- Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines by Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez
Imaginings of paradise long have worked to deny the legacies and persistence of the American empire in the Pacific, even as the U.S. military continues to maintain an active presence in its former colonies. In a critical study about the operations of militarism and tourism in Hawai‘i and the Philippines, Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez reveals how these two forces have remained deeply imbricated to sustain American imperial dominance in the Pacific. These are not just incidental overlaps, she argues, but a “strategic and symbiotic convergence” in which the U.S. military has laid the foundations for tourist itineraries and imaginations, and the economies of modern tourism continue to justify the necessity of American security in the region (p. 4). In so doing, Securing Paradise tells us far more than the interplay of militarism and tourism in the American tropics. Pushing beyond the binaries of “soft” and “hard” power, “colonial” and “postcolonial” that continue to frame cultural histories of the U.S. empire, this innovative study presents a critical genealogy of the U.S. empire that situates histories of violence squarely within the “liberating” narratives and practices of consumer freedom, multiculturalism, and neoliberal development. [End Page 211]
The study spans a period from the turn of the twentieth century to the present, and draws on a range of materials to illustrate how militarism and tourism have converged at different historical moments. With each paired chapters in turn focusing on a U.S. war in the Pacific—the Philippine-American War, World War II, and the Vietnam War—Gonzalez shows how the technologies, infrastructure, and knowledge produced during these wars became instrumentalized for emerging tourist regimes. Beginning with the fiction writings of “embedded” journalists who traveled with American soldiers to the Philippines, Gonzalez shows how their narratives already sutured militaristic and touristic fantasies at the incipient moment of American colonization. These romantic fictions worked to justify conquest as a masculine voyage of adventure and discovery, a production of colonial knowledge that soon materialized in the constructions of “scenic highways.” Chapter two turns to the built infrastructures of Kennon Road in the Philippines and the H-3 Interstate on O‘ahu, to examine how the discourses and practices of mobility embedded in these construction projects linked military security to tourist experiences and ways of seeing. Both Kennon Road and the H-3, Gonzalez contends, created a transcendent experience of mobility that erased the ongoing realities of military occupation.
If scenic highways reinforced the U.S. as a modern power secured through the freedom of mobility, then World War II memorials emerged as the site where narratives of liberation and sacrifice serve to legitimize the ongoing functions of the U.S. military. Chapter three turns to the memorializations of Corregidor Island and Bataan, two famous battle sites that reproduce narratives of allied fraternity between Americans and Filipinos. These tourist destinations and the narratives they told, Gonzalez argues, were inextricably linked to the revitalization of Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Field as special economic zones after the departure of the U.S. military in 1991. What she calls “neoliberalization” thus entailed mobilizing narratives of martial heroism to sanctify tourism as the new savior of the Philippines’ postcolonial economy. In a similar vein, the spatial construction and designs of the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor reinforce the U.S. military as a guarantor of freedom and multiculturalism while overwriting the history of Hawai‘i’s military overthrow with the more pressing imperative to “remember Pearl Harbor.”
Throughout the book, Gonzalez resists telling a chronological and linear story, opting to move back and forth in time and space to highlight the flexibility and durability of military and tourist regimes as they get enfolded into each other. The last two chapters accomplish this by examining the technologies and militarized knowledge of the Vietnam War that have been crucial...