Following the Money:
Asian American Literature and the
Preface to United States Imperialism


Victor Bascara

University of Georgia

Copyright © 2000 by Victor Bascara, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

    The Winkies were not a brave people, but they had to do as they were told.

    L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 91.

  1. This article argues that recuperation is a fundamental characteristic of Asian American literature and culture. Asian American culture, as such, provides what Lisa Lowe calls "countersites to U.S. national memory and national culture" (4) by referencing the emergent discourse of U.S. imperialism in its struggle to gain currency in the turn-of-the-century era. The long-forgotten terms of that struggle find oblique expression in the cultural production of Asian Americans as well as in the ways in which culture produces Asian Americans. Interpretation of Asian American texts reveals the intersection of histories that U.S. national culture has willfully disremembered and those that Asian Americans cannot forget. That intersection marks moments of recuperation in Asian American literature.

  2. This essay traces one such recuperation in the awkward historical transition that defined the early imperial period at the turn-of-the-century: the shift from the question of monetary reform to the question of empire. In seeing the oddness of the connection between these historically contiguous political debates we can see how Asian American literature emerges to recuperate the emergence of United States imperialism. Towards this end, recontextualized interpretations of key speeches and writings by seminal figures of that era, such as McKinley, Bryan, William Hope Harvey, and L. Frank Baum, codified the now-obscured discourse that marked the transition from monetary reform to empire. As with so many political debates before and since, this one proved predictably ephemeral. Interest in both monetary reform and empire quickly waxed and waned, presumably as matters resolved by and for national culture. The rest, as they say, is history.

  3. Yet Asian American literature, with its history closely bound to the early imperial period, allows us to recuperate the curious emergence of American imperialism as well as, necessarily, the unique form that imperialism was to take: an empire-free imperialism. That is, U.S. imperialism incorporated and disciplined colonial subjects to an empire without territory, the new empire for the new modernity composed of imminently palatable expanded markets and republican ideals. With a new understanding of the meaning of American empire under the conditions of its emergence, we can see how Asian American literature draws the strategically forgotten specificities of the emergence of U.S. imperialism into visibility again.

  4. On November 21, 1899, President William McKinley explained what was to be done "about the Philippine business" by famously rehearsing four options to a delegation of Methodist clergymen who were visiting the White House:
    (1) that we could not give them back to Spain -- that would be cowardly and dishonorable; (2) that we could not turn them over to France or Germany -- our commercial rivals in the Orient -- that would be bad business and discreditable; (3) that we could not leave them to themselves - they were unfit for self-government -- and they would soon have anarchy and misrule over there worse than Spain's was; and (4) that there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died.
    McKinley delivered this speech in 1899 but it was posthumously published in The Christian Advocate in 1903, just as the Philippine Insurrection had become virtually pacified. His narrative of divinely-sanctioned choice has since become the customary point of access for understanding the rationale of United States imperialism in the Philippines.[1] His remarks offers a concise account of the ideals for which U.S. imperialism stood; it is courageous, honorable, good business, creditable, orderly, uplifting, civilizing, and Christian. While the speech had an immediate audience of Methodist clergymen, these remarks would have found wide acceptance in late nineteenth-century America as history has clearly demonstrated that the impulse to colonize eventually won out over the forces arrayed against it, both foreign and domestic.[2]

  5. The arc of McKinley's narrative animates the rationale that U.S. imperialism quickly took: inevitability. By offering an interweaving of providence -- the Philippines as "a gift from the gods" -- with a reasoned elimination of counter arguments followed by the unavoidable course of action, McKinley's speech leads us to appreciate the inevitability of U.S. imperialism at that precise historical moment. In particular, the phrase, "there was nothing left for us to do," conveniently removes human agency from policy decisions and instead invokes nature, even progress.

  6. Yet his narrative also emphasizes the accidental beginnings of America's imperial venture: "The truth is I didn't want the Philippines, and when they came to us, as a gift from the gods, I did not know what to do with them." But instead of using this randomness as a counter argument in need of refutation, his speech takes us from indecision and reluctance to certainty and duty. With victory over the uncivilized and heathen Filipinos as well as over the cowardly, dishonorable, discreditable, anarchic anti-imperialists virtually assured, McKinley could point with confidence to the inability of the anti-imperialists to mount a successful challenge to the unstoppable course of empire as the justification of empire. Incorporation of the Philippines and assimilation of the Filipinos into the United States was merely the natural fulfillment of that which destiny had preordained, not unlike influential social Darwinist and laissez faire determinisms of the day.[3] Conceptions of American empire emerge from this ironic and harmonic convergence of serendipity and inevitability.

  7. McKinley's oration of destiny and determinism also resonates with the literary movement that was in its heyday at the turn of the century: American literary naturalism.[4] As with the typical protagonist of many a naturalist text, America confronts the primitive, an external other that has suddenly and providentially been made the primitive within. The relationship between naturalism and colonial modernity emerges in the political and economic subject matter of McKinley's remarks. By situating the spread of American civilization as the unavoidable telos of the "Philippine business," his narrative of the U.S.'s imperial destiny in the Philippines provides an account of the inevitability that was characteristic of the drive toward modernization while simultaneously codifying the dominion over the primitive impulses emblematic of much naturalist literature, except this time nature is harnessed in the service of capitalist expansion.[5]

  8. That imperial destiny has become our material history. Almost a century after the emergence of formal U.S. colonialism in Asia, McKinley's remarks made at the threshold of empire have become a yardstick against which to assess the uplift and Christianization of these newest Americans. The 1890s witnessed the inauguration of a new American subject: that of the colonized immigrant.[6] Yet these new Americans did not need to migrate to the United States because the United States had migrated to them. The figure of the colonized immigrant presents a critical test of the terms and conditions by which the U.S. nation assimilates peripheral subjects who reside beyond the pale of the tired, poor, and huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Instead of opening its doors to immigrants, America, like a zealous missionary of markets and republicanism, came to the homes of these people with the ironic project of colonizing them into freedom.[7]

  9. This irony is not lost in contemporary accounts of American imperialism. Asian American literature provides a reintroduction to McKinley's 1899 speech in Filipino American writer Jessica Hagedorn's 1990 National Book Award-nominated novel Dogeaters, a pastiche novel of the putatively postcolonial Philippines. The juxtaposition of Hagedorn's representations of the violence and exploitation of U.S. colonialism with McKinley's idealized vision of American influence makes manifest the profound failures not only of imperialism but also of anti-imperialism. By suturing McKinley's remarks amidst stories of Manileños, ranging socially from the reclusive President to mestiza callboys and temporally from the 1950s to the 1980s, as well as among disparate sources such as newspaper clippings, radio serials, and nineteenth-century anthropology, Hagedorn can simultaneously monumentalize and contextualize the 1899 speech. Hagedorn takes the novel form and its project of subject formation to its limit. As Lisa Lowe has shown, the postcolonial novel, instead of providing us with a traditional narrative of the development of a fully formed individual, necessarily critiques the values and expectations upon which American national, and therefore American colonizing, literature has been built.[8]

  10. Having just eclipsed the centennial of formal U.S. involvement in the Philippines, Hagedorn premiered the stage version of Dogeaters. Transferring and thereby transforming the formal innovations of her novel to the stage, her play functions, as does any adaptation, as an inevitable reading of its source material. One of the challenges posed to dramatizing a fragmentary and polyvocal text such as Dogeaters is determining not simply how to orchestrate the tangled plotlines, but also how to situate the citation and recitation of the various source documents. That duty went to the novel's central character, the quasi-autobiographical Rio Gonzaga, who becomes the main speaker of a number of the excerpted texts in the novel: particularly The Philippines, Jean Mallat's dubious ethnography from 1848,[9] and McKinley's "Remarks to the Methodist Delegation." The play opens with the preadolescent Rio (ably played by Korean-American actress Sandra Oh) standing on her bed in her pajamas reading aloud in an affectedly authoritative voice from Mallat's book while she wears a Native American headdress. In the background the other characters of the novel/play stand on a scaffold contributing wry commentary.

  11. Midway through the play we see Rio again standing on her bed in her pajamas wearing now a coonskin cap. In Rio's scene, it is 1959 and she is reciting McKinley's speech to her cousin Pucha. On the scaffold in the background it is 1981 and we see Joey Sands, the orphaned hustler son of a Filipina prostitute and an African American G.I., with the filmmaker Rainer Fassbinder. In one of the play's many metatheatrical moments, Joey has taken Fassbinder to see a live sex act show in Olongapo City, a city that emerged primarily as a satellite community for U.S. military's Subic Bay Naval Station.[10] On the scaffold, a Filipina and a Filipino undress in the background as Fassbinder watches the couple and Joey watches Rainer.

  12. Meanwhile in the foreground Rio has been performing McKinley, triumphantly reciting the "Address to the Methodist Delegation." When she reaches the part of the speech where McKinley enumerates the four options for U.S. involvement in the Philippines, the sex workers on the scaffold, in synchronization with her speech, assume four different sexual positions. Rio reads the first three options in the feigned McKinley voice that she had been using for the first part of the speech. But when she reaches the fourth option -- the one McKinley chose -- her speech falters. She hesitantly continues to read but by now she is loudly weeping. She struggles to maintain her composure as she reads the following line: "there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and . . . " At this point she nearly chokes on her words but barely manages to continue, ". . . uplift and civilize and Christianize them, and by God's grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow-men for whom Christ also died." She then collapses onto her bed sobbing uncontrollably. On the scaffold, the sex workers have just finished their performance and the male performer politely says to Fassbinder, "Would you like us to do it again, boss?"[11]

  13. While in the novel Dogeaters we get a by-now straightforward juxtaposition of narratives à la postmodernism,[12] the play can put on display for us a very different situation: the failure of the colonized to embody that which the colonizer claimed she could become. Rio, who later grows up to be a writer in the U.S., in her near inability to recite the words of McKinley, performs the failure of the colonized to become American.[13] Colonization itself is the adaptation of modern American culture to another medium: the bodies of the colonized. Rio cannot embody "American" in the way that American imperial culture sought to represent the process and possibility of that becoming (see Rafael and Bhabha). The profound contradiction between the discursive ideal and the material reality becomes undeniable and the result is Asian American culture.[14] In Hagedorn's Asian American culture text we see a critical undoing of the comfort produced in McKinley's naturalistic narration of the serendipitous inevitability of the empire. The contradiction between Rio's Cold War adolescent neocolonial reality on one hand and McKinley's turn-of-the-century vision of the blessings of American intervention on the other is too much for her to bear. Her 1959 choking on McKinley's 1899 oration while above her a manifestation of 80 years of U.S. military presence in the Philippines hovers in the background in a 1998 Asian American play sets up a vivid palimpsest of history for us to appreciate today.

  14. One particular layer of that palimpsest, the 1890s, emerges not so much as a point of origin from which to narrate a linear chronology, but rather as a historically important though neglected arena of struggle that holds profound significance, not only for Asian American literature but also for American culture and history as a whole. The 1890s is both a manifestation of U.S. development as well as a time of crucial cultural, political, and economic transitions that made the world what it is today. McKinley is but one of the key figures who was made by that era and made that era what it was. His strategic reemergence in Hagedorn is the strategic reemergence and recuperation of the era as a whole. From the 1890s we can map a genealogy of American imperial culture by charting those transitions and recuperating the possibilities that got lost as one regime defeated another in the contest for representing the meaning of modern American civilization and its valorized desire to gain the world.[15]

  15. Grappling with the meaning of U.S. imperialism means renarrating the pivotal turn-of-the-century era. While there was precious little Asian American literature to speak of, this period's significance for Asian American literature as it is the era of the emergence of formal U.S. imperialism.[16] What preoccupations had to give way in order for empire to become, however fleetingly, the dominant topic of public debate? The strategically forgotten question of monetary reform was the leading issue displaced by thoughts of empire. In the tenuous transition from the money question to the empire question we can see the specificities of how American culture sought to explain its imperial project and how Asian American literature emerges generations later to contradict that project's claims. By reexamining popular and Populist articulations of the era, such as the speeches of William Jennings Bryan, William Hope Harvey's influential Free Silver tracts, and L. Frank Baum's parable of the money question, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), we can map the discourse used to discuss monetary reform and empire in the same breath. Asian American literature resuscitates that discourse for a unique critique of United States imperialism, not by explicitly voicing this transition but rather by carrying the traces of this transition's disappearance, a reminder of why some things had to be forgotten.

  16. The late nineteenth-century emergence of U.S. empire placed new challenges to the institutions of American politics, economics, and culture. The political sphere had to reconcile empire with conceptions of republicanism and democracy, and the economic sphere had to reconcile empire and the free market. The cultural sphere however has a different burden, namely that of managing the myriad contradictions that the other spheres fail to resolve. Does citizenship mean the same thing to a descendant of colonial plantation laborers as it does to a descendant of the plantation owner? American culture needs us to respond in the affirmative. The absence, until relatively recently, of empire in the study of American culture is testimony to the power of the cultural sphere at providing narratives for the development and expansion of the United States that willfully eschew empire. In order to understand United States empire, new conceptions of both empire and the United States have to displace the explanations of American civilization that have become hegemonic.

  17. When a text succeeds in outliving the era that produced it, it becomes a fertile site for discerning the overlap of enduring hegemony and ephemeral marginality. That is, the historicity of a putatively timeless text emerges an opportunity for recuperating forgotten histories.

  18. As the nineteenth century came to a close and the twentieth century began, one of the most beloved classics of American literature was published, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. Immediately and immensely popular four decades before the globally influential 1939 Victor Fleming film starring Judy Garland, Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is very much a document of the late nineteenth century, providing access to issues specific to that pivotal era of American history. Historians and literary critics have argued for the allegorical meanings of Baum's narrative, that is, as an allegory for late nineteenth-century politics.[17] For any fantastical narrative to be intelligible, it must necessarily resonate with the social and cultural conditions out of which it emerged and in which it is consumed. While scholars have been wary of overly neat parallels between specific histories and analogues in the text, they have endeavored to show how lost meanings in the text parallel lost meanings in history. Toward that end they argue that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz functions as a parable of the 1890s monetary debate, with sympathies leaning toward the losing side that advocated bimetallism over the gold standard.

  19. To decipher the ways in which this fantasy about Dorothy Gale's odyssey from Kansas to Oz and back again is a roman à clef of 1890s American politics, the long since forgotten and defunct components of the question of monetary reform need to be remembered and reanimated. Financial issues had dominated national politics in the United States since the Civil War, and the 1890s saw a particularly heightened contestation over these issues.[18] With the election of William McKinley and the defeat of William Jennings Bryan in 1896, the highly contested question of monetary reform was fast on the road to resolution: the financially conservative gold standard bearers trounced the antimonopolist bimetallic and silver advocates on the populist side.

  20. Historians have offered a variety of keys to Baum's referentially opaque text. Gretchen Ritter, in her recent history of the money question, Goldbugs and Greenbacks: The Antimonopoly Tradition and the Politics of Finance in America, includes a provocative appendix decoding Baum's story for its allegorical meanings (288-90).[19] For instance, Oz is the abbreviation for ounce, the common measure of precious metals, still bearing intrinsic value before they are monetized through minting. Dorothy is the American everyperson. The Scarecrow represents farmers who no longer trust their own common sense. The Tin Woodman is the worker mechanized into heartlessness. The Cowardly Lion depicts Bryan with all his ineffectual bluster. The Wizard is William McKinley, the American President himself, aloof and ruling through intimidation and illusion. The Wicked Witch of the East represents Eastern industrial capitalism, while the Wicked Witch of the West stands for Western capitalist interests, especially mining. The Good Witches of the North and South typify the good people of the agrarian northern Midwest and Southeast. The Yellow Brick Road is a path of gold leading to the Emerald City, our nation's capital. And, importantly, that golden road is trod upon by Dorothy in silver slippers, a metaphor for bimetallism.[20]

  21. As a representation of the American political landscape, Baum's story rightly includes racialized populations. The Winged Monkeys are Native Americans. Ritter argues that the Winkies, the yellow people enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the West, reference Asian immigrants who came eastward to the U.S. west as miners and railroad workers beginning in the middle of the 1800s. Economist Hugh Rockoff disagrees. Rockoff argues that, if the parable is to operate properly, the Winkies are Filipinos, recently colonized by the U.S (751). Chinese laborers were not beloved by either of the main political parties. Organized labor's anti-immigrant sentiment was but a part of a general anti-Asian racism prevalent especially in the American West.[21] Bryan, the figure under whom populist and mainstream democrats unified, was outspokenly anti-imperialist. For Baum's allegory to function consistently as sympathetic to both populism and free silver, the Winkies could not be Chinese and therefore had to be Filipino. (An analogue for African Americans is conspicuously absent, however.)

  22. Yet in a narrative of the money question, why did Filipinos enter the field of representation at all? To begin to address this question we need to trace the emergence of the money question and its displacement by the empire question in American political culture. More than any other era before or since, financial questions dominated national electoral politics. Built on the questionable "quantity theory of money,"[22] the issue of what basis of coinage the U.S. monetary supply would adopt dominated debates and defined constituencies.[23] The quantity theory of money simplistically imagined that in an economy the amount of money in existence was the leading variable in determining prices and wages. To the less wealthy, more money meant generally more wealth to go around. To the propertied, more money meant a devaluation of their assets, including debts owed them.

  23. Bryan sought to link the money question and the empire question, and in doing so to link the American people to anti-imperialism. Seven years after his constituency-galvanizing "Cross of Gold" speech at the 1892 Democratic National Convention, Bryan sought again to unite a movement with his orations. At a Jackson Day speech in Chicago in January of 1899, he made the following argument that was indicative of how he tried to sell this link to his constituency:
    The democratic party stood for the money of the Constitution in 1896; it stands for the government of the Constitution now.

    It opposed an English financial policy in 1896; it opposes an English colonial policy now. Those who in 1896 were in favor of turning the American people over to the greed of foreign financiers and domestic trusts may now be willing to turn the Filipinos over to the tender mercies of military governors and carpet-bag officials.

    Those who in 1896 thought the people of the United States too weak to attend to their own business may now think them strong enough to attend to the business of remote and alien races; but those who, in 1896, fought for independence for the American people will not now withhold independence from those who desire it elsewhere.

    We are told that the Filipinos are not capable of self-government; that has a familiar ring. Only two years ago I heard the same argument made against a very respectable minority of the people in this country. The money loaners, who coerced borrowers, did it upon that theory; the employers who coerced their employees did it for the same reason (Bryan on Imperialism12-13).[24]

    Seeking to make intelligible his anti-imperialist position, Bryan makes the empire question not simply an analogous formation to the money question but rather a directly related one through the various "familiar ring[s]" he emphasizes between the question of empire and the question of monetary reform. He begins with an account of how both empire and the gold standard are seen as unconstitutional and anti-republican.[25] To rouse the American nativist and anti-European sentiments of his populist constituency, Bryan likens the Republican party to a de facto aristocracy and monarchy, not unlike decadent England. And Bryan struggles to make his audience identify with the colonized Filipinos[26]; just as the government had acted against your wishes in 1896, so it is acting against the wishes of the Filipinos. Despite being in Chicago, the so-called New York of the West, Bryan can play to sectionalist tendencies by resurrecting the villains of Reconstruction, the military governors and carpetbaggers,[27] to make an oblique parallel between the devastated post-Civil War South and the post-Spanish Philippines. Yet he also warns the American people that they may not want to take up the white man's burden of absorbing and "attending to the business of remote and alien races."[28] Like McKinley, "business" is the term used to describe the course of action to take regarding the Philippines.

  24. Bryan transformed the persistent question of Filipino fitness for self-government into a question of the fitness of the American people to maintain a democracy. Whether the American public was ready to make such identifications and to hear the "familiar ring" Bryan tried to make audible is dubious. Americans may not have been willing to grant the same degree of autonomy that they valued for themselves to Filipinos, to yellow Winkies. (The question of whether Filipinos sought to identify with Americans, however, hardly came up in U.S. colonial discourse as it was fundamentally presumed.)

  25. Not surprisingly this transition proved to be a hard sell, especially as the depression of the early 1890s finally gave way to economic expansion.[29] Bryan in his "third battle" was again trounced by McKinley in the 1900 election, and subsequently, the U.S. officially adopted a gold standard[30] and officially became an imperial power not unlike the "decadent" nations of Europe such as England and France. Another factor that made this shift so difficult was that an already shaky constituency, the ambivalently pro-silver Democratic party, was even more difficult to mobilize around an issue that did not seem to effect their daily lives: the seemingly extravagant question of empire. With his prominent position in party politics and his oratorical prowess, Bryan is the central figure for mapping the abortive transition from money to empire. To one lost cause was added another.[31] And history has shown that in a few decades, the debatability of these two issues, individually and collectively, perished from the earth. The transitional discourse between these two issues sought to explain what was at stake in becoming an empire to the laymen [sic] who needed the translation as a kind of imperialism for beginners.

  26. Bryan was of course not alone in his efforts to make this transition intelligible to the masses. William Hope Harvey, author of the million-selling (see Hofstadter, "Introduction" 5) free silver tract, Coin's Financial School (1894), also tried to pass the populist torch from free silver to anti-imperialism with Coin on Money, Trusts, and Imperialism (1899), his sequel to Coin's Financial School. Filled with provocative illustrations of such figures as anthropomorphized coins, Coin's Financial School consists of six "lessons" by "Coin," a ten-year-old economics prodigy who explains the key issues of the monetary debate to an audience of both boys and men. Like Harvey himself, Coin is based in Chicago, a hotbed of Democratic and Populist activity. Some of the audience members are prominent Goldbugs who Harvey sets up as straw dogs for Coin to knock over. By then end of the sixth day, Coin has won over the reluctant members of his audience, especially boys, the frightening target of much reform literature of this period.[32] As a critique of imperialism pitched to free silver advocates, Coin's 1899 text is a study in failure, the failure to make an already opaque and virtually lost issue, the money question, a persuasive narrative for the critique of empire.

  27. Coin's 1894 book had been wildly successful. It became the bible of the populist Free Silver cause, and therefore the object of much critique and ridicule by Goldbugs.[33] The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a part of this tradition of discourse, albeit in its waning moment. Coin's (and Baum's for that matter) use of a child to educate the putatively ignorant masses, who, like Baum's Scarecrow, had lost their ability to trust their own intelligence in a world far too complicated for them, presented an appealing image to the common folk. Populist in its pedagogy as well as its political platform, the book assured its readers that the complex economic matters of the day were utterly graspable by the lay person. Coin, in 1899, narrates the political ethos of the defeated people in the early 1890s: "Many of them regarded the money question as beyond their comprehension. So they looked in other directions as to how they could better themselves (Harvey [1899] 111). Even further, Coin's lectures show that those who purport to be experts are misguided and misguiding. Coin explained that poverty was not necessarily a natural defect of the impoverished, but rather a defect of national financial policy.

  28. For the sequel, Harvey has the "young financier and statesman" return to the site of his former lecturing triumphs. This follow-up text uses the same format as the first. The main arguments of Coin's Financial School take up the first four chapters of the sequel, in a recap of his arguments concerning the nature of money and the subsequent need for monetary reform through bimetallism. Coin devotes the sixth lesson to a critique of the U.S.'s recent colonization of the Philippines by making arguments quite resonant with those of Bryan. Coin pontificates on the meaning of American civilization and in the process makes little meaningful connection between his conceptualizations of money and his account of empire. Like many of the anti-imperialists of the era, Coin argues that empire is directly in opposition American political ideals without making an explicit link to economy.

  29. To emphasize the decline of American civilization, Coin stages a touching though hypothetical diplomatic meeting between Abraham Lincoln and Emilio Aguinaldo, leader of the Philippine nationalists. Coin asserts that Lincoln, as the Great Emancipator, would have gladly granted freedom to the Filipinos in an exchange that ironically echoes and extends the Monroe Doctrine:
    "Mr. Lincoln would have answered him, saying: 'Go to the telegraph office and cable Aguinaldo that the great Republic of the western world sends greeting to the young Republic of the Orient, and will protect it from the other nations of the world." (Harvey [1899] 148)
    Then Coin abruptly reminds us that McKinley refused to recognize the Filipino government and therefore refused to see the visiting delegation from the deposed Filipino nationalist government.[34] And then Coin refutes the main arguments against formal recognition of the Aguinaldo regime, such as the alleged "Tagal [sic]" hegemony.[35]

  30. Coin warns that we are on the verge of backsliding from republic to monarchy. He makes the case that the U.S. would now need a large professional, instead of volunteer, standing army, something he explains that only monarchies would need. He closes the chapter warning us that, in the hands of the Republicans, the U.S. appears to be, quite contrary to imperialist accounts of the meaning of modernity, in a state of decline as it stealthily slouches further from democracy and closer back toward a monarchy that seeks to emulate the decadent British.[36]

  31. These arguments against empire were quite in line with the arguments other anti-imperialists had been making.[37] But the lesson on "the fifth day," the day preceding the empire lesson, gestures towards arguing for a transition from the money question to the empire question. While Coin ultimately fails to make a satisfactory explanation of the link between these questions, his fifth lesson presents an incipient critique of what empire was coming to mean as the U.S. was innovatively beginning to practice it. Coin describes the new form of American capitalism that emerged in the late nineteenth century, what historian Alan Trachtenberg has aptly called "the age of incorporation," characterized by the contestation between labor and capital out of which capital emerged victorious.[38] The sequence in Harvey's title, money-trusts-imperialism,[39] as well as the seemingly serendipitous sequence of Coin's lessons, captured the means by which U.S. imperialism would come to assert its global management. While anti-trust legislation eventually did emerge, the global transformations of the "modern world system" were already being set up both in terms of military and political structures as well as business practices.[40]

  32. Coin's critique of trusts was couched in the pro-small-producer rhetoric that was the bread-and-butter of the Populist movement. While these critiques may have been somewhat naive, provincial, and deludedly nostalgic for an idealized past that was actually built upon slavery and genocide, the ways in which new developments in capitalism were being explained by the free silver movement shows that the new capitalism is the new imperialism. Coin speaks fondly of such dying figures as the traveling salesman, the country editor, and the small shop owner who struggle to make ends meet in the face of their respective replacements under the new mode of capitalist production: the catalog, the professional printing house, and the department store. Coin states rather bluntly: "a department store is a trust" (Harvey 132). He is aware that the justification for these trusts is efficiency, but he finds trusts to be an enterprise militating against the freedoms that the founding fathers had codified.

  33. While he may seem to be blaming an x-ray for a broken bone, he does present an analysis that links his anti-trust argument with the issue that was seen as the panacea for the era's ills: money. Money to Coin was the basis of all other trusts. Eventually all industrial and other trusts would be absorbed by the financial trust or "money power." "Money power" to Coin was an urtrust because of the growing role of finance capital in every phase of economic development that was going on in the age of robber barons and incorporation and their economies of scale.[41] Here Coin invokes the "crime of '73" that surreptitiously demonetized silver.[42] In 1873, Congress inadvertently put the country on a gold standard when it passed an act that blithely mentioned that gold would henceforth be the only acceptable standard of currency. An audience member asks "Coin" to tell him "when the first Trust was formed."
    "In 1873," replied the little teacher, "when silver was struck down as a competitor with gold. The Money Trust began forming soon after the war to control the volume and issue of money, the same as Industrial Trusts have since sought to control the products in which they deal. The Money Trust may be said to have succeeded and fastened itself upon the country in 1873" (130).
    Coin makes visible the usurious money trust as the source of the more visible industrial trusts. To illustrate, he personifies gold and silver as business competitors, with gold achieving a monopoly thereby allowing it control the products in which it deals, i.e., money. In other words, finance capital needed first to control the money supply: "The Financial Trust will own all the other Trusts," replied the little teacher. With the emergence of economies of unprecedented size, productive capital is becoming unprecedentedly dependent upon finance capital and its cultures of speculation and investment.[43]

  34. While both mainstream history and popular memory have designated such antimonopoly financial reformists as the losing side and historians have branded them well-intentioned crackpots,[44] the critique of the form that capitalism was taking at this time was quite prescient. Necessarily pitched for the layperson, Coin's sweeping assertion that the first trust was the financial trust resonates with the developments in American capitalism. One finds echoes of the "era of good feelings" in the Jacksonian antipathy of central financial structures that culminated in his refusal to renew the charter of the Bank of the United States (see Meyers, Dangerfield, and White). Coin indicts not monetary policy in general but rather one piece of legislation in particular; he locates the origin of the people's, nay humanity's woes, in a particular graspable moment: the demonized and demonetizing crime of '73. If the law had created this unnatural monster, then the law can kill it. Just as foreign financiers (usually British) had taken over the economy of the United States, now their ideology was infecting the political decisions of the state. The extravagant drive to colonize the Philippines is characterized as a further extension of this rift between the haves and have-nots.

  35. That such anti-imperialist sentiments would find political expression in financial reform should not be as surprising and odd as they may seem to us now. That monetary reform or anti-imperialism would be popularly debated issues individually is strange enough. But that they should be debated together is even more remarkable and wonder-provoking.[45] Harvey and his ilk were still trapped in the nostalgic culture of the myth of the small producer, the same myth that Frederick Jackson Turner in 1893 had so provocatively and influentially theorized in his explanation of America as a perpetual frontier society with multiple safety valves to create opportunity for the not-yet middle class (see his The Significance of the Frontier).

  36. What we can recuperate from and learn from the small producer's dissatisfaction with capitalism offers a critique of imperialism that shows the genuinely new historical formation that United States imperialism inaugurated (see Kaplan and Pearse). In the curious resonances between anticolonial colonizers of the turn-of-the-century and the anticolonial colonizeds who come after, we can generate the terms of and the subjectivities for critiques that the triumph of imperialism made nearly inaccessible. This resonance emerges as the site for Asian American critique recuperating forgotten histories and the interests such forgetting served.

  37. Not at all synonymous with the growing industrial proletariat of late nineteenth-century America, small producers are really a part of the petit bourgeoisie. Their furthest left fringe would be the liberal toleration for quasi-socialist reform that the 1930s would call fellow travelers.[46] They yearned for an older, idealized capitalism that was on the way out as "economies of scale" smothered the competition. The burden on the shoulders of corporate America was to show that incorporation marks the new and improved America that will provide where the older capitalism could not and will not. The main opposition that corporate capitalism actually had to put down was the emergent radical left proletariat. Yet, perhaps counterintuitively, the liberal populists were the easier enemy against which to mobilize because their defeat affirmed the validity of traditional party politics, even with third parties.[47]

  38. We can see this struggle between moderates being played out in Coin's specific objections to trusts and imperialism. Instead of envisioning a workers struggle, he claims that the current regime is sliding further back into history, that is, all the way back to European-style monarchy and oligarchy. In the struggle over the meaning of modernity, empire fell squarely on the side of an alarming return to feudalism. With monetary reform essentially a lost cause even before 1900, the Populist arguments that critiqued imperialism and new economic developments would have been unconvincing and not feasible to most (even a young W.E.B. DuBois[48]). Though Coin is an antimonopolist fighting financial conservatives, he is essentially a conservative critiquing the decadence of captains of industry who, instead of representing the common person's mode of production, exploit the common person through a new organization of production, namely the trust. He seeks a strong state in the face of corporate greed when in fact the already tenuous federal state had become utterly weak to regulate the new breed of "very large" corporations.[49]

  39. Capitalism was still seeking to come up with internal correctives. As the global division of labor would later keep corporate centers in the U.S. and recruit more and more industrial labor from the hard-to-organize racialized proletariat in the underdeveloped world, such critiques that linked antitrust and anti-empire would be sparse as the ills of monopolies and empires would seem to merit condemnation in their own putatively distinct arenas. As we have seen, recuperations of the neglected writings of this era show the inklings of abortive efforts to make manifest the conspiracy of capitalism and imperialism to an America that still seemed to be in a position to prevent imperialism in the name of true capitalism. The replacement for bad capitalism was, in the eyes of either side of the debate, good capitalism.[50]

  40. The history of those who were on the receiving end of this capitalist development makes evident its pitfalls. The ways in which Asians are and have been incorporated into America has historically served as the justification of American civilization. McKinley's "Remarks to the Methodist Delegation" is but one instance of this rationale. Rio Gonzaga's failure to speak those words recuperates not only that rationale, but also its undoing by Asian American subjectivities that cannot be reconciled to U.S. national culture. This failure recuperates the forgotten and unresolved histories that Asian Americans inherit and embody. The critique of empire made by Asian American culture accounts for the peculiar and innovative conditions of the emergence of American imperialism. It does so by invoking the processes through which colonized subjects fail to achieve its desired and promised form: U.S. national citizen-subjects. The final section of this essay traces the theoretical implications that turn-of-the-century economic and imperial debates have on the thematized failure of Asian Americans to be the perverse justification of American imperialism.

  41. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz usefully serves as a point of access for understanding American imperialism and the ways in which Asian American culture emerges to generate subjectivities and critiques that even sympathetic turn-of-the-century cultural formations like Baum's, Harvey's, and Bryan's could not have.

  42. But the terms of that sympathy are an important for making sense of why that sympathy vanished. Is Baum's 1900 "monetary allegory" an anti-imperialist, proletariat tract valiantly going against the grain of soon-to-be dominant ideologies? Or is it a fantastical justification of America's benevolent imperial designs? That it has massively been read as neither reveals how resistant America's empire is to codification.

  43. The recuperative act involved in making plausible allegorical interpretations of what is for all intents and purposes a piece of children's literature illuminates the depths to which the course of American development had been contested. More than just children's literature, the text is also a watershed instance of what may be lost when an American culture text makes the transition from popular culture to mass culture. Conventionally, cultural artifacts as historical evidence have been given the status as reflectors of reality, a point of access for apprehending some graspable reality of a specific time and place. But with the emergence of what Walter Benjamin has called "the age of mechanical reproduction," works of art, because of their wide proliferation, become more productive than reflective of their reality in unprecedented and unprecedentedly large-scale ways.[51] We can then see how Baum's 1900 text escapes the bounds of its historical moment only to be imprisoned in a new interpretive hegemony.

  44. With the advent of "the age of mechanical reproduction," the kindly benevolence of representation as a simple mirror of the world fell away to reveal that texts may not mean what we want them to mean and that they produce our consciousness as much as, if not more than, we produce texts. The concept of "discourse" in contemporary literary theory characterizes how the way we talk about something produces the very thing that purportedly preceded its being talked about. Baum's text in its status as mass and popular culture presents a new challenge as well as new possibilities to reading practices. That is, the mass understanding of the book is not necessarily identical with the popular understanding of it; "mass" and "popular" were not as synonymous in the late nineteenth century as they are today (see Huyssen). The homogenizing mass conception of the book may actually supplant the popular and localized interpretation that fell victim to the ascendance of the victors of modernity. The local is then not just a spatial coordinate but an ideological, historical, and textually interpreted one as well.[52] Textual interpretation itself then becomes the site for locating historical struggle and its imagined communities of interpretation that have been forgotten.

  45. This fundamental irony of discourse, i.e., that a way of speaking about something actually produces that thing itself, has been explored most notably by the writings of contemporary philosopher Michel Foucault. Foucault has located the Western emergence of this consciousness of the contested proliferation of meanings within a single text in the late nineteenth-century through the writings of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. For Nietzsche, Foucault argues, the point at which representation began to show its malevolence was moral categories; for Freud, symptomatology. In Marx that concept is money. Foucault writes,
    I mean that there is in the sign an ambiguous quality and a slight suspicion of ill will and "malice." Moreover, insofar as the sign is already an interpretation that is not given as such, signs are interpretations that try to justify themselves, and not the reverse.

    Thus functions money as one sees it defined in the Critique of Political Economy, and above all in the first book of Capital. Symptoms also function in the same way in the works of Freud. And in the works of Nietzsche, words, justice, the binary classification of Good and Evil, that is to say, signs, are masks. ("Marx, Nietzsche, Freud" 65-66)

    Money is not simply just an instrument of capitalism; it is also the concept that is both the site for the creation and the site for the undoing of modernity. Indeed the symbolic as well as economic significance of money is one of the main preoccupations of Marx's writings. In Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Marx writes,
    Money is 'impersonal' property. It permits me to transport on my person, in my pocket, social power and social relations in general: the substance of society. Money puts social power in material form into the hands of private persons, who exercise it as individuals. (24)
    To dissect the operations of money is to produce a deep critique of knowledge itself and the sovereign subject of knowledge.

  46. More specifically, "interpretation," and representation more generally, can be seen as participating in the three conventional functions of money: unit of measure, medium of circulation, and instrument of hoarding. And further, what we might think of as the epistemology of money is constitutive of textual representation and interpretation in general.[53] As these money controversies were raging, there was also the waxing and waning of realism and naturalism and the emergence of modernism and post-modernism. Jean-Joseph Goux has remarked on this very "coincidence":
    Was it purely by chance that the crisis of realism in the novel and in painting coincided with the end of gold money? Or that the birth of 'abstract' art coincided with the shocking invention of inconvertible monetary signs, now in general use? Can we not see in this double crisis of money and language the collapse of guarantees and frames of reference, a rupture between sign and thing, undermining representation and ushering in the age of the floating signifier? (3)
    Money goes from being a tangible material object (specie) to being just another sign (a cyber blip), perhaps even aspiring toward status as transcendental signifier. The paralleling of such troubled pairs as reality and representation, signified and signifier, and specie and note, engendered material and epistemological crises in this era that American political culture sought to resolve.[54]

  47. Such crises involved not only issues of money and economy, but further the very processes and institutions of meaning-making themselves. Foucault argues that we must question not simply the interpretation of representations, but further the interpreter himself, the positivist whipping boy of post-structuralism. The object of interpretation ceases to be a textual object mimetic of history. Instead the act and actor of interpretation is made knowable only through interpretation; interpretation then can be seen as the fundamental condition of subjectivity itself. How we situate and contextualize interpretation (i.e., the text) reinvokes historical meanings, even ones that had been relegated to history's proverbial trash heap. Emerging at what I argue is the waning of one historical bloc and the waxing of the newly dominant paradigm, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and its lost meanings map for us not just the concerns of an era, but their virtual and perhaps necessary disappearance.

  48. Money for the Populists in the 1890s specifically takes on these characteristics found in Foucault's rendering of Marx. A talisman that could be invested with extravagant meanings, money was the object of choice around which the Populists mobilized and onto which they pinned their hopes: the demonetization of silver was evidence of "a vast conspiracy against humanity."[55] Beyond the immediate stress and strain of the 1890s we can see how these contestations reverberate through our history as twentieth-century globalized American corporate capitalism is now the order of the day. Reading for these traces in Asian American literature shows us the chickens coming home to roost, that, in the popular slogan of postcolonial immigrants, "we are here because you were there" (see Mercer 7). The era of the 1890s leaves indelible but obscured traces on future generations of the incorporated.

  49. For Asian American culture, these histories also show the points at which contradictions can be exacerbated by populations that have been systematically and structurally marginalized. These systems and structures of marginalization are more commonly referred to as race, class, and gender. Each of these vectors of social organization serve the practice of capitalism in ways that an analysis of the shift from the money question to the empire question make evident. Recuperation both relies upon and willfully eschews conventional historicism. This neglected interpretation for the pivotal 1890s, evidenced in Baum and Harvey and Bryan, shows how later cultural and political formations recuperate what the mainstream had to lose in order to remain the mainstream. In our readings of these texts, we see not merely how representations of the colonized and people of color are determined by the larger history in which they find themselves, but also that this larger history was constituted upon their alterity and the persistently ironic condition of American culture's attempts to incorporate its very otherness.[56] The space, history, and subjectivity embodied by those bearing gendered racialization demands a radical rethinking of foundational concepts in American cultural, political, and economic life.

  50. The somewhat historically misguided question of whether the critiques voiced by the antimonopoly reformists had any merit emerges in attempts to valorize or repudiate the financial reformists. Generations of historians have understandably branded populists as ignorant yokels, and, judging from the extensive pamphlet tradition they left as a record, clearly many of them were just that. But their writings did possess recuperable, and radically alternative, aspects for mounting genuinely prescient assaults on the wages of corporate capitalism, primarily on the home front, but even eventually globally as the late 1890s made necessary.

  51. Was monometallism really the reason why so many were so poor (see Friedman, "Crime of 1973") and why empire could become an American reality? To assess the historical validity of Populist claims a number of basic questions arise about our political decisions that we still have not resolved. Is it profitable to run an empire? Are immigrants and wards ultimately a burden or a boon to the citizens of the host country and colonizer, respectively? To cast the gold standard as a scapegoat issue while some more "real" factor goes unnoticed is not quite the point in this inquiry. One thing is clear: money was the issue of the early 1890s. If the money question did not really matter, why did so many care about its fate? These questions serve as access points for making sense of an era, theorizing our connection to it, and wondering at the limits of our comprehension. What genealogies do we have to articulate to ensure that what happened is not, as Benjamin put it, "lost for history"? ("Theses on the Philosophy of History" 256]

  52. Who then were the "real" yellow Winkies? There is little hard historical evidence to determine definitively that they are Filipinos, in any clearly referential way. Even the monetary allegory in Baum requires a willing suspension of disbelief. Rockoff's main argument for Filipino Winkies is based on their being subordinated and then benevolently, if unintentionally, emancipated by the U.S. The Winkies, though they do attack Dorothy and the others, are seen as non-malevolent, as merely doing the bidding of she who commands them. Once Dorothy douses the Witch with mop water, the Winkies immediately rejoice and thank Dorothy. She just happened to liberate the Munchkins and the Winkies, and even the Winged Monkeys, on her circuitous path toward bimetallic bliss. The question should more precisely be: Who came to occupy the subject position Winkies inaugurated in American culture?

  53. The connections between these narratives of serendipitous liberation and fortunate domestic prosperity reveal the ways in which the subjectivity of the colonized could and could not be given expression. As the narrator tells us, "The Winkies were not a brave people, but they had to do as they were told." The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is far from being a realist representation; it demands us to allegorize. While we do escape the grayness of Kansas by going to multicolor Oz with Dorothy, that fantasy world's curious resonances with our own give it meaning. The literature necessarily presents to us its conception of the way of the world.

  54. Yet what is left out of the allegory is as telling as what is included. Two missing elements of the era emerge that show the limits of Baum's allegory of 1890s politics: (1) the trusts and how they operate and (2) African Americans and the so-called "Negro problem."[57] The narrative seems to dispose of trusts in the political landscape of the 1890s by conveniently having Dorothy's house land on the Wicked Witch of the East. And the South, allegorized primarily as the site of poor white farmers, is presided over by one of the good witches.

  55. What we need to assess then is how the Winkies' could achieve the status as liberated from being colonized. Tellingly, the economic conditions and infrastructures that made colonization presumably possible and desirable are absent. The market-expanding benevolent assimilationists' cry of "philanthropy and five percent" does not enter the picture; instead we get the McKinleyesque providential randomness of freeing a people while in search of another goal. The result is the serendipity of the American imperial project, so eloquently captured by McKinley. Attempting to access a subjectivity for the colonized in the colonial narrative in Baum's texts would be a misguided pursuit. Instead The Wonderful Wizard of Oz points more to the limitations of American culture of the late 1890s. The Winkies exist only to serve the purposes of making Dorothy heroic, albeit inadvertently. That Winkies were liberated is important and progressive, but the question of what to do with these putatively liberated people is left unresolved. Upon such a conceptions of Filipino liberation, narratives of Filipino assimilation have then been built.[58]

  56. Due to its moment and conditions of historical emergence, we can say that The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a text of and on U.S. imperialism.[59] While such a statement is not inaccurate, it is imprecise. Baum's text may more usefully and appropriately be considered a text of anti-imperialism. In its anti-imperialism, the book does not much trouble the standard anti-imperialist arguments of the day. Attempting to build on its silverite constituency, the antimonopolists had to produce a connection between the formation of corporations and trusts and the economic inequalities that were their daily lives and the imperial adventures that seemed to preoccupy the current administration distracting them from their problems. Opposing empire was a method of advocating for the have-nots in America as much as it was about recognizing the sovereignty of Filipinos, or Cubans, or Hawaiians, or Puerto Ricans, or Samoans, or any indigenous peoples, other than American Indians,[60] who have been dispossessed of their land and sovereignty in the name of American progress.

  57. "Who shall take down the flag?" was the slogan the imperialists used against the anti-imperialists when they branded the latter as traitorous. It was the slogan that the anti-imperialists needed to address.[61] Historically the colonized had been the ones who, for starters, try to take down the flag. [62] And that has consistently been a catastrophic failure. In the aftermath of such military and epistemic failures, the subjectivities forged from that literal and figural effort to take down the flag test the limits of the ability for American incorporation, via the colonized immigrant subject. Debates over empire emerge to displace the money question because these issues came to be considered distinct instead of related, as American culture sought to make distinct the economic sphere (money) from the political sphere (empire). The cultural sphere can either manage or make unmanageable this fictitious borderline. Asian American culture emerged in the delicate condition of having an unrecognized legacy of resistance achieve recognition through the very contradictions of American culture.[63] The irony and persistent of Asian Americans as the "model minority"[64] is a testament to the depth and power of American narratives of assimilation.

  58. Asian American literature does not exactly to take down the flag, nor does it even show that ontologically it was always already aloft or taken down. Rather, Asian American culture shows the ways in which both official and informal colonial disciplining[65] show the flag to be but one formality amidst vast structures for proper colonial subject formation. In going back over the inculcation of this disciplining, we can first recognize imperialism and then therefore recognize its legacies. Asian American culture demonstrates the dilemma American culture faced when decided whether to liberate or assimilate Asians. America felt that it could do both. Literal reference to monetary debates appears to have vanished from concern. Yet the same interests are served by this assimilation of Asians, namely, that of the eventually dominant American capitalism that was emerging at the turn-of-the-century. It needed an epistemology to show that American culture could indeed capture and captivate the world.

  59. Asian American culture emerges as an alternative to that epistemology by recuperating its troubled emergence. One example of this critique is Darryl Lum's short story, "Fourscore and Seven Years Ago." Even its title references the role played by American discourses of liberation in American colonial disciplining, and the story's opening line puts national rituals up front: "Sixt grade, we had to give da news every morning aftah da pledge allegence and My Country Tis of Dee" (287). As you can see, Lum's story is narrated in pidgin by a young Chinese American schoolboy in Hawai'i during the height of the Cold War: one of the current events items is about Yuri Gagarin being the first human in space. The protagonist, in full construction-paper regalia, gets to deliver Lincoln's stirring address to the 5th grade class as his reward for his being a good student. Assimilating the colonized into American civilization is not just the alternative to liberation but rather liberation itself. This story displays the form and content of colonial disciplining at school: education itself, especially literary.[66]

  60. The disciplining produces the proper subjects for colonialism, not simply by the substance of the lessons, but also by the forms of repetition and ritualization that this knowledge takes. Being interpellated by the disciplinary structure itself is the victory of empire, not the content of what is taught. Discipline saturates the narrative, from the student's learning gender roles for a school dance to their almost Pavlovian responses to bells as they progress in their education,
    In da sevent grade, you change classes l'dat and had all dese rules and j'like da bell stay ringin all da time. Had da warning bell before school start, had da real bell, and had da tardy bell. And da bells between classes and da tardy to class bell and da first lunch bell and da second lunch bell. (289)
    Despite his advancement through his education and his recognition for his performance of Lincoln, the narrator still speaks to us in pidgin. Is this a defect or a form of resistance?

  61. Forms of recalcitrance exercised by the students frequently only serve to make them appear not-yet-educated: "I went win cause everybody else did junk on purpose so dat dey nevah have get up in front of da whole school, dressed up like Abe Lincoln" (289). A spelling bee is not simply about learning the morphologies of certain words, or even the words themselves -- he messes up on forefathers by suggestively spelling it "forfathers" -- but rather the act of public recitation, a ritual confirming one's espousal of standards and the institutions that maintain them. They learn the privileges (or punishments) of displaying their level of proficiency in standard English,[67] as opposed to the pidgin that they speak amongst themselves and the pidgin that earnestly narrates the story to us.

  62. Literary education is supposed to drill this dialect out of them, yet the education of citizens to the nation needs to maintain this aberrant dialect in order to justify its project. Dialect and its denigration or valorization has an important role in literary realism that the recent spate of multiculturalism resuscitated.[68] Lum's story is intelligible to us as it shows the viability of a "contact zone"[69] lingua franca formation, demonstrating our simultaneous connection to and separation from such vernaculars. Performances of vernacular, such as Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, have played a central role as the embodiment of difference by which a standardized national language and literature can be centered (see Sundquist 501-23). The similarity and difference of these working-class Hawaiian Asian Americans from both the language and the content of Lincoln's Address becomes a site at which we can discern the contradiction of American colonialism. Through this critical representation of the production of colonial citizen-subjects, the story shows the ways in which sacred American civic concepts, particularly the "abstract citizen,"[70] are abortively held out to peoples whose historical and structural relationship to capitalist development places them in contradiction to the political, economic, and cultural promises accompanying the irony of the liberatory assimilation of Asians into America.

  63. Like the liberated yellow Winkies, Asians (and Cubans) at the outset of American empire found themselves freed from a prior colonizer while America had been preoccupied with other matters. Moments later, America awoke to find itself in the curious predicament to free these formerly colonized populations from their own child-like backwardness, in other words, to colonize. American culture needed to produce both the serendipity and the inevitability of American empire in order to consolidate the triumph of corporate capitalism, and its (perceived as) necessary gold standard, over the masses forming to bring it down. Culturally and materially, corporate capitalism, on the other hand, did indeed need American empire in Asia to expand markets, to achieve militarily strategic purposes, and to find and maintain sources of cheap labor and natural resources. To put matters another way, Asia just happened to become the new frontier just in time because the frontier appeared to be closed.

  64. Articulating narratives of Asian assimilation under both colonization and immigration, Asian American literature and history show us that American empire was neither serendipitous nor inevitable. Literature is a double-edged institution that teaches emancipation while it also imprisons. The writings by those who speak, to borrow Ralph Ellison's famous phrase, "on the lower frequencies" (568) seek to negotiate the possibilities and the limits of taking up representation, seizing the means of production and generating discourses forged from that which official culture cannot contain or fully repress. Asian American culture with its historical roots in diverse transformations of U.S. capitalist and imperialist development, makes discernible not only the dominant and occluded history, but also the forms of resistance to the narration of history. Locating this resistance necessitates an understanding the transitional discourse that first used to make it visible, the transition from the money question to the empire question. Rio's sobbing as she tries to enunciate McKinley's words plays for us the new language for articulating American imperialism. But where, geographically, historically, and bodily, this new language is housed makes all the difference in the meanings we give those words.

  65. The histories of Asian exclusion and United States imperialism in Asia generate contradictions to U.S. national culture at points where Asians are incorporated into America. The subsequent uneven development of Asian American history within American culture has made the use of simple chronologies untenable as a narrative form. Instead of relying on a linear conception of history, we must reassess the significance of pivotal moments in which American culture has sought to define the significance of its confrontation with and assimilation of Asian otherness. The ways in which a crucial era such as the 1890s figures the terms and conditions of Asian incorporation into the national collective persist in the regulative narrative forms of U.S. national culture and in the place of Asian racialization in the new empire's management of difference. A genealogical project, this dissertation examines the formation of these regulative American narratives of assimilation in the 1890s as they emerged as an attempt to resolve the pressing issues of race, empire, and the drive toward U.S. capitalist dominance.

  66. The "return" of Asian Americans to the imperial center is the catalyst for a return of that which U.S. history has repressed. Emerging out of the displacement of the money question and the rise of U.S. imperialism, Asian American culture critically maps genealogies of American imperial culture's regulative narratives of assimilation by embodying contradiction, contradiction to the narratives that lodged Asian Americans as the exemplar of all that America can do for an oppressed people instead of what an oppressed people have done for America. Asian American literature, like Rio Gonzaga, absorbs the curious blend of serendipity and inevitability that attended the outset of American imperialism and finds it contradictory.


  1. For example, see Stanley Karnow. Karnow, a journalist and not really a historian, even says that this speech is virtually all we have to access "the thinking that went into [McKinley's] decision" (16). Back

  2. Key histories of this scant field are by Stuart Creighton Miller and E. Berkeley Tompkins. More a set of reflections than a history, William Appleman William's Empire as a Way of Life offers a compelling account of the centrality of empire in American culture. See also Jameson, who argues that, in the late nineteenth century, the predominant others that preoccupied British colonialism were other colonizing nations competing for the periphery. Back

  3. For a discussion of the troubled concept of determinism in assessments of American literary naturalism, see Lee Clark Mitchell's Determined Fictions and his "Naturalism and the Language of Determinism." Back

  4. Donald Pizer's accounts of American literary naturalism are the standard texts for grasping this field. Walter Benn Michael's The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism has been one of the most influential accounts of naturalism in the New Historicist school of literary criticism. Back

  5. Much naturalist American literature, such as Jack London's The Iron Heel, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Richard Wright's Native Son, and Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, has a decidedly socialist programme. The same can be said of the authors themselves. Back

  6. Sociologist Robert Blauner formulated this now qualified distinction at the dawn of Ethnic Studies to illustrate the qualitative differences between differently racialized populations in American history. See his second chapter in Racial Oppression in America. Back

  7. In the hearings on the extremely brutal but largely forgotten Philippine Insurrection (1898-1902), General Arthur MacArthur offered a blunt explanation of the American rationale repeated back to him by the Senate Commission: "Sen. Culberson [to MacArthur]: "I believe you said in your opening statement that you believed we ought to hold the Philippine Islands upon two broad principles: first, those of a mercantile or commercial character; and second, because of the opportunity it had afforded us of planting the principles of republican institutions in the archipelago. Am I correct?" (Hearings 87) Back

  8. In the novel, Hagedorn places McKinley's remarks in 1898. Such an error may be considered strategic. By employing non-linear plot lines, the novel thematizes chronological inaccuracy as a strategy for undermining the authority of any one source. In particular, the "Pucha Gonzaga" chapter at the end of the novel encourages readers to doubt the capability of the narrative they had just finished to represent the postcolonial reality of the Philippines. For an insightful reading of the novel's rendering of history, see Lisa Lowe's "Decolonization, Displacement, Disidentification: Writing and the Question of History," 112-120. For standard theories of the novel, see Ian Watt's The Rise of the Novel, Franco Moretti's The Way of the World, and Emory Elliot, ed., The Columbia History of the American Novel. The tradition of dissent in the American literary tradition may allow for the possibility of exceptionalism when considering the American canon's ironic capacity for inclusion. And this irony necessarily structures U.S. imperialism. Back

  9. The rise of what has been called post-modern anthropology in the 1970s and 80s has engendered crises in that field over how to reconcile current research methods, heavily influenced by literary theory with its exploitatively ethnocentric legacy. See Clifford Geertz's Works and Lives, James Clifford's The Predicament of Culture, and George Marcus and James Clifford's Writing Culture. New historicism in literary criticism owes a debt to anthropological approaches to culture by such scholars as Clifford Geertz (see his The Interpretation of Culture). Back

  10. For useful discussions of the influence of U.S. military bases on their host countries see Saundra Pollack Sturdevant and Brenda Soltzius's Let the Good Times Roll and Cynthia Enloe's Bananas, Beaches, and Bases. Back

  11. At a panel of the 1998 American Studies Association annual meeting in Seattle, Hagedorn described the difficulties in staging this specific scene. During rehearsal, the sex worker characters spontaneously wept, but not in character. Back

  12. In general, see Fredric Jameson's "The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism." For a critique of the application of the term postmodern to Asian American literature, see Sau-ling Cynthia Wong, Reading Asian American Literature 13. Back

  13. For a discussion of Asian American performance, see Dorinne Kondo's About Face. Back

  14. Even the earliest of discernibly Asian American culture texts offers key moments at which we can continually witness this failure, as is evident from the ironic title of Sui Sin Far's 1914 short story of the state's seizure of a Chinese immigrant family's undocumented infant son, "In the Land of the Free." Back

  15. This question of the capacities of American civilization to accommodate Asian Americans has necessarily been a central thematic of the study of Asian American literature from its inception. The three main studies of Asian American literature (Kim, Wong, Lowe) each mark watersheds in the development of this emergent and insurgent field within American literary studies. Back

  16. While we now understand U.S. imperialism to be a generally informal affair, late 19th-century historical developments necessitated a rather formal conception and practice of American empire in Asia and the Pacific. See Thomas J. McCormick's China Market. Back

  17. The first article to put this claim forward was Henry M. Littlefield's "The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism." More recent theorizations along these lines include Hugh Rockoff's "'The Wizard of Oz' as Monetary Allegory" and Gretchen Ritter's "Silver Slippers and a Golden Cap." Baum's book has been read as everything from an account of Australia to one of South Dakota (see Ritter, "Slippers" 172n1). Back

  18. The main historical studies to deal with these issues are Irwin Unger's The Greenback Era and Robert P. Sharkey's Money, Class, and Party. Bruce Palmer's "Man Over Money" is also a thorough examination of the place of financial issues in national politics. Back

  19. Milton Friedman argues that monetary standards had become a moot question by the 1890s because of mining trends, but they had been important in the 1870s and 1880s. See his "Crime of 1873." Back

  20. Contributing to the occlusion of Baum's text's status as a monetary allegory is the switching of Dorothy's silver slippers to ruby in MGM's 1939 adaptation, unless the film may have been advocating a ruby and gold standard. Salman Rushie reglects to disinter the colonial legacy of the Oz tale in his book about the movie. Back

  21. For an analysis of the political maneuvering behind Chinese Exclusion, see Shirley Hune, "Politics of Chinese Exclusion." See also Alexander Saxton, "Race and the House of Labor" and his The Indispensable Enemy; Nayan Shah's "The White Label and the Yellow Peril"; and Ronald Takaki's Iron Cages 215-51. Interestingly, Bret Harte's seemingly anti-Chinese representations that Takaki analyzes may have been part of a larger project of Harte's that sought to produce sympathy for the Chinese, not unlike Twain's descriptions of the Chinese in Roughing It (see Grace Kyungwon Hong's "The Not-Working Class and Chinese Immigrant Labor"). Gary Y. Okihiro provides an account of the depth of the significance of Asianness in American thought in Margins and Mainstreams, and Edward W. Said's Orientalism is the standard text for elaborating this same tendency in European thought. Back

  22. Generally considered a na•ve approach to monetary policy, the quantity theory argues that the value of money and its ability to create wealth is directly proportional to how much of it is in circulation. Not surprisingly, the Populists wanted more money pumped into the national economy. Yet the national economy was becoming increasingly international. See Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz's A Monetary History of the United States, John Kennth Galbraith's Money, and Marcella de Cecco's The International Gold Standard. Back

  23. In addition to Sharkey, Unger, and Palmer, for accounts of the rise of late nineteenth-century populism see John D. Hicks's seminal study The Populist Revolt and Norman Pollack's The Populist Response to Industrial America. Back

  24. See also Bryan's famous "Cross of Gold" speech (The First Battle 205). Back

  25. One of the main instruments of U.S. imperialism was the appeal of the U.S. Constitution itself. See A. A. Caesar Espritu's "Constitutional Development in the Philippines." Back

  26. On the primitivizing of Filipinos pre- and post- 1898, see Rafael. Jameson argues that in the late 19th century, colonial culture imagined as its primary other the other colonizing powers competing for territory. The colonized were simply too radically other. See his "Modernism and Imperialism." Back

  27. Michael O'Malley offers a fascinating recuperation of the lost meanings of carpet-bagger in "Specie and Species." Back

  28. Rudyard Kipling invoked the White Man's Burden in his 1899 poem by the same name. Back

  29. For an analysis of economic developments in the 1890s as well as a projection of the possibilities had bimetallism taken hold, see Friedman's "The Crime of 1873." Back

  30. The 1900 Gold Standard Act was the culmination of decades of contestation over monetary policy. After the Coinage Act of 1873 (or "Crime of 1873") that demonetized silver, various acts were passed in an attempt to appease silver advocates, including the 1978 Bland-Allison Act and the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act, both of which called for rather limited resumption of the coinage of silver. For an overview of key legislation see Ritter 286-87. Back

  31. We might more accurately characterize this transition as only partly abortive because the pro-silver, anti-imperialist platform was indeed the one that the ambivalently Democratic party adopted; they just lost the election on it. See Garland A. Haas, The Politics of Disintegration, and Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform. Back

  32. The popularity of the writings of Horatio Alger is the most prominent example of American culture's attempt to produce proper conduct through literary models. For a discussion of the anxiety around juvenile delinquency, see Stephen Mailloux, Rhetorical Power 112-20. Back

  33. See Hofstader's "Coin's Financial School" 12-14 for a list of various responses to and parodies of Coin. Back

  34. The far-reaching legacies of American no-recognition of the Philippine sovereignty is explored in the work of Oscar V. Campomanes (e.g. "The New Empire's Forgetful and Forgotten Citizens"). Back

  35. Filipino nationalism is looked to as the first modern Asian nationalism. See Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities, esp. 26-30. In particular, Anderson argues that print culture, from the newspaper to the novel, such as Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere, are examples of the formal cultural production of the nation. Back

  36. Kipling's "White Man's Burden is subtitled "The United States and the Philippines." The McKinley administration referred to the Philippines as hopefully becoming an "American Hong Kong." Back

  37. See Tompkins for a history of the mainstream responses to imperialism. For accounts of how marginalized populations responded to imperialism, see Penny Von Eschen's Race Against Empire. Back

  38. In The Incorporation of American, Alan Trachtenberg argues that this era can be characterized as a battle between emergent labor and emergent capital over the fate of America. Capital won. Tellingly, a similar but more squarely leftist and empire-centered argument about the history of Great Britain, the dominant imperialist power of this era, can be found in the work of Eric Hobsbawm (e.g. his The Age of Empire). Back

  39. Hofstadter dismissed the 1899 text as "suffer[ing] from its lack of concentration on a single theme" (70). Back

  40. See Immanuel Wallerstein's The Modern World System and also Giovanni Arrighi's The Long Twentieth Century. Though it is written from a decidedly different disciplinary perspective, Alfred D. Chandler, Jr.'s The Visible Hand also tracks these similar trends in the way America was beginning to do business from the middle of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth. Back

  41. For an account of economies of scale in this period, see Arrighi, especially 159-239. In which he discusses the rise of British capitalism. American capitalism would then go on to displace economies of size with so-called "economies of speed." Back

  42. For an example of the conspiracy theorizing of the silverites, see the story of Ernest Seyd's alleged machinations in Ritter, "Goldbugs and Greenbacks" 190. Hofstadter relates the same story (Coin's Financial School 62-63 n37). Back

  43. A seminal treatment of the rise of trusts, or "very large corporations," and speculative and finance capitalism in late nineteenth-century America is Thomas R. Navin and Marian V. Sears, "The Rise of a Market for Industrial Securities." Literary scholar Philip Fisher has suggestively argued that post-bellum American culture can be characterized by the rise of "a culture of speculation" that continues to hold sway to this day ("American Literary and Cultural Studies Since the Civil War" 248). Back

  44. While the writings of Pollack and Hicks have a respectful attitude toward the populists, Hofstadter's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Reform has a tone of sympathetic condescension, especially toward farmers (see 23-93). Back

  45. Hofstadter dismissed the 1899 text as "suffer[ing] from its lack of concentration on a single theme" ("Introduction" to Coin's Financial School 70). This lack of focus - and perhaps even the attempts to overproduce an epistemic unity --only showed the degree to which the complexity of capitalism had reached with the convergence of incorporation and empire-building. See also Trachtenberg and Saxton. Back

  46. E.g., despite being a left-sympathizer, Charles Beard cautiously avoids being labeled Marxist in An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. See Michael Denning's The Cultural Front and Edna Bonacich and Lucie Cheng's Labor Immigration Under Capitalism 1-56. Back

  47. This era is lucidly narrated by Trachtenberg and Lears. Lears puts an antimodern spin on this period while Trachtenberg makes a good case for the genuine epistemic shift that was inaugurated in this era, an epistemic shift out of which we have yet to shift. Back

  48. Even W.E.B. DuBois admitted that he was for the gold standard at this time: "I saw the rise of the Free Silver movement, and the beginning of Populism. I was wrong in most of my judgments. My Harvard training made me stand staunchly for the Gold Standard, and I was suspicious of the Populist 'Radicals.' At the same time, I had seen face-to-face something of the social democratic movement in Germany. I had gone to their meetings; and by the time McKinley got to work on his high tariff and showed his evident kinship to big business, I began to awaken. Certain of my earlier teachings now came into conflict. I had been trained to believe in Free Trade, which the new McKinley high tariff contradicted. I began to realize something of the meaning of the new Populist movement in its economic aspects" (483). Back

  49. With the Slaughterhouse cases, there emerged in the 1870s the beginnings of the weak state in the face of leviathan corporations that set the terms of American political development (see Agabin's "Laissez Faire and the Due Process Clause"; see also Navin and Sears). Back

  50. Marxist writing would shortly go on to make the relations of empire and capitalism visible and recognizable. See V. I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest State of Capitalism (1916); J. A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (1902); C. K. Hobson, Export of Capital (1914); Scott Nearing and Joseph Freeman, Dollar Diplomacy: A Study in American Imperialism (1925), as well as Arrighi. Back

  51. See Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Aprpropriately, Benjamin points to the cinema as the new formation that ushers in this new age. But his insights more generally fit accounts of the rise of mass culture. See also Andreas Huyssen's After the Great Divide. Back

  52. On "local knowledge" see Michel Foucault's Language, Counter-memory, Practice. Back

  53. Perhaps the main theorist of the centrality of money in Western culture is Mark Shell (see his Money, Language, and Thought). Back

  54. Corporeal legibility and biological reality (read: race) is also a central and related preoccupation. See Michael O'Malley's "Specie and Species." Back

  55. The People's Party's 1892 "The Omaha Platform," written mostly by Ignatius Donnelly, is the basic document providing a concise and lucid outline of Populist demands. See Pollack 59-66 and Tindall 90-96. Back

  56. Saxton's White Republic and Takaki's Iron Cages are two important studies that show the centrality of race in American history. And the racialization of people of color necessarily produces the quasi-racialization of whiteness. See David Roediger's The Wages of Whiteness; Ruth Frankenberg's White Women, Race Matters; and George Lipsitz's The Possessive Investment in Whiteness. Back

  57. See Booker T. Washington, et al., The Negro Problem. DeBois's influential "The Talented Tenth" is among the essays of this volume. Back

  58. Cuba is a telling and early counterpoint to how to be a nonaligned compliant state. Oscar Compomanes has written about this undertheorized parallel in "Between Colonialisms." Back

  59. The status of Great Britain as a colonial power has been the focus of the field of postcolonail studies, the theorizations of the role of culture in producig empire does have explanatory power for making sense of American imperialism. The customary statement on the immanence of empire is the opening line of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's "Three Women's Texts and a Critique of Imperialism": "It should not be possible to read nineteenth-century British literature without remembering that imperialism, understood as England's social mission, was a crucial part of the cultural representation of England to the English. The role of literature in the production of cultural representation should not be ignored. These two obvious 'facts' continue to be disregarded in the reading of nineteenth-century British literature. This itself attests to the continuous success of the imperialist project, displaced and dispersed onto more modern forms" (262). Back

  60. Exemplary revisionist histories of the American West have been written by Richard White. His "It's your misfortune and none of my own" is a general overview history of the West, and his The Roots of Dependency applies world systems theory to an understanding of the dispossession inflicted upon American Indians. Back

  61. This slogan is particularly common in Bryan's speeches. The equating of anti-imperialism with treason was common. In the anti-imperialist chapter of Coin on Money, Trusts, and Imperialism, Harvey depicts Coin responding to a rather acrid accusation of sedition. Back

  62. In a different but related context, Frantz Fanon was written about the false promises of de jure postcoloniality amidst de facto neocolonialism. See his The Wretched of the Earth. Back

  63. The recent writings of literary scholar Lisa Lowe have illuminated the ways in which Asian American cultural politics make evident the contradictions of American civil society. See "Immigration, Racialization, Citizenship: Asian American Critique" in Immigrant Acts. Back

  64. The debunking of the neoconservative model minority myth has been one of the leading missions of Asian American activism and study. See Harry Kitano and Roger Daniels's Asian Americans: Emerging Minorities and Sucheng Chan's Asian Americans: An Interpretive History. Back

  65. The recent special issue of Critical Mass: a Journal of Asian American Cultural Studies (Fall 1998) concerns the various disciplinary mechanisms emblematic of U.S. imperialism from the turn-of-the-century to today, particularly militarization, education, and medicalization. Back

  66. Though writing about a different context than Hawai'I', Gauri Viswanathan explains the central role that English literary education played in the British colonization of India in Masks of Conquest. Haunani Kay Trask (Notes of a Native Daughter) and Ronald Takaki (Pau Hana) have differently written about the methods of colonization and the role of Asian immigration to Hawai'i. Back

  67. Ngugi wa Thiong'o discusses the role that literary education played in Kenya in Decolonising the Mind. Back

  68. In "Realism and Regionalism," Eric Sundquist persuasively outlines the relationship of location and representation in late nineteenth-century American literature. Back

  69. Mary Louise Pratt usefully applies the linguistic term "contact zone" to an analysis of colonial discourse (see her Imperial Eyes). Back

  70. For a critique of the concept of the "abstract citizen" as it pertains to Asian Americans, see Lowe 1-36. Back

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