Body Parts of Empire is a study of abjection in American visual culture and popular literature from the Philippine-American War (1899–1902). During this period, the American national territory expanded beyond its continental borders to islands in the Pacific and the Caribbean. Simultaneously, new technologies of vision emerged for imagining the human body, including the moving camera, stereoscopes, and more efficient print technologies for mass media.
Rather than focusing on canonical American authors who wrote at the time of U.S. imperialism, this book examines abject texts—images of naked savages, corpses, clothed native elites, and uniformed American soldiers—as well as bodies of writing that document the goodwill and violence of American expansion in the Philippine colony. Contributing to the fields of American studies, Asian American studies, and gender studies, the book analyzes the actual archive of the Philippine-American War and how the racialization and sexualization of the Filipino colonial native have always been part of the cultures of America and U.S. imperialism. By focusing on the Filipino native as an abject body of the American imperial imaginary, this study offers a historical materialist optic for reading the cultures of Filipino America.
"Eloquently written and assiduously researched, Body Parts of Empire
significantly remaps the course of U.S. Empire in its sophisticated attention on the violent iconography of twentieth-century militarized conquest. At stake in Balce’s important book is an urgent call to re-see America’s multi-decade occupation of the Philippines via its disastrous actualities and catastrophic aftermaths. Capacious and nuanced, Body Parts of Empire
is a remarkable work."
--Cathy J. Schlund-Vials, Director, Asian and Asian American Studies Institute and Professor of English at the University of Connecticut
"By brilliantly dissecting the anatomy of an imperial archive with a scrupulous analytical eye and an elegant hand, Nerissa Balce offers a compelling set of critical ideas about the travails and trials of Philippine-U.S. relations in ways that trouble long-held historical interpretations and track new possibilities for apprehending the ruins of a postcolony. Body Parts of Empire
brings together the methods and theories of visual studies, postcolonial studies, and cultural studies to produce a stunning intellectual foray into America's final frontier in Asia."
--Martin F. Manalansan IV, Head, Department of Asian American Studies, University of Illinois
"Nearly a quarter-century after the publication of Mary Pratt’s Imperial Eyes
, Nerissa Balce disrupts and transforms the power/knowledge of the field of postcolonial studies. How? By achieving nothing less than the disruption and transformation of the power/knowledge of the field of vision itself."
--Sarita See, University of California Riverside
“Balce has given us a valuable addition to a growing body of scholarship on the entwined histories of the Philippines and the United States. This is a gracefully-written study that pulls in a wide range of scholarly texts while simultaneously shining new light on both well-known and long-forgotten archives.”
—Mark Rice, author of Dean Worcester’s Fantasy Islands