Louis A. Perez, Jr.


On his book Cuba in the American Imagination: Metaphor and the Imperial Ethos

Cover Interview of March 02, 2009


Cuba in the American Imagination seeks to offer an alternative mode for the analysis of the moral context from which Americans have presumed to exercise power in the world at large.  In this order of things, the validation of hegemony was transacted most commonly within a system of symbolic representations, inscribed with conventional wisdom and received truths to convey as commonplace the premise and propriety of the exercise of U.S. power.

The use of metaphor has been vital in this process.  Metaphors serve as a means to mediate reality and have so insinuated themselves into the commonplace political vernacular as to cease to be apprehended at all.  Metaphors offer a cognitive context in which to apprehend the world, a way to arrive at an understanding of a time and place, often the very basis upon which a people choose one course of action among others.  To confront metaphor is not only to engage a form of knowledge but also to contend with a source of moral validation through which systems of domination normalize the rationale of power.  To call attention to the activity of metaphor in this setting is to argue that systems of domination function best as a matter of moral inducement: where reality is embedded in borrowed cultural models.  Metaphors contained within their very logic the capacity to expand fully into paradigms, whereupon they act to transform moral-to-live-by into prescription-to-act-upon.  This is to understand the use of metaphor as a deed of intent and purpose.  To choose to mediate reality by way of one set of cultural representations is also and at the same time to prompt a culturally-determined and politically-desired course of conduct.  Metaphors have their politics, and their politics are conveyed by way either of disguising differences or suggesting similarities.  Point of view is inscribed within the metaphor, which is to suggest that the politics is embedded within the image.  That is their purpose.

© 2009 Louis Pérez