Aesthetics and Empire: The Sense of Feminine Beauty in the Making of the US Imperial Archipelago


  • Lanny Thompson Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Puerto Rico



visuality, colonial desire, photography, Archipelagic studies, Cuba, Hawai`i, Philippines, Puerto Rico


This article examines the “sense of beauty” in the United States imperial archipelago, composed of the island territories of Cuba, Hawai`i, Philippines, and Puerto Rico, all acquired in 1898. The theoretical connection among these two elements –aesthetics and empire– is provided by a revision of the concepts “economy of colonial desire” and “complex of visuality.” This paper analyzes the most advanced visual technology of the late nineteenth century: the mass- produced, printed photograph. In particular, it focuses upon the representations of feminine beauty as found the illustrated “new-possessions” books which described recent island acquisitions of the United States. The connections between aesthetics and the forms of governance in each territory will also be elucidated.


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How to Cite

Thompson, L. (2013). Aesthetics and Empire: The Sense of Feminine Beauty in the Making of the US Imperial Archipelago. Culture &Amp; History Digital Journal, 2(2), e027.