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The International Turn in American Studies


Edited By Marietta Messmer and Armin Paul Frank

The volume is a contribution to the ongoing debate on the internationalization of American Studies. The essays by European, American and Latin American scholars provide critical evaluations of a wide range of concepts, including trans-national and post-national, international, trans-atlantic, trans-pacific, as well as hemispheric, inter-American and comparative American studies. Combining theoretical reflections and actual case studies, the collection proposes a reassessment of current developments at a time when American nations experience the paradoxical simultaneity of both weakened and strengthened national borders alongside multiple challenges to national sovereignty.
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If Bolton Were to Awake Today: Early Efforts Towards a Comprehensive Hemispheric History of the Americas

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Ricardo D. Salvatore

Universidad Torcuato Di Tella, Argentina

If Bolton Were to Awake Today: Early Efforts Towards a Comprehensive Hemispheric History of the Americas

This contribution aims at placing the current discussion of the “international turn” of American Studies—in particular, its turn towards Hemispheric American Studies—in the context of discussions that took place during the 1930s and 1940s about the importance of writing a comparative history of the Americas. The program of a Hemispheric History, made explicit in Herbert E. Bolton’s 1932 call for an “Epic of Greater America,” was already underway during the post-WWI period. In fact, it was part of the agenda of those US historians who built the field of Hispanic American History in the United States. This essay reviews some of these early efforts in writing a comprehensive history of the Americas in order to underscore the neo-imperialist tendencies inherent in this kind of scholarship. The new discipline (Hispanic American History) emerged and consolidated in tandem with the US’s cultural diplomacy strategy of Pan-Americanism and the achievement of economic supremacy over Latin America by US products, corporations, and financial capital.

Calls to widen the scope of historical inquiry are often associated with specific geo-political designs by nation-states located at the centers of power. In its effort to “incorporate” neighboring nations within its own sphere of influence and cultural supremacy, the hegemon tries to represent them as a totality guided by a common cultural logic. US historians’ attempts to grasp the totality of Hispanic and Portuguese America during the inter-war period constitutes a clear case of a regional history being subordinated to or placed at the service of US foreign policy interests. This particular intellectual configuration should warn us against the dangers implicit in current pronouncements to transnationalize American Studies. Inter-temporal comparisons of knowledge projects are a dangerous exercise. But something useful can nonetheless be learned from them as well. The “lesson” this essay would like to present is thus the following: to follow the imperial impetus to bring home the knowledges of the world might not be the best way to “level the playing field” of world knowledges. Re-examining these earlier discussions will contribute to a better understanding of the true “novelty” of today’s calls for ← 63 | 64 → Hemispheric or New World Studies. More importantly, it could make us reflect critically on the possible dangers of such knowledge configurations. This essay, in particular, might thus serve to send out some warning signals. The new tendency emerging in US humanities departments could well be just another manifestation of a new “turn” in imperial power relations (globalization) as it unfolds and manifests itself in the various devices and instances of university-based power-knowledge productions. The story of the making of Hispanic American History, it seems to me, tends to confirm this suspicion.

In the first part of this essay, I will review Bolton’s call for a hemispheric history of the Americas, challenging L. Hanke’s view that silence and misunderstanding were the responses from historians North and South of the Rio Grande. In the second section, I will present some organizing categories—coordinates of time and space—that were purported to guide the writing of Hispanic American History, a discipline that in turn was presented as superseding the existing parochial histories of individual Latin American nations. Following this, I will examine some textbooks of Hispanic American History of the interwar period in order to show how US historians tried to “calibrate” the time and location of the subcontinent in their historiographical narratives. A fourth section is devoted to underlining the complicities between Hispanic American History and the US’s Good Neighbor Policy. Historians’ contributions to map anti-US-American resistance in Latin America during the 1920s and 1930s constitutes a clear manifestation of this collaboration. Finally, the essay puts the current “transnational turn” in American Studies in relation to these earlier debates about the wisdom and productivity of a Hemispheric History of the Americas. To disengage these new, more comprehensive agendas from the hegemon’s cultural policy, this essay argues, would necessitate a critical evaluation of the geopolitics of knowledge-production in which US universities and US scholars are currently immersed.

Bolton, the Boltonians and the Hemisphere

In 1963 Lewis Hanke, one of the central figures of Latin American History, convened a conference to discuss the relevance of the so-called “Bolton theory.” The conference and the subsequent book were titled Do the Americas Have a Common History?, in honor of Herbert E. Bolton’s 1932 address to the American Historical Association in Toronto. This address, titled “The Epic of Greater America” (Bolton 1933), constituted a timely call to change the then dominant “American History” approach (US history, in actuality) into a truly continental field of historical inquiry (Hanke 1964). At the height of the Great Depression and at the start of the Good Neighbor Policy, Bolton asked US historians to consider the hemisphere ← 64 | 65 → (the Americas) as the true framework of US history. Not only because, as pioneer Latin Americanists B. Moses and W. Sheppherd had shown, Hispanic traditions and culture were an important part of US history, but because the comparison between Anglo-America and Latin America promised to render important insights that could serve as the bases of a composite or comprehensive history of the continent.

When Hanke, assisted by a group of historians from the United States, Canada, and Latin America, re-examined this issue in 1963, he presented a pessimistic appraisal of Bolton’s impact on US historiography. Though Bolton and his students had firmly established the study of the Hispanic Borderlands as a component of US national history, Bolton’s proposal for a hemispheric history had received only “apathy and silence” from the profession (Hanke 26). US historians dealing with national history continued to teach “American History” as if the 1932 address had never taken place. In Latin America, few historians acknowledged or gave credit to Bolton’s approach (among them Argentinian historian E. de Gandía), others called for the essential unity of the continent (Colombian historian G. Arciniegas), and still others, such as Mexican historian Edmundo O’Gorman, rejected Bolton’s proposal outright.

In a 1939 essay, O’Gorman suggested that Bolton had failed to understand the incommensurable gap in the spirit and mindset between the two Americas (O’Gorman 1939).1 Later, in his intervention during a 1941 meeting of historians in Chicago, O’Gorman again maintained his view about the separatness of the two Americas. He presented Spanish colonization as based upon a medieval conception of religion, while Anglo-American colonization was invested with the spirit of modernity and sustained by the ideal of religous freedom. To re-affirm his belief that Anglo and Latin America deserved different histories, he aligned in his support José Enrique Rodó, José Martí, and Simón Bolívar, writers who had seen US-America as endangering the cultural integrity of “Our America” (Hispanic America).

The project of a common hemispheric history clearly had a political dimension. If not in political and diplomatic practice, the Americas could be united in history. If historians could show that enough similarities existed between their individual historical trajectories, a new “commons” would emerge in the area of the humanities, an intellectual domain where representatives of Anglo and Latin America would find a common understanding of the past and, likely, be able to imagine ← 65 | 66 → a common future for the continent. Against this lofty ideal stood the reality of a discipline established by US-Americans in order to support the US’s hegemony over the Americas. Latin American intellectuals had little to say in this common history enterprise and, to the extent that they were invited into the project, their work contributed to intellectual agendas designed at US universities.

Bolton delivered his famous presidential address (1932) during a period in which historiography in the United States was inextricably intertwined with the policies of Pan-Americanism. His intervention at the Toronto meeting of the AHA had the double intention of making US historians reconsider the forgotten Hispanic component of US history and also of turning the attention of US historians to the countries South of the Rio Grande. Bolton and other historians of his time thought that these histories were important to the Unites States as a nation seeking international recognition as a new world competitor for power and in need of allies in the hemisphere. In other words, we cannot simply divorce the project of a Hemispheric History from the US’s policy of “intellectual cooperation” and soft (cultural) Pan-Americanism.2 Though Bolton wanted to complicate the historical bases of “American (US) identity,” he at the same time tried to provide food for thought to the foreign-policy community who was dealing with a vexing and old problem at that moment: how to isolate Latin America from European conflicts and influences.

Hanke’s pesimistic view of the impact of Bolton’s proposal among US and Latin American historians alike was probably exaggerated. Not only because a Program for the History of the Americas had been introduced and carried out by the Pan-American Union, but also because the idea of a comparative history of the Americas had already been established by the American Historical Association in the form of a Hispanic American History project. Long before Bolton’s 1932 speech, starting in the post-WWI period, US historians had already been writing histories of “Latin America” that included comparisons to the US’s historical experience and culture. These historical narratives presented the United States and its exceptionalist position as the measuring rod of modernity and progress on the subcontinent. Empowered by the sense of a relocated Occidentalism, US historians endeavored to colonize the field of the history of Latin America, presenting their own comprehensive view of the Americas as the superior one.3 ← 66 | 67 →

In the domain of history, the ideals of Pan-Americanism led to the formation of the Pan-American Institute of History and Geography, under the auspices of the Pan-American Union, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. One of the Institute’s initiatives was the History of the Americas Program. Under the leadership of Silvio Zavala and Arthur Whitaker (a collaboration between a US-American and a Mexican historian), this program produced a general outline for the writing of historiographical narratives of continental scope, and proposed a list of authors and works to carry the Program’s objectives into practice.

In 1959 Silvio Zavala reported on the progress made by the Program of the History of the Americas to date.4 He stressed that two of the central objectives of the program were to design textbooks that would carry the idea of a Hemispheric History into the classrom, and that the writing of these textbooks would lead to an international cooperation among historians. As a byproduct, this would generate a greater exchange of research on the history of the two Americas. The grand plan implied dividing the task into three parts: anthropologists would deal with Pre-Columbian America, a group of US and Latin American historians would work together on the volume on Colonial America, and the third volume would be a compilation of as many contributors as the countries in the hemisphere.

In addition to this division of labor, the program committee worked hard to impose a uniform periodization on the histories of the “national period.” These were: 1) the gaining of independence (1778–1830), 2) the consolidation of the American nation states (1830–1870), 3) the growth of diversity witin American nations (1870–1910), and 4) a new revolutionary era in the Americas (1910–1950). Contributors were asked to deal with all four sub-fields of the discipline of history (political, economic, social, and cultural). Zavala expected that with the cooperation of historians from the two Americas, the program would be able to avoid the narrow vision of a single imperial nation (Britain, France, Spain, Portugal) trying to present their own view of history. In the new history of the Americas there was no place for the tensions between a Protestant history of Spanish colonization and the Spanish patriotic view of its own colonization process. The history would be told from the perspective of “Americans at large.”

In his introction to the project (1957), professor Arthur Whitaker of the University of Pennsylvania emphasized that this would be a collaborative history dealing with the entire Western Hemisphere.5 It was, in this regard, to be considered ← 67 | 68 → a “grand history” comparable to projects such as Toynbee’s history of civilizations or Gibson’s history of the British empire. As Whitaker acknowledged, the main difficulty for the planned volumes would be to keep a balance between national and regional particularities and the generalities or common denominators uniting the entire hemisphere. This was particularly problematic for the discussion of the “national period,” where historians endeavored to impose their own national perspectives onto the history of a whole sub-region (Mesoamerica, the Andean nations, or the River Plate region). Meetings in Havana, 1953, Washington, 1956, and smaller-scale meetings in New York and Mexico had tried to smooth out these differences.

By 1959, through the agency of the Pan American Institute of History and Geography (IPGH in Spanish), the program had managed to publish nineteen contributions or booklets: ten on the pre-Columbian period, five on the colonial era, and four on the post-independence and modern periods. I have been unable to examine these texts. Consequently, I cannot at this point determine whether the resulting volumes reflected the consensus reached and, to this extent, constituted a more comprehensive or alternative history of the American hemisphere. Yet it is clear from the project leaders’ remarks that the work done before 1959 was only preparatory: Whitaker stated that the volumes published were small booklets, nothing more than preliminary surveys, which could serve as the basis for the writing of “a monumental history of America” that was still lacking at this point.

Yet while the number of books was indeed limited and the publications took time to reach readers, this program nonetheless represented an advance, however modest, over US practices in the realm of intellectual cooperation. The cultural policies of Pan Americanism had managed to produce the groundwork for a Hemispheric History. Later events, such as the Cuban Revolution, would dramatically change the climate of cooperation between historians and the US State Department.6 Another important aspect is the fact that the very process of specialization would later refocus the attention of historical inquiries onto “national histories,” and even later onto multiple dispersed “local histories.” Yet the impulse during the 1930s and 1940s was clearly to place the findings of historical inquiries into Latin America within the context of a comprehensive sub-discipline (Hispanic American History) that found itself in permanent comparison with the hegemonic model, US historical experience and culture. ← 68 | 69 →

Hispanic American History (History With a Purpose)

The project of Hispanic American History matured in the US around 1918, with the founding of the Conference on Latin American History (CLAH) and the launching of its journal, the Hispanic American Historical Review (HAHR). As the founders of this project envisioned, their subdiscipline would try to understand the past of Hispanic- American nations7 from the perspective of the United States. It was thus in Chakravarty’s sense a located, “provincial” history. Yet it was also a regional history, not a collection of national histories, but a grand narrative about the evolution of the whole subcontinent called “Latin America.” Even though at the beginning its practitioners wanted to be in conversation with top-of-the-line US historians practising “American History,” in actuality the American Historical Association tolerated these poor cousins in its organization without fully engaging with them.

To be regarded as useful knowledge, this regional history had to be comparative in nature. That is, historians needed to frame their findings in relation to the experience and culture of the United States. To this extent, Hispanic American History was, from its inception, US-centric. It reflected the perspectives of US scholars and, indirectly, the values of the “American nation” (as understood by white, male, university-educated US-Americans). And it considered as part of its field the foreign-policy issues faced by the State Department and the US’s political elites. It was, without doubt, a history with a purpose, a neo-imperial engagament with Latin America’s past.

At the time of the constitution of the CLAH and the start of the journal, the HAHR, the discipline of “American Studies” was actually in its beginnings and, consequently, historians were relatively free to enunciate what they considered to be “America” (US culture, traditions, values, etc.). Bolton, for example, was a disciple of F.J. Turner and actually tried to apply Turner’s frontier thesis to the Spanish Borderlands (with quite negative results).8 For other Latin American historians contemporaneous with Bolton, the idea of “America” included the idea ← 69 | 70 → of territorial expansionism, democratic governance, economic competitiveness, ample individual liberties, and so on.9

The project of Hispanic American History had two primary goals: (a) to re-organize the historical narrratives of the twenty nations South of the Rio Grande into a coherent totality, in order to render these societies more transparent—or at least legible—to US university students and the scholarly community; and (b) to try to locate Latin American nations within the context of “American exceptionalism,” understood as the constellation of differences that distinguished US government, society, economics, and culture from Europe. Re-defining regional history towards a greater totality (the Western Hemisphere) in order to pose within this enhanced terrain the problem of US exceptionalism was, to these historians, an enormously difficult but enticing challenge.

The first goal entailed recognizing the existence of cultural similarities between and a shared historical experience of the nations of Latin America. This required abolishing the “national” history projects practised in each of the twenty Latin American republics by proposing a comprehensive view of their collective past. By disavowing the claims of national historians to the specificities of their own country’s histories, US historians claimed to be creating a superior type of knowledge. The second goal implied placing Hispanic America at a temporal and geo-cultural distance from the United States. Numerous publications had positioned “(US)America” at a unique location in world history. This was a nation formed by people of European stock who, due to a number of reasons, were able to successfully experiment in the new world with forms of government, religious and civic liberties, economic competition, and forms of social interaction that were considered “exceptional.” In this regard, given the assumed cultural and technological superiority of the United States vis-á-vis Latin America, it was only natural that the twenty nations South of the Rio Grande would be “less than exceptional.”10

US-based historians of Hispanic America strove to establish a delicate balance between sameness and difference. They had to present Latin America as ← 70 | 71 → lagging behind the United States while being part of the same “American” spirit and legacy. In particular, since their independence, many of the new republics South of the Rio Grande had adopted legal institutions and policies modelled upon those of the United States. Yet by the end of WWI most of them had “failed” to achieve self-government, competitive free markets, and a minimum of welfare for its populations. This “backwardness,” I suggest, was constitutive of the field to the extent that it informed almost all historical narratives of the subcontinent. At the same time, US historians had to acknowledge and measure the difference produced in the making of the Latin nations by 300 years of Spanish colonialism, and by the influx of European ideas, technologies, trade, and capital in the 19th century. A late-comer to the game of international commerical and financial competition, the United States needed to carve out a cultural space from which to interpellate and entice Latin American elites. The successful construction of US cultural supremacy necessitated the deployment of a believable relationship between the “example” or “role model” and the “imitator”—the “leader” and the “follower”—within the framework of US-American exceptionalism.

This was, to be sure, an exercise in calibrating time and space. In terms of place, historians had to locate “Latin America” at an appropriate distance from the United States on the one hand, and from Europe on the other. By necessity, the region was to be an “in-between” area, a collectivity in between the attractions and influences of Europe and the Colossus to the North. Yet also a region that needed to be internally fragmented in order to gain greater comprehension – hence, the various strategies to establish differentiations between Eastern and Western republics, Andean and Atlantic nations, Caribbean dictatorial states and progressive European implants in the River Plate. In terms of time, US historians replicated the assertions of early 20th-century travelers.11 In terms of economic progress and social modernity, the ABC countries (Argentina, Brazil, and Chile), were only 50 to 60 years behind the United States. The Andean nations, on the other hand, were living in ways similar to colonial societies 200 or 300 years earlier. Here were the large areas of “pure” indigenous villages untouched by foreign investment and European modernity.

In terms of geo-cultural location, reaching a synthesis for a quite diverse region—where modernity and tradition competed for primacy—proved difficult. In cities such as Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santiago, and Rio de Janeiro, scholars acknowledged the strong presence of European cultural modernity. In the rural landscape and agricultural production of the ABC countries, scholars could also ← 71 | 72 → point out signs of US modernity: grain elevators, trucks, farm machinery, corn markets, banks, insurance companies, and modern port facilities. In the rest of South America, US or European modernity was restricted to foreign enclaves created by petroleum, mining, and banana companies. The influence of British, French, and German business methods and culture had imprinted certain ports and cities of South America with a “European flavor.” The vast majority of Andean cities (Cali, Bogotá, La Paz, Quito), on the other hand, had retained traits of Spanish colonial life. There, signs of modernity were hard to find. The visitor who immersed herself into the highlands and valleys of Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador was sure to find villages almost uncontaminated by European/American progress. Travelers marked these villages and countrysides as “Indian,” for the majority of its population appeared to be of indigenous descent. By extension, they called Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia “Indian nations,” encapsulating in this label the largest possible distance, in time, progress, and customs, from the US’s exeptional civilization.

US historians of Hispanic America replicated the assertions of Euro-American 20th-century travelers, contributing empirical evidence for “placing” some of these regions—Andean nations in particular—in a distant Spanish colonial past. The Caribbean, called “the American Mediterranean” at the time, was a geo-political location disputed since the 17th century by England, France, and Holland, and now, since 1898, under the United States’ orbit of influence and intervention. This area lived in a perpetual time of revolutions and dictators and was, consequently, denied the possibility of ever entering modernity. Though many located some of the roots of this failure to attain modernity (in particular, self-government) in the tropical climate or in the African origins of the population, others took as a given the inability of the Caribbean nations to attain progress and civilization. The ABC countries stood at the opposite end of the spectrum, very close to the time of European modernity, but still lagging behind the United States. Here were the US-Americans’ closest cousins, people of European stock developing similar institutions with a remarkable degree of success in terms of political stability and economic progress, who only needed to sustain the effort a little longer.

Calibrating the Time and Space of Hispanic America

In 1919 William W. Sweet published one of the first comprehensive histories of the region. His A History of Latin America treated the territory of the Spanish empire as a whole, establishing the traditional difference between the core areas (New Spain and Peru) and the fringe areas. Yet, starting with independence, nations needed to be placed in certain groups in order to account for both similarities and differences in their development. Sweet took the decision to divide the countries ← 72 | 73 → into “backward” and “progressive” ones, based mostly on their ability to embrace political modernity. Those countries that had failed to break the vicious circle of revolutions and dictators were grouped under the label of “backward states.” Among them were Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Those other countries that had attained some degree of political stability and a minimum of political participation were grouped as “progressive states.” Among them were Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.12 Whereas in the “backward states,” history assumed the form of an endless succession of dictators—interrupted by liberal interludes and the enactment of “paper constitutions”—in the “progressive states” it was important to ponder the merits of “capable presidents” who had promoted reforms that served to establish forms of “self-government” similar to those of the United States before the Civil War.

With time, this dividing line acquired the fixity of a geographical and cultural boundary. S. Guy Inman’s Latin America (1942) took the Andes as the dividing line between nation-states that looked towards Europe and those which could be seen as falling under the influence of the United States and embracing some modernity. Yet it was more likely that nations to the West of the Andes would remain trapped between Spanish medievalism and Inca times:

East of the Andes, the peoples of the continent look toward Europe. West of the Andes, one gets the feeling, as in crossing the Rockies in the United States, that here is a different world, a world in which the former Inca civilization blends with the Spanish colonial to form a unique culture. (Inman 1942: 115)

Inman characterized Argentina as “the most European of American nations,” because of its successful inmigration policy and its predilection for European ideas and fashions. Its governing elites tried to keep a safe distance from the United States while selectively adopting the novelties coming from Europe. Uruguay was presented an an “international center”—the Switzerland of America—where most progressive movements found a home. While not particularly European, Chile formed an example of a nation in which an appropriate racial mixture (the blending of “strong Basques” with “virile Araucanians”) was able to establish a centralized and stable government. Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Paraguay were examples of the opposite. Ecuador under García Moreno was an “experiment in theocracy.” Bolivia was a failed nation, with the record of 60 uprisings in 70 years. Peru represented the typical case of an aristocratic mestizo elite ruling over an unassimilated Indian majority. Colombia was an example of a country of ← 73 | 74 → continuous upheavals where principles and rhetoric led ruling elites (liberals and conservatives) into recurrent bloody confrontations. Venezuela was a land rich in caudillos. The fall of the last caudillo, Juan Vicente Gómez, in 1935, promised the incorporation of this country into the modern world.

A double matrix governed Inman’s classification of Latin America: the success or failure with respect to political modernization; and the relative distance to distinct geo-cultures (to Spain, Europe, the United States, or Africa). Colombia and Venezuela, whatever their successes in overcoming dictatorship or caudillista governments, were closer to the Caribbean, that vortex of revolutions and upheavals, than the rest of South America. Brazil had some points of contact with the United States, but in racial matters, the country had advanced towards a policy of racial miscegenation. By doing so, Brazil remained closer to Africa than the rest of South America. In general, due to its peculiar mixture of races and its institutional borrowings from Spain, France, and the United States, Latin America had developed “a unique civilization” located “in-between Orient and Occident” (Inman 21). Inman wrote:

They [Latin Americans] can give us special help in solving one of the greatest problems in race psychology—an understanding, in this shrinking world, between Oriental and Occidental civilization. For here in Latin America dwell people who have borrowed much from the civilizations of Asia, Europe and America. Living more or less isolated from the rest of the world, they have worked out a philosophy which embraces some of the major points of view of all three of these continents. (Inman 21)

Latin Americans had inherited certain Oriental attitudes from the Arabs, intellectual aspirations from Europe, and the enthusiasm to build a new world from US-America.

If the Andes functioned as a geo-cultural divide, the Panama Canal also served to separate two distinct areas according to US strategic thinkers. To the North of it were the Caribbean and Central American nations, areas prolific in revolutions and financial mismanagement that could bring about opportunities for European interventions. This circumstance alone justified (according to US policy makers) the US’s right to intervene in the politics and finances of the region. To the South of the Canal was a vast territory dominated by European culture and commerce. In this region, European cultural and business supremacy could only be contested through innovative business methods, counter-propaganda, and government investments in transportation. Here military intervention was deemed impossible and unpractical, as the Venezuelan situation had proven. South America was the land of a potential informal empire, a place where the Monroe Doctrine could not be enforced with the same duress and efficacy as in the Caribbean and Central ← 74 | 75 → America (Munro 588–89). To the North of the Canal were countries of revolutions, volcanos, and tropical diseases; to the South were more diverse polities and peoples, struggling to emulate European and US modernity. This “Great Divide,” discursively constructed on the basis of strategic foreign policy thinking, was subsequently uncritically adopted by most historians of the region.

The presence of progress in the Southern Cone prompted a comparison between the civilizations of North and South America, a field in which US historians of Hispanic America willingly intervened. Their contributions were to map a world of differences that enhanced and made more complex the ongoing debate about the existence of two different “Americas” and the possibility of a comparative, hemispheric history. As the Bolton debate made clear, US historians held conflicting positions in relation to this problematic. Yet at the same time the adventure of a hemispheric history was also contemplated by many Hispanic American historians, though practised only by a few. During the times of the Good Neighbor Policy, there were many historians who raised this possibility and tried to persuade the profession to move in this direction. The call was to move towards a hemispheric and comparative history of the Americas. Behind the question posed by Lewis Hanke—“Do the Americas Have a Common History?”—lurked the intriguing possibility of uncovering the mindset of the typical “Latin American” as it differed from what was considered the mindset of the typical “(US)American.”

While the lavishness of nature and, to a certain extent, frontier life gave the Americas a common destiny, a world of difference still separated Anglo-Saxon from Latin America. The Anglo-Saxon was practical while the Latin American was theoretical. The former was devoted to science and material progress, whereas the latter dedicated most of his time to human relations. The importance attributed by “Latin Americans” to juridical forms was counterposed by the importance attached to practical governance in Anglo-America. Family and honor (dignidad) constituted high values for the Latin American, whereas the Anglo-American attributed greater value to material welfare and efficiency.13 Accustomed from childhood to confuse the ideal with the real, Latin Americans copied without modification the US constitution in the belief that this would produce an ideal democracy. This naiveté had a price: in order to learn the lesson of self-government, Latin Americans had to stumble many times into anarchy, dictatorship, and corrupt government (Inman 22–24, 28–30). ← 75 | 76 →

Policing Anti-Americanism

Because of its relational nature (in connection with US exceptionalism) and its useful purpose, early attempts at producing a comprehensive and long-term view of the Latin American past could not avoid dealing with contemporary United States expansionism and Latin American reactions to this process. Early books usually contained a foreign-relations section in which authors dealt with the US’s policy of Pan-Americanism, the actuality of the Monroe Doctrine, and/or the expansion of US companies and capital into the subcontinent. Often, these early histories of the subcontinent drew attention to the existence, throughout Latin America, but particularly among South American nations, of a growing “apprehension” and “distrust” towards the Northern Colossus. Even though this anti-American resistance manifested itself in different types of print culture, it was more readily apparent—and more dangerous—in the writings of leading intellectuals of the region.

From the late 1920s through the 1940s, the emerging discipline started to inform readers about Latin American “reactions” to US policy measures. These scholarly interventions were tantamount to policing anti-imperialism. Some of the anti-Americanism prevalent in the nations South of the Rio Grande was alternatively called “distrust,” “misgivings,” “apprehension,” “suspicion,” or “fear,” and presented as the product of anti-American propaganda by European nations, if not as the result of purposeful misrepresentations of the United States and its people. The intelligence gathered by US historians visiting the region called attention to the growing nationalism of South American elites, a new phenomenon that could de-rail the progress made by Pan-Americanism since the first decade of the 20th century.

The fact that anti-Americanism was articulated by some prominent members of the ciudad letrada of South America, in terms that presented a clear defiance against the economic, political, and cultural hegemony of the United States in the region, was a source of concern for US experts in the field as it constituted an unexpected resistance from scholars and litterati who were otherwise genearally considered to be the leading civilizing force of the region. In fact, the most serious anti-American critique came from the cultural elite most knowlegeable of—and in contact with—US culture and academic life. Surveying the extent and diffusion of anti-American feelings, US scholars “discovered” new types of national cultural and political awareness, such as nationalism and indigenism. They attributed to these discourses a disruptive potential vis-á-vis the ideal of US Pan-Americanism and the Good Neighbor doctrine. Here was the “native informant,” usually a collaborator in the informal empire’s enterprise of knowledge, now turned into a critic of the intellectual, moral, or cultural superiority of the United States. ← 76 | 77 →

Anti-Yankee imperialism was a new development that deserved the attention of US scholars, the US foreign-policy community, and the common US reader. Hence, it was not unsual that historians, producing scholarship connected to the formulation of US foreign policy principles, took up the issue and tried to understand it. Among them were C. Haring, F. Rippy, L. Hanke, A. Whitaker, J. Lanning, and other leading figures in the field of Hispanic American History. Here, I shall deal with only a few of these scholarly interventions. (A full examination of these intelligence-gathering activities by scholars, and in particular by historians, is still needed).14

C. Haring, in South America Looks at the United States (1928), formulated a strong argument in this direction. He called the attention of his fellow US-Americans to the growing anti-American nationalism in South America, nurtured as he thought by a “mistrust” propagated by intellectuals and the periodical press. Anti-American propaganda had produced a proliferation of misrepresentations of the United States. “The Yankee is generally pictured as lacking in subtlety, sentiment or esprit, rude, pugnacious, a boaster with whom brawn obtains preference over brain, and for whom everything is ‘made to order’ in a mechanical civilization” (134). South American newspapers took pleasure in criticizing the United States for the activitities of the Ku Klux Klan, the war reparations problem, Prohibition, New York murder rates, the frequency of divorce, or the immodesty of American women.

In addition to the Pan-Hispanicists and the Pan-Latinists, intellectuals and publicists from Mexico were actively discrediting the United States. The “rapprochement” between intellectuals from Mexico and the ABC countries promised to further nurture anti-Americanism. To Haring, the creation of the Unión Latino-Americana by Argentine scholar José Ingenieros, and the journey of José Vasconcelos to the River Plate countries was detrimental to the US’s reputation in the region. Ingenieros exhorted Latin American nations to morally resist foreign imperialism, denouncing the Monroe Doctrine as a “right of intervention” by the US (143). Ingenieros’ successor at the Unión, socialist Alfredo Palacios, became a “violent Yankee-baiter [sic]” (145). In Uruguay, the Centro Ariel had continued Jose Enrique Rodó’s anti-US preachings. The Nicaragua imbroglio provoked reactions among students in Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, and Chile. Vasconcelos’ Mexico-City based Unión de la Juventud de Hispano-América turned into the headquarters of anti-US propaganda for many Latin-American students. ← 77 | 78 →

Sociological essays by Latin Americans—by C.O. Bunge, M. Ugarte, R. Blanco-Fombona, and Monteiro Lobato, among others—contributed to discredit the US’s policy of Pan-Americanism by proposing a union of Latin-American nations in opposition to the United States. Even the poets of the region—Rubén Darío, José Santos Chocano, and others—raised their pen to warn their countrymen against the “Yankee peril.” To Haring the three most eloquent and persistent critics of the US were Venezuelan Blanco Fombona, Mexican Carlos Pereyra, and Argentinian Manuel Ugarte. In addition to challenging the historical parallelism between Anglo and Hispanic America, these writers denounced the US’s attempts to promote its economic predominance in and cultural penetration of Latin America. In short, intellectuals from the region were forging a new “continental consciousness” that spread live-fire among many university students of the region.

Historian Fred Rippy also contributed to unmasking the rhetoric and practice of anti-imperial thought in various books and articles. He devoted one chapter of his widely-read Historical Evolution of Hispanic America (1936) to examine the phenomenon of “Yankeefobia.” Anti-American feelings emerged as a reaction to US economic imperialism: “considerable distrust, fear, and hostility developed along with our hegemony” (536). The great newspapers of the ABC countries were severe in their condemnation of US interventions in the Caribbean. This, added to the anti-American propaganda disseminated by Spaniards, Frenchmen, and Germans, produced a generalized distrust among Latin American elites against the intentions of the United States.

Anti-Americanism also figures prominently in D. G. Munro’s The Latin American Republics (1942). The two Pan-American conferences of 1923 (Santiago) and 1928 (Havana) brought forth an increasing “unfriendliness” of South American nations vis-à-vis the United States. The US’s continued interventions in Haiti and Nicaragua caused great uproar among the southern republics (Munro 596–97). In 1933 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stated his new policy of non-intervention, which contributed to improving the relations between the US and Latin American nations. Yet, as Munro acknowledged, economic nationalism was the true basis of the new anti-Americanism during the 1920s and 1930s. Since the mid-19th century, foreign capital had dominated the economic life of the new republics. As their citizens saw the best jobs and business opportunities taken over by foreigners, resentment grew against foreign investors. This resulted in a demand for greater control over foreign property, the nationalization of natural resources, and efforts to substitute imports with local industry (Munro 599-602).

We cannot claim today that early Pan-American historiography was unconcerned with imperialism and its resistance. Early US historians in the region did consider this problem. They seriously interrogated the roots of Latin American ← 78 | 79 → “distrust,” and presented policy suggestions to ameliorate and counteract anti-American resistance and “propaganda.” In fact, we may say that US-based Latin Americanists of the 1920s and 1930s made efforts to incorporate the Latin American Other into their narratives, precisely because theirs was a hemispheric history connected to and useful for US foreign policy interests. Yet, this Other was mainly an invention: an abstract and compact discursive subject, the product of US scholars’ superficial encounters with a few members of Latin America’s educated elite.

In addition to featuring this educated, elitist, and well-mannered Other, the histories of Latin America authored by US scholars also posited the existence of a multitude of Others still to be incorporated into civilization, progress, and history. These were the vast numbers of Indians, Blacks, and mulattos that constituted the majority of the populations of countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, and the whole of Central America and the Caribbean. The failures of the white and mestizo elites’ political leadership in these countries offered a direct reflection on the lack of opportunities, poverty, and marginalization of these majorities. US scholars, while acknowledging their presence, presented them as the beneficiaries of the future. Only in the future, when their nations would have achieved US modernity—when the Andean nations would be able to replicate the type of democracy, social welfare, and technological progress already enjoyed by the US—would these majorities inherit the promised land of “American welfare.” Besides this minimal gesture towards a massive and unknown Other, US historians dealt mostly with Latin American elites and studied and reported the attitudes and writings of these intellectuals.

This is not the place to reflect on the ways in which US scholars visiting the sub-continent “pictured” their Latin American colleagues.15 Yet it is clear from their dismissive gestures towards local intellectuals and, particularly, from their critical views on the region’s universities, that US scholars advanced and fed—with their inquiries, reflections, and opinions—the agenda of US intellectual hegemony. Early US historians of the region stated clearly that US universities were better places for the study of Latin America’s past, because there scholars could find extensive collections of documents and books, a strong concentration of scholars, and publications devoted to a comprehensive view of the region. These scholars were in fact in the process of establishing the institutional apparatus (the faculty, the graduate programs, the specialized libraries, the conferences, ← 79 | 80 → the recruitment of students, and the fund-raising) needed for this enterprise of knowledge-production to function and prosper. Theirs was a perspective that, due to its large scope and comparative capacity, was bound to produce a more truthful and useful history of Latin America.

Whether intentionally or not, the project of a US-centered history of Latin America (and by extension, of a comparative US-Latin American history) was to colonize the national histories of individual Latin American nations, to the point of rendering them subaltern. In the midst of the Good Neighbor Policy, US historians were not at liberty to critique the Latin American intelligentsia and the countries’ universities outright. In order to build bridges of cooperation between themselves and these aristocratic, pompous, and overly rhetorical Others—“native scholars”—, US academics usually employed a condescending tone. Moreover, they often made efforts to align the policy of “intellectual cooperation” with their dismissive views of Latin American scholars. Guy Inman, for example, suggested a possible complementarity between two types of scholarship: the “Latin” scholar given to theoretical principles, the contemplation of beauty and spirituality, is compatible with the “Anglo-Saxon” scholar, governed by practicality, scientific procedures, and a commitment to improve common welfare. (One cannot fail to notice a dose of Arielismo in Inman’s friendly gesture towards intellectual complementarity and cooperation).16

The Relevance of the Bolton Debates Today

If H.E. Bolton were to awake today and look into the emerging field of New World or Hemispheric American Studies, he would find many of the propositions, definitions, and calls for action quite familiar. Yet he would have difficulties in understanding the geopolitical and institutional context in which these intellectual challenges take place. He might argue that historians of the 1930s and 1940s already discussed many of these issues and, at the same time, be quite intrigued by the unfamiliar mix of disciplines attempting to re-examine the study of “the Americas at large.” In the years of the Good Neighbor Policy, history and literature were the two disciplines trying to incorporate the unfamiliar Other ← 80 | 81 → (Latin America) into the self (US-America). If pressed, Bolton might concede that he and his disciples made good progress in the field of the Hispanic Borderlands, but they were less successful in developing a continental history of the Americas. The Pan-American Institute of History and Geography later took up this initiative, yet with relatively little impact on the profession. Enthusiasm for a Pan-American history subsided when the Second World War demonstrated that the continent was not as united as US policy-makers had thought.

Bolton might see a certain degree of similarity between efforts launched during the 1930s and 1940s to study the common but divergent destiny of Anglo versus Spanish America and today’s emphasis on studying the multiple voices, experiences, and cultures of “a greater America,” that is, an “America” of continental dimensions. He might be surprised to find that after so many years, a custom union (NAFTA) was only formed among the US and its immediate neighbors (Mexico and Canada), while the rest of Latin America has negotiated separate agreements with the United States or refuses to start such negotiations. The hemispheric custom union imagined by Blaine in the 1890s was later boycotted by the River Plate republics (in particular, by Argentina). But today, it seems that defiance against the Colossus of the North is emerging from multiple directions at once: from the jungles of Yucatan, from the highlands of Bolivia, from Buenos Aires’s industrial belt, or from the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. He would find out that, to his regret, the union of the American republics that was behind the project of a Hemispheric history got de-railed somewhere between the formation of the OAS (1948) and the Chiapas uprising (1994).

Bolton’s unfamiliarity with (and perhaps surprise about) the present would stem from the new arrangements within the humanities and the social sciences in US institutions of higher education. For a person attentive to the territorial boundaries set by empires and nation states in their struggle for sovereignty and power, such as Bolton, these peculiar creations–Cultural Studies, American Studies, Ethnic Studies, Gender Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies, Latino Studies, Post-Colonial Studies, Global Studies, etc.—would not seem to be particularly useful ways to organize knowledge. In particular, Bolton would be at odds to understand the “turn” towards multi-culturalism and post-colonialism, as well as the recent proliferation of knowledge projects under the guise of transnational or hemispheric “American Studies.” Why turn towards the Hemisphere at a moment in which an already global power had persuaded others to go for “globalization”?

He might protest against my own attempts to present US historians of the interwar period as collaborators of US cultural and foreign policy interests in Latin America. Yet he would see in the past, and during the years of the Good Neighbor Policy in particular, a clearer picture of historians trying to complicate the story ← 81 | 82 → of what was “US-America” and how it became what it is today. He only wanted to contribute to this story by introducing Hispanic traditions, institutions, and historical events into the history of the USA. Yet in the present, the question of a “greater America” would trigger the even more difficult question of the location of “US-America.” Where can US-America (its ideals of government and civil rights, its mass-consumer culture, its literature, its ethnic and racial diversity, even its multiple sexual identities) be found in Latin America today? Hated and rejected everywhere on the subcontinent, US global polices would, at the same time, be pondered as the only possible rationale for modernity. More than ever, in today’s Greater America, the US would be functioning as a role model, albeit an un-reachable one. Yet at the same time, “US-America” would continue to present an inexhaustible source of criticism and reflection on alternative modes of social organization and political life.

Clearly, Pan-American cultural diplomacy, the exercise in persuasion carried out throughout Latin America during the inter-war period, had produced mixed results. Some in the region would accept the US’s cultural and technological superiority, while others would continue to reject outright these accomplishments as impositions on their own cultures and societies. Bolton would be particularly surprised to see that the policy of multi-culturalism that had taken at least three decades to become hegemonic in the United States, was rapidly adopted by regimes that the Washington establishment calls “radical politist regimes.” He would find the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and the descendants of Africans in Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia refreshing news, policies quite in agreement with the progressive climate of the New Dealers.

If Bolton were to awake today, he would be particularly curious about the current connection between scholarship and state policies and, more generally, about the usefulness of the knowledge produced under the banner of New World or Hemispheric American Studies. In particular, Bolton would find current-day humanities scholars’ disengagement with the US’s political commitments towards its Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking neighbors difficult to understand. Many US scholars today see their work as more autonomous and independent of the work of the State Department and the US’s “national interest” in the region. In Bolton’s times, US efforts to understand Hispanic American history were intricately intertwined with questions posed by the foreign-policy community about how to best create friendly relations to the intellectuals South of the Rio Grande. Hispanic American history was a collective project guided by questions opened up by the penetration of US capital and trade into Latin America and by the need to adapt the Monroe Doctrine to the then-current condition and past trajectory of each nation of the totality called “Latin America.” Looking North-to-South, US ← 82 | 83 → historians framed the regional history of Hispanic and Portuguese America as a means for understanding the “mindset” of Latin America, in order to incorporate this imagined collective subjectivity into the Pax Americana. In the specific geo-political context of the interwar years (1919–1939), there emerged the possibility of launching a comparative history of the Americas that could account for the similar resources and the divergent paths of Anglo versus Latin America.

The Past in the Present (Contemporary Concerns)

There is a danger that New World or Hemispheric American Studies may in fact replicate the mode of intellectual appropriation and colonization that characterized the consolidation of Hispanic American History as a sub-discipline. Like US historians of the 1930s and 1940s who construed the intelligentsia of Latin America as the “resistant Other” opposing the project of US hemispheric expansionism, or as a collaborationist “native informant” participating in the imperial project of “intellectual cooperation,” New World Studies in their literary variety may continue to dig into the treasury of literature (elite literature in Latin America, minority literature in the United States) to better understand the multiple positionalities and voices coming from the imperial hinterlands. Rather than forming an exhaustible resource, the Otherness of the multiple subalterities of the sub-continent may continue to nurture reflections, currents of thought, and “theory” for decades to come, incorporating into the US’s power-knowledge discourse a wealth of “difference” that serves to reproduce US (Western) cultural superiority / hegemony.

In their origins, the literatures of Latin America—just as the region’s past—constituted a precious object of study, something to be revealed, understood, and translated, for it contained, it was believed, much of the “Latin American mind-set.” Hence, something similar to the process I have described about Hispanic American History occurred with the field of Latin/Hispanic-American Literature.

Am I wrong in saying that New World or Hemispheric American Studies are searching for a “generic subaltern” or an abstract alterity—a postconial racialized Other that could well match ethnic and gender alterities in the United States—in ways that look quite similar to those explored by Bolton and his colleagues in the 1930s and 1940s? Is this extension of the scope of “American Studies” towards the whole American continent going to produce a more in-depth interaction among different sites of intellectual knowledge production and different forms of scholarship throughout the Americas? Or, on the contrary, is this expansion only going to consolidate the intellectual hegemony of US universities vis-á-vis Latin American institutions? ← 83 | 84 →

My point is: unless we first undo the uneven relationship between scholars working at US universities and scholars working in the developing world, particularly in the most underdeveloped regions of Latin America, it is difficult to see how an expansion of the spatial and temporal scope of “American Studies” would have an emancipatory potential, or how it would contribute to creating a more integrated, socially responsible, and mutually beneficial community of scholars in the Americas producing knowledge in the humanities that is both insightful and useful.

Am I mistaken in suggesting that the international diffusion of American Studies—particularly in the form of US popular culture studies—contributes to the transnational hegemony of the American way-of-life? The French and the German ministries of culture would be delighted if “French Studies” and “German Studies” could enjoy the same global popularity as the field of American Studies does today. Argentinian policy-makers may probably be more hesitant to attain such a global diffusion of “Argentine Studies,” not only because such a field of studies does not exist, but also because when eventually articulated, it would probably revolve around an assortment of mythical figures (Evita Peron, Carlos Gardel, Diego A. Maradonna).

In this essay, I have endeavored to show that the proposition “let us see how the rest of the world looks at us” is less novel than promoters of transnational or international American Studies tend to think. Hispanic American History (a sub-branch of American History since its recognition in 1918) already did this during the years of the Good Neighbor Policy. In fact, since the late 1920s, the State Department had systematically been conducting or sub-contracting opinion polls in South America to gauge the level of anti-American feeling (Salvatore, “Yanke Advertising”). The relevant question is: where will the new peripheral opinion/knowledge about the United States go? Which will be the central offices and clearing agencies of the knowledge thus gathered? How can we ensure that the world-wide diffusion of centers dedicated to the study of the Americas will not replicate the center-periphery logic of Hispanic American History?

One should never forget that US corporations and private benefactors contributed greatly (perhaps as much as the United States government) to the formation of the field of Latin American Studies by funding graduate programs, building up special collections, and establishing centers for the study of the sub-continent. These centers were all located in the United States: in Madison, Tulane, Berkeley, Princeton, Austin, San Diego, Yale, Harvard, etc. They also funded the copying of archives in Spain and the wholesale purchase or copying of Spanish archives in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean islands, the Philippines, and the ex-Mexican territory of the United States. Only in certain subfields of Latin American ← 84 | 85 → Studies, such as Maya archaeology, where US research institutions could actually colonize the field, did these governmental and corprorate funds move abroad. It would not be too far-fetched to suggest that the extension of historical and archaeological practices of US scholars into Latin America consolidated, expanded, and reproduced a centripetal logic of cultural capital accumulation. Masses of empirical data—be this literary texts, Maya stone-work, folkloric collections, Latin American periodicals, or colonial manuscripts—had to flow into US centers of knowledge as a necessary condition for the production of regional, US-centered, knowledges.

Intellectual Cooperation Is Not the Answer

During Bolton’s and Haring’s times, intellectual cooperation was the Empire’s preferred policy to gain the consensus of Latin American intellectuals. If a declaration of non-intervention was offered, and the US promised to desist from additional embroglios in Central America and the Caribbean, Latin American intellectuals could be persuaded to lower their animosity against the Colossus of the North. If, in addition, the southern educational elite was invited to the banquet of Euro-American civilization as knowledge-producer—e.g. as active participants in the project of Hemispheric History—then, it was believed, nothing more was needed. The full cooperation of Latin American intellectuals would be ensured. Yet this foreign-policy consensus, extrapolated into the terrain of cultural production and intellectual cooperation, as we now know, did not work so smoothly. Latin American intellectuals proved time and again to be willing to defy the powerful Colossus for the sake of channelling their own alternative views on progress (now called “development”) and civilization (now separated from “Americanization”). Yet these same intellectuals would also endeavor to reach the very goals cherished by US intellectuals of the New Deal period: social equality and social justice.

Bolton, if he were to awake today, would find that so many years of Latin American cultural propaganda for US literature, for US universities, and for US social sciences have rendered so little in terms of intellectual consensus between US and Latin American scholars. Few of the new radical populist leaders—and the intellectuals who support them—would ever recognize the works of Veblen, George, Ellis, Ross, and other progressive thinkers. In fact, apart from a ritualistic reference to Whitaker’s classic (the idea of a Western Hemisphere), most of the works of this generation of US historians have been forgotten, their names appearing neither on the programs of Latin American history taught in the universities South of the Rio Grande, nor in the articles and books written by professional historians of the region. Every now and then, the name of F.J. Turner is resuscitated ← 85 | 86 → in relation to a new paper on frontiers, but the names of Haring, Whitaker, Hanke, Rippy, and the others have vanished from contemporary discussions.

If Bolton were to awake today, he would find new configurations of knowledge being produced in a multiplicity of locations throughout the Americas. He would find Latin American students travelling to study and conduct research in the United States who only view it as a secondary option to do the same in neighboring countries of the region. He would find that in terms of per capita income as well as in terms of library collections, the gap separating the United States from the rest of its “Latin” neighbors has widened. In fact, the “sister republics” are striving to educate scholars with budgets smaller in proportion (in relative terms) to those of the 1930s and 1940s. And he would find the youth of the countries South of the Rio Grande, though more healthy than in the past, still visited by the plagues of corrupt governments, incontrollable poverty, violence, and turbulent social life. It would be evident to Bolton (or to any historian of the period) that there is little room for or profit gained by a policy of intellectual cooperation.

Let me pose then what I consider the most radical alternative in reconfiguring the current geopolitical distribution of knowledge in the Americas: the formation of new and powerful centers of learning in the currently most underdeveloped areas of Latin America—or, of the Americas, to the extent that some areas of the US’s “cultural South” deserve to be included in this map of marginality as well. These areas would include places such as Manaos, Cuzco, Port au Prince, Medellín, La Rioja, Iquitos, Oruro, Sao Luis, or Oaxaca, where centers of excellence focusing on a critical study of life (experience and culture) in the various American nations could emerge. It is precisely those places that are now only noticed for their unbeareable poverty, exotic cultures, racial miscegenation, and persistent resistance to learning the lessons taught by the benevolent US Empire that could turn into centers at the forefront of developing a new way of organizing the study of the Americas. Those places where racism, sexism, and poverty hurt the most—not just because of the “colonial wound” but also due to the multiple wounds inflicted by modernity—perhaps contain the potential for a radical unmaking of American Studies. Nothing is gained from adding the study of Quechua at Yale or Nahuatl at the U of Chicago. What we need is a radical decentering of knowlege, not a further concentration of knowlege in already prestigious centers of excellence.

There, in those marginal and excluded places, study centers could emerge that are radically diverse and plurinational in their composition, trying to produce a more integrated and, at the same time, more differentiated and plural understanding of the diversity we call “the Americas.” Centers in which past experiences, shared predicaments, and possible futures for the continent could be examined from truly “pluriverse” perspectives. In a way, I am calling for knowledge production to move ← 86 | 87 → from the center to the periphery, to blend with a multiplicity of local knowledges, and to stay there. In tomorrow’s centers of today’s periphery the practical will finally join the theoretical, the philosophical will meet the technological, the humanities will converse with the social sciences, and the various subalternities (gender, ethnic, racial, national, religious, etc.) will strive for a synthesis: producing knowledges that can incorporate the local and the global for the benefit of the commons, that is for the benefit of “Americans” in the wider sense of the word.

Regardless of whether these lofty objectives will ever be met (this New Jerusalem of a geographically dispersed excellence in “American-at-large Studies”), the main gain of such a radical departure from the traditional geo-political arrangement of knowledge-production would consist in its very making. That is, the very investment in knowledge centers in the periphery of the Americas would dramatically change the landscape of knowledge, generating unexpected outcomes in terms of the re-concentration of innovation, of markets, as well as of human and financial capital. A move in this direction would almost certainly begin the long process of “levelling the playing field,” to the extent of undermining the existing US and European intellectual superiority in the humanities, which is, more than any misguided Orientalism, the true and solid basis of a continued hegemony of the United States, dressed in its “Western” evening gown.

Works Cited

Bannon, John F. Herbert Eugene Bolton: The Historian and the Man. Tuczon: The University of Arizona Press, 1978.

Bannon, John F., ed. Bolton and the Spanish Borderlands. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964.

Berger, Mark. Under Northern Eyes: Latin American Studies and U.S. Hegemony in the Americas, 1898–1990. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Bolton, Herbert E. “The Epic of Greater America.” The American Historical Review 36.3 (April 1933): 448–474.

Brown Holmes, Vera. A History of the Americas: From Discovery to Nationhood. New York: Ronald Press Co., 1950.

De Gandía, Enrique. Nueva historia de América: Las épocas de libertad y anti-libertad desde la independencia. Buenos Aires: Editorial Claridad, 1946.

Delpar, Helen. Looking South: The Evolution of Latin Americanist Scholarship in the United States, 1850–1975. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2008.

Hanke, Lewis, ed. Do The Americas Have a Common History? A Critique of the Bolton Theory. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1964. ← 87 | 88 →

Haring, Clarence H. South America Looks at the United States. New York: Macmillan Co., 1928.

Harris, Charles H., and Louis R. Sadler. The Archaeologist Was a Spy. Sylvanous G. Morley and the Office of Naval Intelligence. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003.

Inman, S. Guy. Latin America: Its Place in World Life. New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1942.

Kozel, Andrés. La idea de América en el historicismo mexicano: José Gaos, Edmundo O’Gorman y Leopoldo Zea. Mexico: El Colegio de México, 2012.

O’Gorman, Edmundo. “Hegel y el moderno panamericanismo.” Letras de México 2.8 (August 1939).

O’Gorman, Edmundo. La invención de América: el universalismo de la cultura de Occidente. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1958.

Rippy, J. Fred. Historical Evolution of Hispanic America. New York: F.S. Crofts, 1936.

Salvatore, Ricardo D. “Early American Visions of a Hemispheric Market for South America.” In B. Ostendorf, ed. Transnational America: The Fading of Borders in the Western Hemisphere. Heidelberg: C. Winter, 2002. 45–64.

Salvatore, Ricardo D. “Yankee Advertising in Buenos Aires.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 7.2 (2005): 216–235.

Salvatore, Ricardo D. “The Making of a Hemispheric Intellectual and Statesman: Leo S. Rowe in Argentina (1906–1919).” Journal of Transnational American Studies 2.1 (2009). (e-journal:

Sweet, Willaim W. A History of Latin America. New York: The Abingdon Press, 1919.

Weber, David. “Turner, the Boltonians, and the Borderlands.” American Historical Review 91.1 (1986): 66–81.

Whitaker, Arthur P. The Western Hemisphere Idea: Its Rise and Decline. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1954.

Williams, Mary W. The Peoples and Politics of Latin America. 1930. Boston and New York: Ginn and Co., 1938.

1 For a discussion of O’Gorman’s work, see Kozel, La idea de América en el historicismo mexicano (2012), chapter 2.

2 On the policy of “intellectual cooperation” see Salvatore, “The Making of a Hemispheric Intellectual.”

3 For a different, non imperialist rendering of the making of Hispanic American History, see Delpar 2008.

4 Silvio Zavala, “International Collaboration in the History of America,” reproduced in Hanke 1964, 226–231.

5 Arthur Whitaker, “Introduction to the Project for a History of America,” reproduced in Hanke 1964, 192–201.

6 See, in this connection, Berger, Under Northern Eyes.

7 Though occasionally confusing, the term in practice also included the past of Portuguese-speaking Brazil. Later, “Hispanic America” was gradually replaced by the more comprehensive term “Latin America.” If Brazil was sometimes excluded or given little space in some textbooks, this was simply due to the more limited expertise about Brazilian history in the United States. For the case of Brazil (the empire, late abolition, and an apparently peaceful republic) was an enticing case for Hispanic American historians.

8 See Weber 1986.

9 Multi-culturalism was clearly out of the horizon. Carlos Castañeda (a historian specializing on Texas and the US southern borderlands who lectured on Latin American history) was the only Chicano within the group. The rest of the group, particularly in relation to Bolton and Hanke, showed a degree of admiration for Hispanic (and Hispanic American) culture that was in retrospect surprising.

10 Other renderings of the American ideal, such as the “American dream” did not seem to be central to this generation of historians. Yet, the New Deal climate made them present ideas of social equality and social welfare as an essential component of US modernity.

11 See Salvatore, “Early American Visions” (2002): 58.

12 According to Sweet, Uruguay belonged to this group only because of its economic progress, because it continued to be engaged in endless civil wars.

13 Inman wrote: “The Latin American values his dignidad more highly than a full stomach, paved roads, smallpox vaccine, and other blessings of efficiency” (Inman 24).

14 See, for another discipline, Harris and Sadler, The Archaeologist Was a Spy (2003).

15 In contradictory ways, US scholars elevated the work of Latin American scholars and intellectuals to the terrain of lofty ideas, high spirituality, and pure doctrine, while considering their scientific or academic production lacking in rigor and substance; their histories were seen as ineffective, self-serving, and little-known.

16 Other historians such as Clarence Haring, Arthur Whitaker, and Fred Rippy, imagined Latin American historians as producers of empirical historical data to be interpreted in the emerging centers of Latin American Studies in the United States. Or they regarded “national histories” as the raw materials which, put in comparison with other national histories, would render new revelations and insights about the Latin American past, the character of its peoples, and its potential for the future.