and foreign policy, both examined via a particular set of gendered representations. Weber provides some clues about the relationship between U.S. state identity and foreign policy in the post-September 11 context.

Cooperation and Conflict

Weber provides an invigorating analysis of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America through the lens of queer theory, one that is certain to spark controversy and debate. She probes popular ideas of how the United States is personified, arguing that a degree of queerness is both absent and present in these perceptions. Weber critically engages the popular image of American culture. She brilliantly illuminates the cultural anxieties and imperatives that shape foreign policy. Utilizing humor and critical logic, she provides a fascinating perspective on American foreign relations in the Caribbean.

Library Journal

Compact and droll. . . . In a startlingly original argument, Weber pushes gendered and sexualized metaphors as far as she can, showing them to carry considerable analytic weight in accounting for power relations between the United States and the Caribbean. The result is provocative and sometimes hilarious-like a combination of Woody Allen and Friedrich Nietzsche in a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Kathy E. Ferguson, University of Hawai’i, and coauthor (with Phyllis Turnbull) of Oh, Say, Can You See? The Semiotics of the Military in Hawai’i

This is a brilliant, funny book. Cynthia Weber combines psychoanalytic theory, cultural studies, and feminism to offer a fine reading of U.S. Caribbean policy. Weber’s readings of policy documents, speeches, and hearings demonstrate the cultural anxieties and imperatives that shape foreign policy, as well as the variety of forms of their management. Faking It shows us just how much fun international relations can be when its scholars remove their own phallic armor.

Shane Phelan, Director, Women's Studies Program, University of New Mexico, and author of Getting Specific: Postmodern Lesbian Politics