Institutional Scholarship

Representation and Identity: Imperial Culture in U.S.—Guatemalan Encounters

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dc.contributor.advisor Krippner, James
dc.contributor.author Mendez-Brady, Marisa
dc.date.accessioned 2014-04-30T17:09:28Z
dc.date.available 2014-04-30T17:09:28Z
dc.date.issued 2009
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10066/13655
dc.description.abstract My thesis investigates the ways in which a hegemonic society maintains dominance through cultural mediators. This study examines the cultural components of "informal empire" in the relationship between the United States and Latin America. Specifically, I will discuss how cultural contact zones shaped the United States' posture towards Guatemala in the early twentieth century. Contact zones are characterized as the spaces in which historically and geographically distinctive societies diffuse the other's foreign culture. I will concentrate on the role that representational devices such as images, texts and museum exhibits have in establishing and maintaining the United State's informal empire in Guatemala in the years preceding U.S. military action in 1954. In order to contextualize the factors contributing to the palpable hegemony established by the time the U.S. staged a coup against President Jacobo Arbenz, I will focus on the period between 1920 and 1950. The United States has had a long history of agency in Guatemala and at times it has utilized more obvious forms of control in order to maintain U.S. influences. The dominance of the U.S. in Guatemala unambiguously places it within the United States' informal empire. Hence, the relationship between these two countries serves as a revealing case study. With this perspective in mind, Guatemala's representation within U.S. society is an appropriate lens with which to analyze the cultural dynamics of informal empire. Representational mediators function as contact zones between the imperial center and its informal territory. In unequal relationships such as that between the United States and Guatemala, the ways in which foreign culture is appropriated into U.S. society signifies hegemonic structures as well as proliferates imperial attitudes. This cultural diffusion establishes a dichotomy between the self and the exotic other, allowing for a collective identification as a dominant force. In order to locate specific contact zones in the United States that diffused Guatemalan culture into its consciousness, my focus will be on how representations circulated an image of Guatemala as a historically irrelevant and backwards culture. The vision transmitted to the public sphere at once both justified involvement in the region while simultaneously spreading cultural dominance throughout the U.S. imagination. Primarily, I aim to unpack articles found in National Geographic during the time period discusses as well as archival material documenting exhibits that represented Guatemala in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. I will attempt to demonstrate how an imperial attitude towards Guatemala was ingrained through constructing a collective consciousness predicated on U.S. control. Images projected into the public sphere through representational devices negotiated Guatemala's entrance into the United States' cultural and historical narrative. Guatemalan culture was commoditized and relegated to an insignificant nation, unable to contribute to modern history. In this way, representational tools differentiating Guatemala as an inferior polity solidifying a U.S. imperial identity. This sense of power assumed a dominant culture within the United States and solidified hegemony over Guatemala. The U.S. identification as an imperial force is thus both proliferated and maintained through representational devices. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Dept. of History en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
dc.subject.lcsh United States -- Foreign relations -- Guatemala -- History -- 20th century
dc.subject.lcsh Guatemala -- Foreign relations -- United States -- History -- 20th century
dc.subject.lcsh Imperialism -- United States -- History -- 20th century
dc.title Representation and Identity: Imperial Culture in U.S.—Guatemalan Encounters en_US
dc.type Thesis (B.A.) en_US
dc.rights.access Haverford users only


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