Laura Briggs' Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico

Laura Briggs' Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico

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Laura Briggs' Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico


In Reproducing Empire, Laura Briggs provides her readers with a very thorough history of the mainland U.S. and Puerto Rican discourses and its authors surrounding Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, from Puerto Rico's formation in the mainland elite's "mind" as a model U.S. (not) colony in 1898* to its present status as semi-autonomous U.S.
territory. Briggs opens her book by discussing the origins of globalization in U.S. and western European colonialism, and closes with a review of her methods, in which she calls for a new focus on subaltern studies, including a (re)focus on the authors of information (who she claims as the subjects of this book) as a lens through which to circumvent the "neglect and obsessive interest…in the service of the imperial project in Puerto Rico" (207). Briggs identifies herself in her epilogue- "I am a US. Anglo whose ties to the island are only love and a relentless sense that that just as the history of the island is inescapably tied to the mainland, so the mainland's history is reciprocally tied to the island" (206). Briggs notes that there is an active history of dissociation of Puerto Rico as part of the U.S., and that to speak only of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico as true Puerto Ricans, or to construct Puerto Rico as economically unconnected to the U.S. is a misconception, which has been historically employed to blame Puerto Rico for the U.S.' subordination of it.

Briggs' records Puerto Rico's history as a "model," "testing site," or "laboratory' for U.S. colonial rule, centering on the ways in which this has functioned in relation to or through (control of) Puerto Rican working class women an...


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... note that island organizations that supported birth control for other reasons often utilized funding from these larger foundations.

*****While Briggs condemns the stance of most radical to conservative mainland organizations in terms of the sterilization/anti-sterilization debate, she notes at length the ways in which a variety of Puerto Rican activists, such as the Young Lords, circumvented the racist culture of poverty arguments and the dominant tendency to deny agency to their subjects in their political activism outside of this debate. Her judgments on the subject of engagement with a culture of poverty argument are complex, as are the usefulness of deciding what activism is better from her perspective as an academic outsider. I will return to this in terms of the potential usefulness of the intersections between internal and (external?) colonial theory.

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