Here is an initial list of Discussion Questions for tomorrow’s class:
What is Perez’s principal argument in Cuba in the American Imagination?
What kinds of evidence does he use to support this argument?
Does Perez’s extensive background in Cuban-American relations give more authority to his argument?
With respect to Hoganson’s argument that war was used to reaffirm national manhood and its limited time frame, Perez’s metaphorical contention has seemingly persisted throughout the 20th Century? Does this give his argument more credibility? Does the fact that Perez cites Hoganson and the manhood metaphor (p. 83-85) give more credibility to her argument?
To Perez, what was the purpose of metaphor?
On Page 19, Perez contends, “To understand the ways that Americans engaged the Cuba of their imagination is thus to obtain insight into the moral dimension of power, as both a model for conduct and a mode of knowledge.” What does he mean by this? Why was the use of metaphor necessary to achieve these ends?
What are the most prominent examples of metaphors employed by the American policymakers in regards to Cuba? (pre-1898, post-1898, post-1959) – how and why did these metaphors change?
If Americans learned about Cuba from their imagination, who or what was responsible for the creation of this image?
- Pérez makes a distinction between self-deluded ordinary Americans and the policymakers who recognized America’s self-interest. Sometimes he suggests that the leaders, too, were co-opted by the metaphors. If this is true, who, then, promoted the original images of Cuba as helpless and in need of American tutelage?
From a metaphorical standpoint, was the acquisition of Cuba a continuation of American manifest destiny? If so, how?
- how did the “closing of the frontier,” in Frederick Jackson Turner’s words factor into metaphor creation and the Americans’ military involvement in Cuba?
How did American policymakers garner public support for intervention in Cuba? Was popular sentiment a reflection of political purpose?
How did the extensive use of caricatures and editorial cartoons create new forms of knowledge with regards to Cuba? What symbols were used? What other sources of information were used to perpetuate the American narrative?
Throughout, Perez mentions that the United States was not the first or only colonial power to invoke metaphors as a means to construct knowledge and obtain power. Yet, he argues, “it was singular in the degree to which it so thoroughly obscured the distinction between selfless intent and self-purpose.” (p. 174) In your opinion, should he have given examples of how, for example, the British used similar metaphors to consolidate power around the world? Would this have strengthened his claim to the singularity of the US imperial project?
What role did the Teller Amendment/Platt Amendment play in eliminating Cuban agency following the Spanish-American War?
The success of the American narrative of 1898 was predicated on the Cubans ingratiating themselves to their American benefactors. How did this one-sided version of events lead to an eventual resurgence of Cuban agency preceding the Cuban Revolution?
By 1949, a new generation of Cuban revisionist historians began producing a competing narrative of 1898 and its lasting impact. How did this new self-conscious historicism pave the way for the Cuban Revolution?
How did the emergence and the defiance of Fidel Castro challenge the American hegemony in Latin America and the overall American imperial project? How did American policymakers alter their Cuban metaphors to combat this challenge?
How has Cuba in the American Imagination impacted your views of American Foreign Policy towards Cuba? Latin America? Have your opinions of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution changed as a result of reading this book?
Anything that I missed? Please bring questions or comments to class.