- Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines, by Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez
Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez’s Securing Paradise presents a bold and creative argument for understanding the twinned projects of tourism and US militarism in the Pacific as grounded in multiple but always overlapping discourses of security. Gonzalez situates security within the pervasive post-9/11 rhetoric of “national security” as well as the historical and contemporary modes of securing Hawai‘i and the Philippines as (official and unofficial) possessions of the United States. Linking those forms of security with present-day fears around economic security and travel security, Gonzalez persuasively shows that though tourism has long been understood as the “‘softer’ colonial apparatus” (5) since the Cold War, the tourism industry in Hawai‘i and the Philippines has quite effectively taken up many of the ideological and economic demands of the US military under a neoliberal and neocolonial guise. Crucially, these multiple forms of security operate through a romance grounded in long-held, [End Page 558] colonial, gendered, and racialized understandings of Hawai‘i and the Philippines as paradises and, further, uniquely “American tropics” (9). As Gonzalez demonstrates through an innovative archive ranging from travel narratives and films to the spaces of highways, museums, and helicopter and jungle tours, the tourist and the soldier (often in the same person) share a masculine vision of paradise as feminized land “receptive to and in need of being claimed” (12)—in other words, in need of securing.
Though attentive to the historical, political, and economic differences between Hawai‘i and the Philippines (most notably the Philippines’ post–World War II independence and the formal decommissioning of US military bases in the Philippines in 1991), readers of Securing Paradise will discover, to its credit, that this is not a conventionally comparative text. Rather, Gonzalez weaves a cogent account of how deeply rooted the United States’ global military and economic power is in the depiction of their control of Hawai‘i and the Philippines as truly pacific—in the sense of nonviolent, benevolent, and indeed romantic. As Gonzalez puts it, “Once Hawai‘i and the Philippines were pulled into the orbit of the United States, their modern fates became more interdependent” (11). Thus, these two sites become two actors in, and illustrations of, the same story, variously reflecting and refracting each other, rather than two separate stories. For just as Gonzalez demonstrates the many ways that militarism and tourism are interlaced, she also persuasively shows how Hawai‘i and the Philippines are inextricably linked within US military history and a widely circulating militouristic imaginary that has used both places as familar and therefore pleasurable exotics and as safe training and testing grounds. For example, both acted as stand-ins for Vietnam during the US military’s involvement there: Gonzalez analyzes both the testing of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange on the island of Kaua‘i (in chapter 5) and the contracting of the indigenous Aeta peoples in the Philippines to train US military in jungle survival skills given the seeming intractability of Vietnam’s jungles (in chapter 6). The book also shows how, at times, Hawai‘i and the Philippines have been integral to each other’s colonization—for instance, Gonzalez’s analysis of early travel narratives notes the use of Hawai‘i as a model “manifest destination” that the Philippines would be made to emulate (40–48).
A major contribution of Securing Paradise is that it certainly provides a model for viewing Hawai‘i and the Philippines within the same frame of US militarism and tourism—a productive model that could be extended for other contexts within and beyond the Pacific. Though Gonzalez is not the first scholar to link militarism and tourism, this monograph is a significant addition to previous scholarship, including Teresia Teaiwa...