Laura Briggs' Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico
In Reproducing Empire, Laura Briggs provides her readers with a very thorough history of the mainland U.S. and Puerto Rican discourses and its authors surrounding Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans, from Puerto Rico's formation in the mainland elite's "mind" as a model U.S. (not) colony in 1898* to its present status as semi-autonomous U.S.
territory. Briggs opens her book by discussing the origins of globalization in U.S. and western European colonialism, and closes with a review of her methods, in which she calls for a new focus on subaltern studies, including a (re)focus on the authors of information (who she claims as the subjects of this book) as a lens through which to circumvent the "neglect and obsessive interest…in the service of the imperial project in Puerto Rico" (207). Briggs identifies herself in her epilogue- "I am a US. Anglo whose ties to the island are only love and a relentless sense that that just as the history of the island is inescapably tied to the mainland, so the mainland's history is reciprocally tied to the island" (206). Briggs notes that there is an active history of dissociation of Puerto Rico as part of the U.S., and that to speak only of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico as true Puerto Ricans, or to construct Puerto Rico as economically unconnected to the U.S. is a misconception, which has been historically employed to blame Puerto Rico for the U.S.' subordination of it.
Briggs' records Puerto Rico's history as a "model," "testing site," or "laboratory' for U.S. colonial rule, centering on the ways in which this has functioned in relation to or through (control of) Puerto Rican working class women and "family, sexuality and reproduction." Briggs' utilizes this lens, not as sole lens or explanation, but as "recovered information" (197) that "lies at the heart of colonialism (27). The stories she reports and critiques are characterized by 1) a fundamental circumvention of agency for the appropriated test subjects--primarily, working class Puerto Rican women and the placing of all blame for social problems upon "them"; 2) though she doesn't name it as such, a historical employment of misconceptions of genetics and hereditary in exerting control over "colonized subjects," "the poor," and women's reproductive and sexual histories**; all of this located in a "transition away from frank colonialism" (198). This is also a story of the displacement of poverty caused by colonialism onto disease, difference, "over-population", and the need for public health regulation from the mainland U.S among others
Briggs' historiography of the enslavement of working class Puerto Rican women to experimentation intersects with and was part of the formation of racialized ideologies of disease, which were used to construct the racial, social and political difference between Puerto Ricans and white Americans and to control Puerto...