Katherine McCaffrey

Associate Professor of Anthropology,

Montclair State University


Rethinking the Public in a Militarized Space

For 500 years, the landscape of Vieques, Puerto Rico has been shaped by military concerns, most dramatically in the second half of the 20th century when U.S. Navy occupied and bombed the island. Here I consider how the nature of public and private space is complicated by the dynamics of military control. Looking at two historic moments in Vieques-the construction of roads with forced labor in the early 1900s and the creation of a national park on contaminated base land in the early 2000s– I consider how public space may be coercive and/or exclusionary.  Protest and resistance to exclusion from space and resources involve not only reclaiming the public, but redefining it.


Katherine McCaffrey is associate professor of anthropology at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She has conducted long term ethnographic and historical research in Vieques, and is the author of Military Power and Popular Protest: The U.S. Navy in Vieques, Puerto Rico (Rutgers University Press, 2002). She has published a series of articles detailing changes and challenges facing Vieques Island since mass protest forced the military off the island in 2003.  Recently she collaborated with the photographer and video artist, Bonnie Donohue to curate an exhibition, “Killing Mapepe: Sex and Death in Cold War Vieques,” which was on view at the Fortín Conde de Mirasol Museum in Vieques, Puerto Rico from July-December 2011.

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