Review of Books: Jonathan M. Hansen. Guantánamo: An American History

Cooley, Alexander A.

For the American Historical Review, Cooley reviews Michael Hansen's Guantanamo: An American History.
"Before its branding as a space of barbed wire fences and shackled prisoners wearing orange jump suits, the U.S. naval facility at Guantánamo Bay had long embodied the contradictions of American political identity, chiefly the tensions between U.S. constitutional principles and the naked pursuit of self-interested foreign relations. Much of Jonathan M. Hansen’s absorbing account of the history of the forty-five-square-mile facility on the southeastern corner of Cuba will be familiar to observers of American imperialism and U.S. overseas bases. Cuba’s occupation in 1898 admitted the United States into the global club of formal empires and, as with its annexation of the Philippines, Panama, and Hawai‘i, forced U.S. officials to reconcile their public commitments to freedom and independence with violating a people’s sovereignty and political aspirations. The book also contributes to a growing literature on the social history of U.S. military bases abroad as Hansen explores changing relations among the base’s command, its local labor force, and private contractors; the mythical idealization of its social life; gender relations and the management of a tacitly sanctioned sex industry; and the racial tensions contained within and across the base’s fences."


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American Historical Review

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Political Science
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September 25, 2013