Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Solidarities of Liberation, Visions of Empire: Puerto Rico, Palestine, and the U.S. Imperial Project, 1967–1999
by Awartani, Sara Camille, Ph.D., The George Washington University, 2020, 293; 28022333
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the centrality of the “Palestine problem” and Puerto Rico’s “status question” to U.S. social movement networks and U.S. statecraft in the latter three decades of the twentieth century. Drawing on underutilized and, in some cases, unknown archives located throughout the United States, along with newspapers, government records, and oral histories, it traces the subtle but provocative connections activists, state agents, policymakers, and the media drew between Puerto Rico and Palestine. In asking how and why Palestine mattered for Puerto Rican radical politics, “Solidarities of Liberation” makes three arguments and interventions. First, I argue that, for the radicalization of Chicago’s Puerto Rican community the transformation from community organizers to Marxist, revolutionary militants was fundamentally a story of Third World internationalism and global politics, in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was central. Despite the widely held recognition that Third World internationalism connected militant Puerto Rican youth to a network of radicalism beyond U.S. borders, the radicalizing influence of the question of Palestine on Puerto Rican activists remains unstudied. This project seeks to fulfill this gap and, in doing so, demonstrates a more expansive theorization and application of transnationalism in Latinx Studies: one that looks beyond migration and diaspora formations to instead uncover the diverse roles Puerto Rican and other Latinx activists have played in the building of Third World solidarities throughout the twentieth century. Second, Puerto Rican solidarities with Palestine emerged not only as global visions of liberation, but also through grounded modes of identification—in this case, the concurrent regimes of surveillance and political repression bearing down on Chicago’s Puerto Rican and Arab American communities since the 1970s. While social movement historians have traditionally signaled the retreat from Vietnam and the repression and imprisonment of activists as the collapse of radical political organizing, Puerto Rican engagements with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provide persuasive examples of the continued production of oppositional politics. Thirdly and lastly, I argue that these solidarities enabled the United States to further justify and consolidate its surveillance and policing efforts against Puerto Rican radicals by casting the Puerto Rican independence movement, like Palestinian resistance, as a terrorist—and therefore illegitimate—menace. In what was ultimately a battle over the United States’ reputation as a global leader of democracy, comparisons between Puerto Rico and Palestine were coopted in service of imperial ambitions, demarcating the boundaries of legitimate political dissent. Whereas Puerto Rican radicals wedded their rejection of U.S. colonialism to the Palestinian struggle, those very solidarities became part of a larger set of justifications in the U.S. government’s emerging fight against international terrorism. Yet Puerto Rico (and Puerto Ricans) has been absent from histories of the U.S. carceral and national security state, including histories of U.S. counterterrorism and counterinsurgent policing. Examining the state’s impressive ability to weaponize Puerto Rican solidarities with Palestine provides an instructive story of how the Puerto Rican independence movement offered an important laboratory for international counterterrorism policies. Thus, this dissertation joins new scholarly endeavors to chart the transnational dimensions of the U.S. carceral state, particularly its roots in colonization and imperial expansion.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Guglielmo, Thomas, McAlister, Melani
Commitee: Robinson, Shira, Rúa, Mérida M.
School: The George Washington University
Department: American Studies
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 82/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, American history
Keywords: Liberation, Visions , Empire, Puerto Rico, Palestine, U.S. Empire
Publication Number: 28022333
ISBN: 9798664789805
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