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GSWS Reads: Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez
In this talk, Dr. Vernadette Gonzalez will reflect on the methodological challenges and innovations that shaped her most recent book, Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper. Here, Dr. Gonzalez follows the life of Filipina vaudeville and film actress Isabel Rosario Cooper, who was the mistress of General Douglas MacArthur. If mentioned at all, their relationship exists only as a salacious footnote in MacArthur's biography—a failed love affair between a venerated war hero and a young woman of Filipino and American heritage. In contrast, Gonzalez uses Cooper's life as a means to explore the contours of empire as experienced on the scale of personal relationships. Throughout, she fills in the archival gaps of Cooper's life with speculative fictional interludes that both unsettle the authority of "official" archives and dislodge the established one-dimensional characterizations of her. In the process, she makes a powerful case for the study of gender, sexuality, and intimacy as a way to shed light on the workings of empire.
Vernadette Gonzalez is Professor of American Studies and Director of the Honors Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is the author of Empire’s Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper (2021) and Securing Paradise: Tourism and Militarism in Hawai’i (2013), and co-editor of Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i (2019).