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Cultural Construction of Empire

The U.S. Army in Arizona and New Mexico

Janne Lahti

Publication Year: 2012

From 1866 through 1886, the U.S. Army occupied southern Arizona and New Mexico in an attempt to claim it for settlement by Americans. Through a postcolonial lens, Janne Lahti examines the army, its officers, their wives, and the enlisted men as agents of an American empire whose mission was to serve as a group of colonizers engaged in ideological as well as military, conquest.

Cultural Construction of Empire explores the cultural and social representations of Native Americans, Hispanics, and frontiersmen constructed by the officers, enlisted men, and their dependents. By differentiating themselves from these “less civilized” groups, white military settlers engaged various cultural processes and practices to accrue and exercise power over colonized peoples and places for the sake of creating a more “civilized” environment for other settlers. Considering issues of class, place, and white ethnicity, Lahti shows that the army’s construction of empire took place not on the battlefield alone but also in representations of and social interactions in and among colonial places, peoples, settlements, and events, and in the domestic realm and daily life inside the army villages.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations

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p. vii

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Acknowledgments [Includes Image Plate]

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pp. ix-xi

Several institutions and many individuals helped me in making this project come true. The ASLA-Fulbright fellowship, together with funding from the Academy of Finland, enabled me to spend three semesters at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2003–4. Time at UNL proved invaluable for me as a young historian in general and ...

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Introduction: A Colonizer Community in the Borderlands

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pp. 1-16

In 1921 William Corbusier, a former army surgeon now in his seventies and in ailing health, returned for a visit to Arizona. Taking the railroad to Bowie, he stopped at the San Carlos Indian Agency. There the Apaches and Yavapais, former rulers Corbusier had fought against in the 1870s and 1880s, were confined in reservations ...

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1. From Apacheria to American Southwest

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pp. 17-32

The United States gained control of much of North America by purchasing, negotiating, and engaging in a series of aggressive wars. Intoxicated by a vision that it was destined to dominate the continent, relying on market capitalism and white supremacy camouflaged as Manifest Destiny, the United States conquered Mexican lands ranging ...

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2. Journey to the “Outside”

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pp. 33-63

In the summer of 1869 Julia Davis had just returned from a year-long honeymoon in Europe. She hoped that her husband, Murray Davis, a captain in the U.S. Army, would be assigned to a pleasant station somewhere near their Oakland, California, home, where they could raise their infant son in safety and comfort. When the orders arrived, ...

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3. The Place Facing Colonialism

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pp. 64-109

Reaching Clifton, an Arizona mining town, after a hard day’s march, Lt. John Bigelow pondered whether he should go without supper when his only choice to get one was to eat in what to him was “a typical mining town amusement hall.” The establishment, Bigelow described, was filled with Mexicans, Americans, Irish, Germans, ...

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4. Apaches in White Army Minds

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pp. 110-149

During a late spring evening in 1885 in Cloverdale, near the Mexican border, a group of army officers had the opportunity to indulge themselves in a banquet of fine dining, Cuban cigars, and costly liquids, compliments of a large cattle company. They exchanged “blood-curdling tales of Indian warfare,” one reporter in attendance remembered, when a sudden ...

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5. Army Village as Middle-Class Living Space

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pp. 150-179

In the summer of 1871 Lt. Frederick Phelps arrived to Fort Bayard with his wife. The post was located ten miles east of Silver City near the Santa Rita Mountains, in the midst of the mining district in southwest New Mexico. Coming from an established Ohio family where college-level education was the rule, his father and grandfather ...

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6. Manual Labor and Leisure

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pp. 180-216

“This morning at breakfast,” Mary (May) Banks Stacey told her mother in a letter, “[my husband wanted to know] if I would go to Graham Mountain, which is 10,500 feet above the sea.” For Capt. Humphreys Stacey, his wife, and their three children, the trip upon which they embarked from Fort Thomas in August 1879 represented ...

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7. Colonized Labor

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pp. 217-244

“A whole bunch of us went . . . to San Carlos to try to enlist,” Tlodilhil (“Black Rope,” also known as John Rope) said as he remembered his journey in the mid-1870s. As part of a large gathering of Yavapais, Tonto Apaches, San Carlos Apaches, and White Mountain Apaches, Rope and his brother rode double on the only horse ...

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Conclusion: An Empire

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pp. 245-251

The conquest of the trans–Mississippi West forms one theater of operations in the transnational process of settler and extractive colonialism that brought much of the world under the domination of western powers and market capitalism during the age of empire. It also makes for an important phase in the building of a global superpower, the U.S. Empire. ...


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pp. 253-312


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pp. 313-336


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pp. 337-344

E-ISBN-13: 9780803244580
E-ISBN-10: 0803244584
Print-ISBN-13: 9780803232525

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 9 illustrations, 1 map
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 815823805
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Cultural Construction of Empire

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Subject Headings

  • Arizona -- History, Military -- 19th century.
  • New Mexico -- History, Military -- 19th century.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Arizona.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- New Mexico.
  • Imperialism -- Social aspects -- Arizona -- History -- 19th century.
  • Imperialism -- Social aspects -- New Mexico -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States. -- Army -- History -- 19th century.
  • Military dependents -- Arizona -- History -- 19th century.
  • Military dependents -- New Mexico -- History -- 19th century.
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