Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico

Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico

Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico

Sponsored Identities: Cultural Politics in Puerto Rico

Synopsis

Examines the creation of an essentialist view of nationhood based on a peasant culture and a unifying Hispanic heritage, and the ways in which grassroots organizations challenge and reconfigure definitions of national identity through their own activities and representations.

Excerpt

This study of Puerto Rico's cultural politics began in 1992 when I conducted preliminary fieldwork, although its development has long been in the making. As an island-born and U.S.-based Puerto Rican with a background in museum work, I have had a deep interest in the struggles involved in the public representation and definition of Puerto Rican culture. Issues of identity are key concerns for both Puerto Ricans in the States and on the island, and my work in culturally specific museums in New York City had heightened my interest in the role of cultural institutions in shaping definitions of collective identity.

This research is also informed by the current academic milieu and the plethora of studies questioning nationalisms and the construction of national identities as tools of colonial and postcolonial liberation. These studies guided my interest in the political implications of current debates over the island's national identity and the hierarchies embodied and reproduced in constructions of identity. Finally, this work is anthropological, in that it presents an ethnographic case study of some of the intersections between global processes and local-level cultural politics, issues at stake in Puerto Rico and beyond.

The result is a study that, in hindsight, I recognize as part of my own quest to come to terms with Puerto Rican cultural politics. For a so-called "native anthropologist" this involved going against the advice of more than one senior scholar who warned me about studying "my own culture," as well as having to rationalize and legitimize working on a popular and coveted topic within Puerto Rican Studies. This task also involved overcoming early fears about . . .

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