This article introduces the house of mirrors as an analytical device with the aim of cracking open binary comparative work. It offers close readings of debates regarding US colonialism among Puerto Rican intellectuals and politicians at two distinct historical moments. These are the 1910s, prompted specifically by the 1912 War in Cuba, and the early Cold War, the 1950s and 1960s moment of intentionally modeling Puerto Rico as the “Showcase of the Americas.” In changing the focus to examine the play of images intrinsic to the house of mirrors, this meditation seeks to avoid reproducing the single and contained national gaze that often frames comparative narratives, even when they acknowledge the overlapping geographic, sociocultural, and political circuits shaping historical subjects. Instead, the house of mirrors reveals the operational mechanisms of the national modern gaze historical actors often employed to organize their experiences, project themselves onto others, and advance their political desires.
The Caribbean House of Mirrors: Constructing Regions in Area Studies
Ileana M. Rodríguez-Silva holds a Giovanni and Amne Costigan Professorship in History at the University of Washington – Seattle, where she is an associate professor and teaches about race-making, labor, colonialisms, and national formation in Latin American and Caribbean History. She is the author of the award-winning book Silencing Race: Disentangling Blackness, Colonialisms, and National Identity in Puerto Rico (2012). Rodríguez-Silva has published articles in the Hispanic American Historical Review, Modern American History, and NACLA.
Ileana M. Rodríguez-Silva; The Caribbean House of Mirrors: Constructing Regions in Area Studies. positions 1 February 2021; 29 (1): 93–119. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-8722797
Download citation file: