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Creating an American Pacific
John Eperjesi format: audio
length: 0:31:29
Date Added: 12/11/1997

Abstract

This talk addresses the first chapter of a dissertation which aims to study a crucial moment, the 1890s, in the history of conceiving Asia and the Pacific to be a unified region. The ideological mapping of what I want to call the American-Pacific is not locatable through the parameters of the imagined communities called nation-states; and yet the American-Pacific is not separable from such parameters either. The creation of a regional imaginary was the historical task of the American Asiatic Association. Formed in 1898, the Association worked to expand U.S. trade in the Pacific and with Asia. Through the knowledges it produced about this otherwise dispersed and heterogenous area, the Association's journal, the Journal of the American Asiatic Association, worked to reify the conjuction between Asia and Pacific. Here, I want to read the Journal in the context of the appearance of economic crisis -- overproduction and imperialism -- at the turn of the century. Literary and cultural historians regularly read the American 1890s as a moment of social, political, and economic crisis. This paper is an answer to David Harvey's question: "What role does geography play in crisis formation and resolution?"

My argument is that capital needs a regional imaginary in order to expand into the space being imagined; and that such an imaginary is the product of pressures by capital to expand, yet is not necessarily synchronous with such pressures. The American-Pacific was figured as a supplemental or para-national space to enable capital to overcome extensive or geographical barriers to expansion. This "spatial fix" was both the extra piece, and missing piece, of the domestic political and economic puzzle.

About the Author

John Eperjesi is a Doctoral candidate in Literary and Cultural Theory at Carnegie Mellon University.

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