The Curious Case of Louis Menage: Science, Law, and Imperialism in American Im/Mobilities

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Conference Proceeding

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In American slang, to be “on the lam” means to be in flight from the law, to have run off in order to avoid prosecution. The phrase, which emerged in the 1890s, has a notion of mobility built into it. However, there are conditions of being on the lam that also have immobility as a defining feature, such as crossing international borders and becoming a fugitive in a country with no extradition treaty to the United States. That the phrase “on the lam” emerged when it did is not surprising; it is a reflection of the late nineteenth -century “crisis of mobility” (15) that Katherine Unterman writes about in Uncle Sam’s Policemen: The Pursuit of Fugitives Across Borders.

This paper will examine the case of Louis F. Menage, an American embezzler who fled to Guatemala in 1893, where he was stuck for six years, and the efforts by officials to either have him extradited or to kidnap him and return him by force. Menage was one of many fugitives in that decade but he has historical significance for his sponsorship of an 1890-93 zoological expedition to the Philippines, the members of which later became administrators of the US colonial regime there.


Presented at the 45th Austrian Association for American Studies Conference in Vienna, Austria on November 17, 2018.

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