Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos / Edition 1

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For more than two hundred years, Americans have imagined and described Cuba and its relationship to the United States by conjuring up a variety of striking images—Cuba as a woman, a neighbor, a ripe fruit, a child learning to ride a bicycle. Louis A. Perez Jr. offers a revealing history of these metaphorical and depictive motifs and discovers the powerful motives behind such characterizations of the island as they have persisted and changed since the early nineteenth century. Drawing on texts and visual images produced by Americans ranging from government officials, policy makers, and journalists to travelers, tourists, poets, and lyricists, Perez argues that these charged and coded images of persuasion and mediation were in service to America's imperial impulses over Cuba.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A quietly ferocious critique of US foreign policy as seen through the lens of Cuban-US relations.—Virginia Quarterly Review

[An] excellent and highly recommended study. . . . One of the most important contributions to the debate about US-Cuban relations. . . . Should be required reading for policymakers, Latin Americanists, and Cuban exiles everywhere.—Latin American Review of Books

Adds to Perez's already impressive body of writing on U.S.-Cuban relations. Those new to his work will be in awe of his deep knowledge of the topic and subtle command of the material. We longtime admirers meanwhile will be reminded why he stands as a doyen of the field.—Journal of American History

Perez breaks important new ground by exploring the singular influence of metaphor —linguistic constructions that located US-Cuban relations within the norms of everyday life in US domestic culture. . . . Perez's approach is interdisciplinary and erudite.—Dennis Merrill, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

[This] book needs to be read not only by scholars of U.S.-Cuban relations, but by anyone interested in the self-constructions of the United States.—New West Indian Guide

An indispensable study of U.S. policy towards Cuba. . . . A necessary preface for all other analyses of the subject.—Diplomatic History Review

Challenging, insightful, and comprehensive. . . . Perez is arguably the most original and competent scholar of Cuban history in the United States. His book has the potential to be an epoch-changing work.—Thomas Schoonover, H-Diplo Roundtable Reviews

Perez draws on politicians' speeches, newspaper editorials and comic strips published over the century and a half before the revolution to show that Cubans were consistently represented not as agents of their own destiny but as innocent victims.—London Review of Books

Both the author and the University of North Carolina Press are to be commended for their publication. This is, in short, a text that will be of great interest to students of American expansionism specifically and to students of empire generally. For scholars of Cuban history, it is a must read.—American Historical Review

Quoting both U.S. political leaders and the popular press [and] reproducing many period cartoons, Perez demonstrates that the Cuba that took shape in the American imagination beginning in the early nineteenth century was constructed around metaphors of proximity, neighborhood, and racialism.—Latin American Research Review

A worthy addition to the award-winning oeuvre of Perez. . . . Will attract a broad readership of those interested in foreign policy, American studies, and Latin American Studies.—Clio

This is exactly the kind of book policymakers and the chattering classes ought to be reading—something beyond the ignorant regurgitations of past thinking.—Our Man in Boston

[A] brilliant and intellectually challenging analysis of the metaphors that have shaped and informed the American view of Cuba over the last 200 years. . . . An essential book for those seriously interested in a deep understanding of Cuba-U.S. relations.—

The writing is elegant and free of jargon. . . . Anyone interested in self-justifying narratives of empire and especially the place of metaphor in shaping those narratives, should read this seminal contribution to inter-American cultural history. —The Americas

Instructive on imperial-colonial relationships as well as connections between the past and the present. Instructors at all levels will appreciate the breadth of editorial cartoons that Perez provides. . . . One cannot read this work without being aware of the eerie parallels between the American-Cuban experience and that of America's recent role in the war in Iraq; this alone will make Perez's work of interest to many historians today.—Canadian Journal of History

Impressive collection of visual material.—American Literary History

A pivotal book, one making an important tie between social psychology and historical scholarship. . . . Well written and organized. . . . Not only a Latin Americanist but any historical scholar would benefit greatly in reading this book.—Fides et Historia

Brilliant. . . . Perez's study—the latest in a series of perceptive books on US-Cuba relations by this prolific historian—illustrate[s] how an avid US self-interest was transformed into selfless moral enactment.—The Nation

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807872109
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2011
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 864,090
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Louis A. Perez Jr. is J. Carlyle Sitterson Professor of History and director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the author of many award-winning books, including On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture and To Die in Cuba: Suicide and Society (both from the University of North Carolina Press).

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Table of Contents


Introduction: The Idea of Cuba
Chapter 1. Metaphor between Motive and Meaning
Chapter 2. Imagining Self-Interest
Chapter 3. Metaphor as Paradigm
Chapter 4. On Gratitude as Moral Currency of Empire
Chapter 5. Shifting Metaphors, Changing Meanings: Representing Revolution
Chapter 6. Through the Prism of Metaphor: Accommodation to Empire

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