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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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Theorizing the Hemisphere: Inter-Americas Work at the Intersection of American, Canadian, and Latin American Studies

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Claudia Sadowski-Smith

Texas Tech University, U.S.A.

Claire F. Fox

University of Iowa, U.S.A.

Theorizing the Hemisphere: Inter-Americas Work at the Intersection of American, Canadian, and Latin American Studies1

Much recent work has promoted the internationalization of American studies as a means of overcoming the deeply problematic nationalist assumptions underlying the discipline. Calls for “comparative American studies” that reside at the heart of the publication in which this article appears, however, attest to the sheer theoretical complexity involved in attempts to rethink the field outside and beyond national boundaries. While some US-based Americanists have understood internationalization to mean more comparative work on US ethnic and racial groups (Patell, 1999), others have equated it with a hemispheric perspective (Sandoval, 2002), while still others have employed it in reference to the global study of the United States as an area, emphasizing foreign-based scholarly perspectives on US culture and thereby resituating the field’s traditional institutional sites of power (Desmond and Domínguez, 1998).

These divergent understandings of internationalization point to un-resolved tensions between attempts to be more inclusive of international perspectives on the United States on the one hand and new Americanist concerns with domestic issues of race and ethnicity and their trans-national expansion through emergent geographical models, such as the Americas, the trans-Pacific, the black Atlantic, and the circum-Atlantic on the other.2 In this article, we explore one such geographic ← 321 | 322 → configuration in depth, the hemispheric perspective. Under the rubrics of literature of the Americas, New World, or North American studies, several models of hemispheric inquiry have already brought into focus new topics and research questions, attracted specialists in all periods, and become visible in the US academy in curriculum reform, hiring practices, conferences, publications, and the establishment of research centers.3 Hemispheric perspectives are mainly understood to facilitate a certain rapprochement between English and foreign language departments in the US academy.4 This project, with its somewhat limited focus on literary and cultural ← 322 | 323 → studies, draws on the wave of 1990s inter-American scholarship that emerged within Chicana/o studies, comparative literature, Latin American studies, and to a much smaller extent, American studies in the United States.5

In the following, we propose a more synthetic “inter-Americas studies” that would enable the collaboration of a larger number of institutionalized (including non US-based) fields which have traditionally studied the hemisphere, including Latin American and American studies, comparative literature, Canadian studies, Caribbean studies, history, Latina/o and other ethnic studies, each with its own specific historical and theoretical entry points into the subject. Given the impossibility of surveying all of these disciplines, we will limit our scope to the subject of our particular training and interests, namely the potential contributions of Latin American and Canadian studies to an inter-Americas framework.6 While Canadian studies, as they have emerged in Canada, have been largely excluded from hemispheric studies, Latin America is often represented, even though neither US- nor Latin America-based studies scholarship is adquately considered. Given its focus on Canadian and Latin American studies, this article should not, therefore, be understood as a definitive account of inter-Americas studies, but rather as an invitation for dialogue about a field that we conceive as a complement to other emergent national, regional, and global perspectives in American, Canadian, and Latin American studies.7 We realize that a project like this cannot be exhaustive and hope that others will take our examination further. ← 323 | 324 →

Latin American studies, Canadian studies, and American studies are currently undergoing their own respective crises. So, rather than reify traditional area studies models, we advocate a long overdue dialogue among the inter-disciplines that could transform each field.8 In the face of the hemisphere’s vast inequalities and different disciplinary configurations, any call for transnational scholarly dialogue or assumptions of inter-American unity threatens to replicate the long history of US imperialism in the hemisphere which date back to the Monroe Doctrine and the territorial expansion of the United States in the mid-19th century.9 We therefore advocate close collaboration among the three inter-disciplines and a “critical internationalist” awareness of our own institutional locations so as to position the United States’ neighboring geographies and the fields that study them as protagonists rather than mere recipient sites of US policies and of US-based theoretical perspectives and comparative paradigms.10

Since their inception, Latin American and Canadian studies have encompassed comparative “inter-American” or “North American” orientations without being themselves scholarship on the United States. The two fields are thus well situated to challenge many of the exceptionalist premises that, despite New Americanist ← 324 | 325 → efforts, continue to inform post-national American studies work on the hemisphere.11 These assumptions include tendencies to privilege the United States as primary interlocutor vis-à-vis other countries in the hemisphere, to focus on Anglophone material, to marginalize other fields’ perspectives, and to extend US-based research paradigms to the hemispheric level. In particular, we find that post-national American studies have stressed the internationalization of US models of race and ethnicity at the expense of adequately addressing the roles of contemporary US foreign policy and transnational capitalist expansion.

Our discussion of Canadian and Latin American studies in this respect highlights several key and problematic critical terms, such as ethnicity, post-nationality, globalization, and postcoloniality in order to demonstrate how these concepts circulate differently in each field. We advocate multilingual models of hemispheric inquiry that include European, indigenous, and New World languages and that do not necessarily privilege the United States’ relation to other countries or areas. In so doing, we hope to place race and ethnicity among a host of new objects of study relevant to historical and contemporary political, economic, and social developments in the Americas. More importantly, we argue that the different usage and degree of importance ascribed to the critical terms within each field must be recognized in order to arrive at more nuanced theories of inter-American dynamics.

Hemispheric work within American studies, a field with a strong tradition in the humanities, is largely rooted in postcolonial theory. Characterizing globalization as a continuation of colonialism and imperialism, its assumptions enable comparative studies of US race and ethnicity within transnationally expanded models (Gikandi, 2001: 635). In contrast, Latin American studies are deeply engaged with social scientific theories of globalization and the legacy of dependency theories that rose to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s in opposition to US-based developmentalism. The current interest in hemispheric perspectives within both Latin American and Canadian studies is often linked to examinations of continental integration under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), other regional trade agreements, and the proposed integration of the hemisphere under the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The focus of Canadian postcolonial models on local forms of ethnicity and on Canada’s settler-colony status complicates the transnationalization of US racial and ethnic categories, and could form the basis for comparative studies of US settler colonialism and imperialism. Likewise, efforts within Latin American and Canadian ← 325 | 326 → studies to understand ongoing US cultural, economic, and military domination in the hemisphere according to postcolonial or dependency models question the American studies tendency to characterize the nation-state mainly as consolidator of colonial, repressive, and assimilationist ideologies and to expand US-based left intellectual critiques of nationalism to other geographies. These assumptions are challenged by existing perspectives within Latin American and Canadian studies that view the nation-state more positively as a potential vehicle for the protection of its citizenry against neoliberal forms of corporate globalism and as a guarantor of sovereignty from the United States.

We hope that attention to historically divergent forms of nation-state formation and intellectual analyses of nationalism in the Americas will enable scholars to examine the impact of neoliberalism on hemispheric cultures and on the academy, and to become active in policy debates concerning hemispheric citizenship, immigration law, language rights, foreign policy, educational reform, and territorial rights, among other issues. In its emphasis on such questions, an inter-Americas perspective can also interface with other emerging global or regionally organized models of study.

Post-Nationalism and Latin Americanism

For Latin Americanists today, the task of producing alternative narratives about a region over which the United States exerts overwhelming dominance makes embracing a hemispheric perspective a complicated undertaking.12 In many Latin American countries, globalization is often considered to be synonymous with Americanization (Brunner, 1993: 41, 51; Hale, 2000: 131), and Latin Americanists are likely to greet calls to “post-nationalism” with ironic questions about when exactly the “national” transpired. The use of the term in the essays of Mexican ← 326 | 327 → critic Roger Bartra, for example, signifies neither after nor beyond the national, but rather the potential for popular democratic renewal that might emerge from Mexico’s profound political crisis. In contrast to the New Americanist emphasis on transnational communities, Bartra explicitly cautions his international readers, “[W]hen I point out the need to overcome cultural unease, I am not proposing as a cure an integration of the Anglo-American world parallel to the economic agreements on free trade with the United States and Canada” (Bartra, 2002: 63). Like Bartra, many Latin American intellectuals regard the nation-state (rather than nationalism or the national-popular) as a yet unfulfilled project through which it may be possible to articulate public interests and protect natural resources in the face of transnational corporate expansion, massive external debt, and US foreign policy.

The continued salience of the national is also evident in Latin American academies, where most humanistic scholarship is conducted within a national framework, and where the humanities have, in recent decades, suffered devastating losses due to neoliberal downsizing of Latin American universities. When Latin American scholars have articulated regional, inter-regional, or continental approaches to humanistic study, they have tended to be aligned with anti-colonialist agendas (e.g. Cornejo Polar, 1994; Rama, 1982). These factors, among others, make some Latin Americanists suspicious of transnational theoretical models identified with the US academy, especially those that have arisen in seeming ignorance of the long history and diverse traditions of Latin American scholarship. For Latin Americanists working in the United States, the contradictions between opportunistic area studies and the substance of teaching and research sometimes produce a sort of self-deprecating irony about one’s work, as Santiago Colás explains:

In the tight job market of the humanist academy in the United States, my future prospects as a young Latin Americanist may best be secured by the significant interest in things Latin American sure to follow the imperialism and internal colonization that is announced with each new privatization, free-trade zone, or foreign investment. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has already brought to the Spanish 101 classrooms of my department a kind of baby boom of future students for my Latin American literature courses. (Colás, 1995: 392)

Colás does not assume that a hemispheric perspective is inherently plural ist with respect to other geographical models; rather, he suggests that the emergence of new spatial categories may presage the disappearance of others even as it endows them with a certain market-driven cultural cachet.

In spite of these pitfalls, we propose that an inter-Americas perspective is a useful complement to existing research frameworks, through which it is possible ← 327 | 328 → to historicize and strategize Latin America’s relation to the United States and Canada. Brazil-based Americanist Sonia Torres has observed that research about the United States produced in Latin America tends to be implicitly comparative, “privileging issues such as dependency and neocolonialism … [as a] means of reading the dominant nation but also a means of reading ourselves” (2003: 12). Likewise, Latin Americanists who have adopted an inter-American perspective utilize comparative approaches in order to understand and respond critically to historical phenomena of a hemispheric nature or to propose alternative networks to those imagined by neoliberalism and free trade. The Inter-American Cultural Studies Network (IACSN), founded in 1993, was one effort to unite scholars working on the Americas through an internet-based community. Supported by cultural studies programs at universities in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, New York, and Mexico City, the Network’s founders envisioned the promotion of “collaborative and comparative work” about the Americas to be one of its main purposes (IACSN, 1993: 1). By encouraging dialogue about the different histories and practices of cultural studies in the United States and Latin America, the Network also challenged the notion that cultural studies was an exclusively US or British phenomenon.13

The scholarly profile of Néstor García Canclini, a Mexico City-based sociologist who participated in the IACSN, serves as another example of how Latin Americanists have engaged in hemispheric study. García Canclini has advocated the establishment of a regional federalist government in Latin America that would protect its constituent states from the effects of neoliberal restructuring. He arrived at this position, not at all coincidentally, through his pioneering research on the cultural implications of North American free trade and in Mexico–US border studies. In his book La globalización imaginada, he proposes that there is enough of a shared historical tradition among Latin American countries to justify speaking of a “Latin American cultural space in which many identities exist,” but he insists that such a space cannot be “ethnically predetermined” (García Canclini, 1999: 103). ← 328 | 329 → He finds, on the other hand, that the recent trade agreements linking Latin American economies to those of Europe and the United States, respectively, also make it possible to speak in a qualified manner of “Euro-American space” and “inter-American space” (García Canclini, 1999: 104).14 García Canclini’s proposals to regulate Latin American cultural expression in order to ensure Latin American countries’ greater self-representation on the domestic and global levels form part of a promising new wave of cultural policy studies in the Americas.15

Although we have cited the relative absence of social scientific globalization theory in New Americanist positions, Latin American studies are deeply engaged with the issue and are currently in a position to help Americanists consider the political and economic implications of the transnational turn. The establishment of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA) under the directorship of Argentine economist Raúl Prebisch in the late 1940s challenged many assumptions about international trade and paved the way for a host of dependency theories that continue to be elaborated by Latin Americanists and other scholars working from peripheral perspectives (Larrain, 1989: 14). The history of trade and colonization in the hemisphere has also been fundamental to the development of world systems theory (Quijano and Wallerstein, 1992). At present Latin Americanists working on the cultural dimensions of globalization have bridged the humanities and social sciences by employing a variety of post-dependency theoretical frameworks (González Stephan, 1996).

Before we discuss some of the other ways in which Latin American studies may interconnect with inter-Americas research, we must first underscore the vastness of this field. It incorporates disciplines ranging from law to cultural anthropology, each of which possesses diverse national and institutional manifestations. The field’s configuration differs from American and Canadian studies in three significant respects: first, it undertakes the study of more than one country; second, its traditional bases of power have been situated outside the area under investigation; ← 329 | 330 → and third, English is not the area’s primary language. These factors have led to different and sometimes opposing practices of Latin American studies from within and outside of Latin America. Rather than presume to map the field in its entirety, we will highlight some recent debates that consider the United States’ role as a broker of knowledge about Latin America.

One of these debates concerns the constitution of the field’s very object of study. Latin America’s claims to coherence as an area have been problematized from numerous perspectives.16 Nevertheless, the appeal to Latin American identity has been a recurrent motif in arts, letters, and civic discourse over the past two centuries, and has been especially pronounced in the face of looming external threats. The dream of a Spanish American federation is most often associated with the independence leader Simón Bolívar, and, for subsequent generations of intellectuals, invoking the patria grande over the patria chica often connotes anti-imperialism, as in the writings of Cuban independence leader José Martí. In recent years, critics have begun to scrutinize the identitarian rhetoric of “Latin Americanism” utilized by Martí and others (Moreiras and Embry, 1997–8). Just as the presumed unities of Whitman’s “I” have been challenged by New Americanists, Latin Americanism’s “nosotros” has been subjected to critiques that expose the silences and representational violence implied by the condensation of complex social systems into a national or continental essence.17 This wave of scholarship is part of an ongoing inquiry regarding the socio-historical underpinnings of Latin American intellectual authority and the project of forging alternative, non-elite accounts of Latin American “modernity from below.”18

Another current of Latin Americanism that is presently undergoing similar allegations of false unities and cultural essentialism is that which is principally associated with US-based area studies. According to this usage, Latin Americanism refers to the transnational networks of intellectuals – most of whom are situated in the US academy – who are dedicated to the circulation and critical appraisal of ← 330 | 331 → ideas about Latin America. In this view, Latin America is merely a realm of raw materials and experience to be processed or plundered by Latin Americanism (de la Campa, 1999; Richard, 1997 “Intersectando” and 1997, “Mediaciones”). This Latin Americanism has its roots in the US academic area studies models that gathered institutional force during the Cold War (Berger, 1995; Hershberg, 1998). Among these, Latin American studies distinguished themselves by developing in seeming opposition to the Cold War agendas they were supposed to uphold. The Latin American Studies Association (LASA) was founded in 1965 in opposition to US foreign policy in Latin America, and is now the major US-based organization of Latin Americanists (Berger, 1995: 173). The anti-Vietnam War movement in the United States and the rise of dependency paradigms in Latin America galvanized the field and marked its divergence from US political agendas.19 Differing political interests between state and academy and the wave of institutional downsizing that took place in the 1970s and 1980s have precipitated a financial and epistemological crisis in US Latin American studies (Hershberg, 1998: 121). While globalization and competitiveness serve as new justifications for the field at the level of funding and policy-making (Hershberg, 1998: 123), the professional literature is currently marked by critical doubts regarding the field’s historical strengths and weaknesses as well as its future. Some scholars in the field note that “armchair” methodologies, especially those associated with cultural studies, threaten Latin American studies’ tradition of intensive fieldwork, links with local scholars, and linguistic competence, while calling for more comparative research as an antidote to “national (or regional) myths of exceptionalism” (Smith, 2002: 7–8) and orientalism on the part of US-based academics (Hershberg, 1998: 125; Skidmore, 1998: 116–17; Smith, 2002: 8). Thus, while the field has moved toward greater hemispheric integration at the professional and theoretical levels, the most pressing agenda for inter-American research within the field is developing along inter-Latin American lines.

Nonetheless, hemispheric dynamics are quite palpable in contemporary scholarly debates about the ubiquity and relative value of US-identified critical methodologies and analytical categories for the study of Latin American phenomena, such as those pertaining to race and gender (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1999). Postcolonial theory has been particularly controversial in this regard. Whereas ← 331 | 332 → it became linked to American studies through research on ethnicity and race, as in some currents of Mexico–US border studies, postcolonial theory entered Latin American studies in response to the failures of traditional left nationalist movements in Latin America, notably the Sandinista electoral defeat in 1990. The predominantly US-based Latin American Subaltern Studies Group (LASSG) was founded in 1992 in order that scholars could explore issues such as peasant and indigenous movements, gender and sexuality, and urban popular cultures in Latin America while explicitly challenging literary and intellectual authority. Modeled on the South Asian Subaltern Studies Collective, the LASSG has continually stressed a critical self-awareness of the “elite space of the North American academy” (Kokotovic, 2000: 295).20

Debates about Latin American postcolonial studies are often characterized by “US” versus “Latin American” rhetorical positions even though these often do not correspond to the participants’ geographical or institutional locations. According to LASSG member Alberto Moreiras (2001: 240):

A number of Latin American intellectuals have sharpened their critical knives on what they regard as a major Latin Americanist sellout of Latin America into the global market taking place primarily, if not exclusively, through the US academy, and in particular through Latin Americanist subaltern and postcolonial studies, sometimes – not always – simply identified with metropolitan-led “cultural studies” tout court.

Moreiras examines such accusations in light of the diminished coherence of Latin American nationalist and national-populist intellectual positions in the era of globalization. His call for oppositional cultural studies in the present juncture has been challenged forcefully by other prominent critics. Beatriz Sarlo, for example, defends the continued viability of literary study in Latin America and Latin Americans’ right to produce cultural objects worthy of aesthetic criticism rather than anthropological analysis,21 while Mabel Moraña views postcolonial theory as ← 332 | 333 → another metropolitan project intended to mark “the space of the periphery with the perspective of a critical neo-exoticism that keeps Latin America in the place of the other, a pre-theoretical, calibanesque, and marginal place, with respect to metropolitan discourses” (Moraña, 1998: 216–17).

The debates surrounding postcolonial studies form an arena in which an inter-Americas perspective that is attentive to sites of intellectual production within a hemispheric framework might move the arguments beyond facile homologies between academic positions and entire nations or regions. Scenarios from the 1960s and 1970s describing a unilateral brainwashing of Latin Americans through US media have been significantly complicated by factors that make pre-lapsarian categories of North and South seemingly untenable. At the academic level, the impact of neoliberalism on Latin American universities has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of Latin Americans who receive post-graduate training in the United States or who are employed in the US academy.22 Furthermore, a select number of Latin America-based intellectuals regularly participate in US academic forums and see their work translated into English.23 These developments in the configuration of Latin American studies make universities, museums, and other professional arenas in the hemisphere points of debate concerning who has the right to represent Latin America.24 The current debates about methodologies and their origins require closer attention to scholarly affinity groups and their ideological orientations, as well as the social and institutional locations of intellectual work.

An inter-Americas perspective might additionally provide an opportunity for Latin Americanists to respond to the overtures of scholars in US ethnic studies to forge connections among issues such as migration, transnational markets, and media studies.25 While some universities have sponsored innovative joint ventures ← 333 | 334 → between Latina/o studies and Latin American studies (Cabán and Aparicio, 2003; Fox, 2003), Román de la Campa notes that, in general, the Latin American literary establishment has been reluctant to embrace such projects, for reasons that appear to have as much to do with fear of diminished cultural capital as they do with anti-imperialism (de la Campa, 2002).26 An inter-Americas perspective opens up another area of comparative research that could bypass the United States to focus on commonalities with Canada.27 Not only has Canada pursued independent trade agreements with Latin American countries, but it has maintained relatively open relations with Cuba and has been more accepting of Central American and other Latin American refugees than the United States. The contemporary profiles of both Canadian studies and Latin American studies emerged in the context of anti-Americanism during the Vietnam War and are linked to leftist intellectual traditions of nationalism rooted in efforts to understand the relationship to the United States via dependency, cultural imperialism, or postcolonial models. And, in both Canada and Latin America the association between the United States and cultural imperialism rose to renewed prominence as free trade initiatives were negotiated in the 1990s. John Tomlinson’s assertion that “various critiques of cultural imperialism could be thought of as (in some cases inchoate) protests against the spread of (capitalist) modernity” (Tomlinson, 1991: 173) needs to be further explored for its specific relevance to Canada and Latin America in an era of hemispheric trade liberalization.

Post-Nationalism North of the Border

The anti-imperialist underpinnings of Latin American studies have found somewhat parallel manifestations in the academic study of the northern part of the hemisphere as it has emerged in Canada. From its early origins in the 1940s, the Canadian studies project has been shaped by attempts to articulate the specificity of Canadian nation- and statehood in relation to the United States. A constant theme in debates about Canadian nationhood has been its relationship to various forms of colonialism, most recently US cultural imperialism. Originally rooted, like American studies, in nationalist attempts to link literary production to the ← 334 | 335 → nation-state, Canadian studies have therefore always been a comparative, North American undertaking that focuses on both the United States and Canada.28 Canada’s specific form of nationalism, its welfare state, the 1960s emergence of notions of cultural nationalism and cultural imperialism, Canada’s various postcolonial and ethnic racialized identities, as well as ongoing attempts to forge a distinctly Canadian form of postnationalism are among the subjects that could constitute areas of intersection with inter-Americas studies.

Whereas US-based Americanists who advocate hemispheric work have begun to respond to scholarship in Latin American studies, they have almost completely ignored North American perspectives emerging outside the United States. The exclusion of Canada from hemispheric frameworks is often grounded in assumptions about the country’s internal homogeneity and similarity to the United States.29 Satirized in Canadian Bacon (1994) in which one of the characters declares that Canada is “even whiter than the United States,” this view overlooks the country’s development of a pluralist national identity, manifested in official (if flawed) policies of multiculturalism and in the admission of a proportionately larger number of immigrants and refugees.30 Moreover, the treatment of Canadian diversity as an extension of US theoretical paradigms assumes processes of racialization in Canada to be similar to those in the United States.

Both approaches fail to consider Canada’s tradition of weak nationalism and the association of state-sponsored nationalism after the Second World War with politically left-leaning intellectual traditions, which differ from the more patriotic ← 335 | 336 → US versions that post-nationalist American studies has been trying to overcome. Canada has been described as a “nation without nationality” (Spicer, 1991), a “state-nation” where state, business, and elite interventions were needed to create a sense of national identity (Gwyn, 1995). Canada’s historically weak sense of nationalism can be linked to the country’s relatively short history as an independent nation-state (as formalized in the 1931 Statute of Westminster), its historical, cultural, and economic similarities with the United States, and its internal diversity, including its French- and English-speaking divide. Québec has described itself as a separate nation in a way that resembles Canadian rhetoric about the country’s difference from the United States. Thus, nationalism in its supposed pan-Canadian form has almost exclusively been an English-Canadian notion. Whereas Québécois studies are common in French-language universities, Canadian studies have mainly become institutionalized in English-speaking institutions of higher learning.

As is the case with many Third World countries or regions, the Canadian search for a stronger form of nationalism since its transition from colony to independent nationhood has been affiliated with leftist positions, while anti-nationalists have been situated on the right of the political spectrum (Heninghan, 2002: 174). After the Second World War, state intervention in economic, social, political and cultural life increased to the extent that it became one of the chief characteristics of the Canadian nation (Mackey, 1999: 53). A growing spirit of nationalism among Canadian elites, which turned any economic, social, or cultural challenge into an assertion of autonomy and which was linked to ideas of US cultural imperialism, supported the creation of a strong social-democratic welfare state and the expansion of public enterprise and public service economies (Clarkson, 2002: 415).

Even though attempts at establishing a sense of progressive state-sponsored nationalism originated in the period after the Second World War, Canadian studies programs and Canadian specializations in traditional departments only emerged in the 1960s and 1970s amid intensified fears of Americanization and in the general context of rising anti-Americanism fuelled by the Vietnam War.31 The most important benchmark in the formalization of Canadian studies was a 1973 report by the Commission on Canadian studies. Entitled To Know Ourselves, the report declared that Canada’s post-secondary institutions had not sufficiently assisted Canadians in understanding and appreciating their country’s heritage, contemporary ← 336 | 337 → character, problems, and potential (Cameron, 1996: 21). Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, scholars of history, literature, sociology, and political science set out to define “Canadianness” by offering narratives of national development, accounts of Canada’s emergence as a world player, and theories of national identity. Although Canadian studies have been better integrated across the humanities and social sciences than American studies, the nationalist movement was especially influential in the field of literature and culture. A number of literary critics and other prominent literary figures such as Northrop Frye, Margaret Atwood, and W.H. New became involved in attempts to establish Canadian literature as a separate field of study and to forge a sense of a literary nationalism where not much of one had previously existed.32 These efforts were also supported by the Canadian state and often framed in terms of cultural protectionism directed at the regulation of US cultural presence in Canada. In its attempt to differentiate between two national North American identities, the cultural nationalist movement constructed a white (mostly British) Canadian settler identity that largely excluded considerations of internal Canadian ethnic and racial differences.

By the 1980s, however, the nationalist movement in Canadian studies along with popular and elite support for the country’s welfare state and its various policies of cultural protectionism came to an end. In the 1970s, the Canadian state established an official policy of multiculturalism to recognize and manage issues of internal cultural diversity without endangering its project of nation building. As Canada’s national identity became de-linked from the welfare state, it became associated with the image of the “multicultural mosaic.” With the implementation of various Canada–US trade agreements starting in the early 1990s, the Canadian state increasingly weakened through integration into an unevenly liberalized hemispheric economy dominated by the United States, and the search for stronger forms of Canadian nationhood diminished. In Canadian studies, a unified national perspective was replaced by a variety of approaches including environmental studies, regional studies, and work on race and ethnicity. The latter framework and its tenuous connection to state-sponsored multiculturalism in particular has encouraged efforts to rethink Canada as a model “post-national” state by adding Canada’s growing internal diversity to the acknowledgement of the country’s historically weak sense of national integration (Davey, 1993; Gwyn, 1995). Rather ← 337 | 338 → than attempting to move beyond the nationalist roots of the field as in American studies, Canadian post-nationalism, then, also aims to recast the country’s weak sense of nationhood in terms of its increasing internal heterogeneity.

Throughout the 1980s, the postcolonial focus on Canada’s status as a settler-colony expanded to include theories of ongoing domination by the United States and to describe the identities of Québécois, indigenous peoples, and some of Canada’s other racialized groups.33 Especially indigenous Canadians as well as South Asian and Caribbean communities that grew after the elimination of racist immigration legislation in the late 1960s have become associated with postcolonial theory.34 In contrast, Canada’s longstanding black and East Asian communities – and their association with slavery, 19th-century exploitation, and exclusionary immigration law – have been primarily imagined through US ethnic studies frameworks.

In fact, the connection of Asian and African Canadian communities with US ethnic studies theories has actually delayed their status as independent objects of study.35 East Asian literary productions, such as the work of the Eaton sisters and of Joy Kogawa, were incorporated into the US Asian American literary tradition to construct a sense of Asian American pan-ethnic literature. Within African American studies, on the other hand, Canada was invoked as a means to challenge the US history of slavery (Lo, 2001). Scholars like George Elliott Clarke (1996) and Rinaldo Walcott (1997) have shown that, except for acknowledging the role of Canada as a haven for runaway slaves, African American and black diaspora studies have either considered black Canadians an extension of African American culture or continued to exclude African Canadians from their increasingly more transnational theoretical paradigms (as has Paul Gilroy’s influential model of the black Atlantic). This simple extension of US-based paradigms has thus failed to recognize the distinctiveness of Canada’s ethnic and racial communities. ← 338 | 339 →

Except for Native or First Nations studies, which now exist at universities in almost every Canadian province, the analysis of racialized cultures has not become widely institutionalized in the form of separate programs or departments.36 Canada’s weak nationalism, in addition to a variety of other factors, has discouraged the emergence of oppositional models of ethnic identity and consequently of radical movements centered on identity and race (with the exception of Québécois separatism) that would have urged the creation of such programs. As Donald Goellnicht asks, “is Canada itself so devoid of a national identity, the collective psyche so divided and splintered, the nation so geographically regionalized, that it is virtually impossible for a national ethnic minority identity to assemble itself in a Canadian context?” (Goellnicht, 2000, “Long Labor”: 19).

Because of its fragile nationalist mission and its much shorter institutional history compared to American and Latin American studies, Canadian studies today are not firmly entrenched at Canadian universities in the form of separate academic departments or programs. Compared to literary studies, history and the social sciences have been able to maintain greater public interest in their disciplinary focus on Canadian historical and political development (Maclulich, 1984–5: 33). For example, while the demand for Canadian foreign policy classes increased throughout the 1980s and 1990s (Nossal, 2000: 103), Canadian studies courses have generally disappeared from university curricula and entire programs have folded (Symons, 2000: 29).

Manifesting the decline of cultural nationalist orientations in Canadian studies, then, the turn toward post-nationalism in Canada represents a move beyond simplistic notions of US cultural imperialism that originally neglected Canada’s internal heterogeneity and promoted ideas about the country’s supposed superiority vis-à-vis its neighbor. In some of its less progressive forms, however, Canadian post-nationalism also signals the acceptance of an increasingly weakened Canadian welfare state and of continuing US economic, political, and cultural domination. ← 339 | 340 → The acquiescence to what is, as in the Latin American context, described as “Americanization” even allows for the celebration of Canada’s eventual “dissolution” and its potential economic and political incorporation into the United States through adoption of the US dollar and/or abolition of the Canada–US border.

This understanding of post-nationalism overlooks the potential for the emergence of alternatives to neoliberalism from a specifically Canadian standpoint. Such alternatives could be rooted in the country’s experiences of a strong and progressive welfare state with a comparatively weak sense of nationalism, its attempts at the official recognition of ethnic and racial diversity, its relatively marginal status on a global scale, and its continued oppositional stance vis-à-vis the United States. As Imre Szeman has argued, any form of Canadian post-nationalism will need to continually return to the idea of the nation because of the country’s peripheral status (Szeman, 1998: 32). Or, as Richard Cavell has put it, Canadian post-nationalism will always find itself in the paradoxical situation of having to “celebrate the nation as a function of dismissing it” (Cavell, 2000: 10).

In writer Stephen Heninghan’s words, the Canadian experience of globalization has entailed “the traumatic demolition of our national sense of being by Free Trade- and NAFTA-based “harmonization,” to the point where our particular individual experiences of society have become intangible and inexpressible” (Heninghan, 2002: 178). Canadians have experienced globalization primarily as an intensified assault on national policies and identity in favor of US institutions, norms and values (Cameron, 1996: 9), especially on the country’s social welfare policies and its more liberal immigration legislation. Exhibiting a degree of direct foreign (US) ownership unparalleled anywhere on the globe, Canada has also reaped far fewer benefits from economic integration under 1990s trade agreements than the United States has, in terms of increased market share and job creation (Panitch, 1996: 82).

The examination of such questions appears to have moved into the realm of popular culture, where much of the declining field’s cultural nationalistic rhetoric is being recycled. As of late, the most popular items of Canadian mass culture have been a series of Molson beer commercials articulating the particularity (and often the superiority) of Canadian culture as opposed to that of the United States. In the most famous commercial “I am Canadian,” for example, Canadians are extolled for believing in “peace keeping not policing” and for supporting concepts of “diversity, not assimilation.”37 While it may appear a return to 1960s nationalism and ← 340 | 341 → to ideas of cultural imperialism, the commercial manifests a sense of Canadian opposition to globalization, expressed in the awareness that North American integration has obliterated too much of Canada’s cultural and political particularity.

Drawing on the left-leaning traditions of Canadian nationalism, political scientist Stephen Clarkson has recently argued for a “post-globalist” Canadian state rooted in the specificities of the country’s political culture. Clarkson does not recommend that Canada return to its 1960s welfare state or to its policies of cultural and economic nationalism. Instead he proposes that the Canadian state recuperate its unused powers by establishing a more equitable society and by rebuilding a degenerated public infrastructure, his plans including increasing support for public schools and universities, universal health care, and Canadian cultural expression (Clarkson, 2002: 427). Clarkson also highlights the positive effects of protectionist cultural policies that would ensure Canada greater representation on a global and regional level. He concedes that such changes will require the cooperation of hemispheric and global systems of governance with similar post-globalist values. Similar to Latin American thinkers like Roger Bartra, Clarkson emphasizes the nation-state’s unfulfilled potential to represent public interests vis-à-vis neo-liberal forms of globalization. Because they are rooted in specific manifestations of nationalism in regions of the Americas outside the United States, these counter-narratives to neoliberal forms of globalization could become a useful starting point for more sophisticated theories of corporate transnational expansion and US domination in a hemispheric context.

Because of its complex relationship to questions of state-sponsored nationalism and the nation-state as well as its long history of US domination, Canada constitutes an important location from which inter-Americas scholars in Canada, the United States, and other locations could rethink the role of the nation within theories of globalization. Unlike Latin American studies, however, Canadian studies have not yet been considered a potential component of US-based hemispheric models of study. And despite a longstanding tendency to question the motivations behind US scholarship on Canada and to lament the presence of US scholars in Canadian academia, Canada-based Canadianists currently do not seem to view hemispheric paradigms as a threat.38 The case may be different for US-based Canadianists, some ← 341 | 342 → of whom are affiliated with the few Canadian studies programs that have existed at US institutions since the 1960s.39 In contrast to most US area studies programs including Latin American studies, Canadian studies originally developed without significant federal or foundational support and have remained relatively small (Alper and Monahan, 1997: 173). Scholarship in history, literature, and political science produced in these institutional sites has not significantly influenced the inter-American framework that has emerged in the US academy, possibly because, as Donald K. Alper and Robert L. Monahan have argued, it has not been sufficiently comparative (Alper and Monahan, 1997: 176).40

Nevertheless, Canadian studies programs, especially those situated in US institutions near the border or in universities with a long history of Canadian inquiry, are still active today, some having expanded into more social science-oriented North American studies programs that sometimes also encompass Mexico or Latin America.41 These recent developments promise the reinvigoration of Canadian studies from within the United States at the same time that they also support the emergence of comparative and internationalist work which includes perspectives from abroad.

Future Directions for Inter-Americas Studies

The preceding analysis shows that Latin American and Canadian area studies models have encountered markedly different theoretical issues than American studies when entering into a hemispheric perspective. While American studies have yet to engage deeply with the social sciences’ theories of globalization, the social sciences figure more prominently in Latin American studies and have also been strong in Canadian studies. In these two fields, the current push for hemispheric ← 342 | 343 → frameworks is often linked to developments toward continental integration under NAFTA and other regional trade agreements. Postcolonial theory has also entered the three disciplines in different ways. Postcolonial rethinkings of US ethnicity within Chicana/o-Latina/o and border studies frameworks have become central to the emergence of New Americanist positions and, more recently, to the hemispheric perspective within American studies. The postcolonial inquiry into the cultures of Latin America within Latin American studies, in contrast, has been modeled after the South Asian Subaltern Studies Group and has yet to fully explore that the US–Mexico border cuts both ways (Romero, 1995: 796) – that is, that issues of trans-national ethnicity may also be of interest to area studies. And in Canadian studies, postcolonial theory has foregrounded Canada’s status as a settler-invader colony, described the country’s subordinate relationship to the United States, and facilitated the study of some of its linguistic and racialized communities.

In addition, individual disciplines have been shaped by differing valuations of nationalism and conflicting attitudes toward the role of the nation in cultural production. American and Canadian studies both originated in nationalist projects that set out to link literary production to the nation-state. In Canadian studies (as in Latin American studies), however, the nation-state is often theorized as a guarantor of sovereignty from the United States and as a potential means of advancing alternative forms of globalization. While Latin American studies have been characterized by perennial tensions among national, regional, and continental perspectives, national studies remain strong, especially in Latin American countries. Despite the field’s general rejection of reductive area studies models dating from the 1920s, Latin America still tends to be represented in many US academic disciplines as though it were a single country. We hope that the recognition of the singular and distinctive in the disciplines we have addressed will provide inter-Americas scholars with strategies for theorizing the role of the United States in the hemisphere and for guarding against possible US domination of the emerging field.

We only have space to mention a few examples of recent work on the Americas that make us optimistic about the possibilities of this incipient research area. Spanning the fields of American studies, comparative literature, and Latina/o studies, Kirsten Silva Gruesz’s Ambassadors of Culture (2002) develops an alternative version of the American Renaissance that broadens its purview beyond US events like the Civil War and Reconstruction to include an analysis of the development of US expansionism. While Gruesz primarily emphasizes the Latin American-US relationship, her book also addresses the importance of Niagara Falls, a Canada-US border region, for 19th-century Latin American poets. In addition to this literary historical perspective, comparative approaches to historical ← 343 | 344 → and contemporary issues in North America have emerged that revolve around intra-ethnic or diasporic questions. Such work focuses comparatively on indigenous American peoples, explores Asian immigration and settlement in the Americas, and advances research on histories of slavery and more generally on the black presence in the hemisphere.42 Other scholarship has answered longstanding calls to examine similarities between various ethnic and diasporic communities. For example, in her work on early 20th-century undocumented Chinese immigration across the Canada–US and Mexico–US borders, historian Erika Lee (2002) has reconceived these movements as precursors of Mexican immigration and as indicators of future border enforcements. A third trajectory for hemispheric Americas scholarship has been the focus on contemporary developments in the hemisphere and their relationship to cultural production. Pamela Maria Smorkaloff (1994), for example, has placed hemispheric literary production, publishing, and distribution in the context of developments associated with NAFTA, discussing Latin American, US Latina/o, and Canadian artists and writers, as well as inter-sections between Latin American and Canadian border narratives.43 In addition, scholarship in communication studies spearheaded by José Manuel Valenzuela Arce (1994) and Emile McAnany and Kenton Wilkinson (1996), among others, has traced the impact of economic trade agreements on national and crossborder media industries in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

While adopting a hemispheric perspective asks scholars to rethink the meaning of disciplinary scholarship in general, the work of these scholars also suggests some additional future trajectories for inter-Americas studies. Among other topics well-suited to the hemispheric perspective are the interrelationship among social, political, cultural, and economic developments in the Americas; migration, cultural production, and change in border areas; transnational cultural exchange within and among specific ethnic and racial groups; and comparative historical accounts of nation-state formation and national, regional, and ethnic identities. Additionally, inter-Americas studies may foster scholarship on contemporary ← 344 | 345 → issues such as the evolution of radical politics on the continent, environmentalism, workers’ rights, feminism, and movements challenging NAFTA and its planned extension into the FTAA.44 Still other perspectives may draw on comparative urban studies in the hemisphere, incorporating architecture and concepts of public space (e.g. Herzog, 1999). Material culture studies that focus on products of the Americas, from cocaine to bananas, would also stand to gain from an expanded geographical framework capable of tracing the entire circuit of commodity production and consumption.45

Scattered throughout the United States, Latin America, Canada, and other international sites, inter-Americas scholars need to establish closer contact with one another across disciplinary, regional, and national borders and to urge the reconfiguration of existing interdisciplinary fields in the United States and elsewhere. We put our faith in interdisciplinarity, for, as Linda Kerber has put it, while the marginal position of interdisciplinary programs always implies great risks, it also promises great potential (Kerber, 1989: 425). As inter-Americas studies become a more formalized area of research, however, they will also need to maintain their current openness vis-à-vis other emerging models of transnational and global studies.

By way of conclusion, we call for a collaborative and dialogic model of inter-Americas studies that moves across the various geographies of the Americas or that allows for more comparative views on the hemisphere to emerge. We envision inter-Americas studies to be a framework that will enable scholars to explore hemispheric phenomena in depth, rather than a new paradigm that seeks to displace national (and other) geographic categories of analysis. Given our own disciplinary locations, we are interested in the United States’ role in the hemisphere; however, we do not imagine that all inter-Americas scholarship will necessarily contain a US component. In our view, inter-Americas studies could also draw on comparative analyses developed by Canadianists on Latin America or by Latin Americanists on Canada, not to mention other potential projects developed by specialists in fields not covered in this article.46 The new transnational geographical models emerging ← 345 | 346 → in the US academy are to a degree consistent with US economic policies promoting globalization, and they have been supported by large-scale initiatives on the part of traditional area studies funding institutions (Bérubé, 2003; Cumings, 2002). US Americanists are in a position to respond either critically or complacently to these developments; it seems that manifesting a greater interest in the political and economic implications of globalization would be a positive first step. If Americanists are to internationalize their field without becoming unwitting ambassadors of a US-inspired “world without boundaries” (Cumings, 2002: 286), they need to travel abroad, engage in scholarly dialogue in languages other than English, and interest themselves in scholarship produced outside the United States and outside their own field. Until they do so, we fear that an Americanist-led hemispherism will only promote a vision of the Americas in which all academic disciplinary configurations are subordinate to those of the United States and in which every region outside of the United States is collapsed into a monolithic other.47


We would like to thank our colleagues who graciously offered their comments and suggestions on various drafts of this essay: Rachel Adams, Richard Cavell, Jane Desmond, Donald C. Goellnicht, Brian Gollnick, Charles A. Hale, Robert McKee Irwin, Djelal Kadir, Misha Kokotovic, Ruedi Kuenzli, Priya Kumar, David Laurence, Kathy Lavezzo, Marie Lo, Joel Pfister, Laura Rigal, Reginald C. Stuart, Sam Truett, Priscilla Wald, Doris Witt, the anonymous reviewers of Comparative American Studies and its editor R.J. Ellis. We also thank Jenna Hammerich for her careful manuscript editing. All translations from the Spanish are by Claire F. Fox. ← 346 | 347 →

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1 This essay was first published in Comparative American Studies 2.1 (2004): 5–38. Reprinted here with permission.

2 The hemispheric perspective within American studies has been shaped by Chicana/o-Latina/o and border studies (e.g. Kaplan, 1993; Porter, 1994; Wald, 1998), though these have, however, rarely entered into dialogue with Mexico-based border studies or with social science-oriented forms of border cultural studies. (See Irwin, 2001 for a critique of US-based border studies.) Other transnational models, such as the trans-Pacific (Lowe, 1996; Ong, 1999), the trans-Atlantic (Gilroy, 1993), and the circum-Atlantic (Roach, 1996), are linked to Asian American and black studies.

3 The term “literature of the Americas” emerged within American studies. In Paul Jay’s usage (1998), it replaces the field’s national focus with an emphasis on sub-regions or transnational cultural zones of the Americas. Comparativist Roland Greene (1998) has used the phrase “new world studies” more broadly than Joseph Roach (1996) has as a label for scholarship that encompasses Latin America, the Caribbean and, at least on a programmatic level, Canada. John Carlos Rowe (2000) has mapped a geographically limited “North American studies,” focusing on the United States, Mexico and, programmatically, Canada. The term “North American studies” also draws on the comparative emphasis on Canada–US relations that has emerged in Canadian studies and Canadian universities, and it has been used to describe the joint focus on the United States and Canada in several institutions of higher learning in Europe. Although we note a preponderance of research focusing on the pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary periods, the 19th and 20th centuries have also inspired promising inter-American scholarship, such as the innovative cultural and historical studies of Kazanjian (2003), Dunkerley (2000), and Gruesz (2002). Jay (1998) and Greene (1998) have theorized inter-American perspectives that span periods from the colonial to the contemporary. At the institutional level, inter-American studies are becoming more visible in terms of hiring, and hemispheric research centers have been established at universities like Duke, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Stony Brook, New York University, and Michigan State. The English department at Arizona State University recently reorganized its undergraduate major into a Literatures and Cultures of the Americas section and a World Literatures in English section. Rowe (2000), Jay (1998), and Greene (1998) also consider curricular questions posed by inter-American research. The University of Virginia Press, University of Minnesota Press, and Peter Lang have created special series dedicated to inter-American issues.

4 The Modern Language Association conference on “English and the Foreign Languages” held in New York in April 2002, for example, featured distinguished scholars of Chicana/o and Latina/o literatures such as Arnaldo Cruz-Malavé of Fordham University and Tey Diana Rebolledo of the University of New Mexico to represent the field of literature of the Americas. The conference’s focus on the bilingualism and biculturalism that informs Latina/o and Chicana/o expressive culture in the United States suggests that organizers envisioned literature of the Americas as a bridge field between English and the foreign languages.

5 For earlier examples of inter-American research, see Pérez-Firmat (1990), Fitz (1991), Saldívar (1991), and Spillers (1991). For overviews of the intersections between comparative literature and Latin American studies, see Fitz (2002), McClennen (2002), and McClennen and Fitz (2002). For other studies by Latin Americanists and comparatists, see Valdés (1985), Chevigny and Laguardia (1986), Zamora (1993, 1997), Cohn (1999), and Sommer (1999).

6 The authors are US-trained scholars in the fields of comparative literature and English, respectively. We work in the contemporary period, and our research cuts across American, Latin American, and Canadian studies.

7 In Latin American studies, inter-American work is one of several emerging approaches, including trans-Atlantic, inter-Latin American, or comparative postcolonial perspectives. While the trans-Atlantic theorizes connections between Latin America and the Iberian peninsula as well as the European and African continents more generally, the inter-Latin American model enables comparative work specifically on Latin America, including Brazil. Canadian studies are either becoming part of a social science-oriented North American studies paradigm, or they are developing toward a more comparative discipline that includes international scholarship on Canada. There have also been attempts to combine several of the fields we examine into more global perspectives. Examples include the Ford Foundation’s program “Crossing Borders” (Volkman, 1998), and the “Transculturalisms Canada” project supported by the International Council for Canadian studies.

8 We realize, of course, that only Latin American studies fit the traditional description of area studies, which is charged with providing knowledge to the state about foreign policy (Bové, 2002). We employ the term in a broader sense to designate a particular discipline’s assumed geographical boundaries, be they national or transnational.

9 Desmond and Domínguez (1998) have, however, challenged the idea that American studies work from abroad will offer radically different approaches from US-based scholarship solely by virtue of its location. Similarities in the two perspectives stem from long-standing connections between many American studies programs abroad and US institutions as well as the uncritical promotion of US-based theoretical approaches abroad (see also Horwitz, 1993).

10 For a discussion of “critical internationalism,” see B. Lee (1995). Mariscal (1990) notes that the 1814 appointment of the first chair in Hispanic literature at Harvard University marks a shift toward the United States’ emerging orientalist fascination with Spain and its South American colonies. In his study of John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood’s archaeological expeditions in southern Mexico during the 1840s, Gollnick likewise finds a rhetoric of conquest underwriting their enterprise, in which they claimed the artifacts of an indigenous past as part of an elitist “American” history (Gollnick, 1998).

11 For a cogent critique of the US Americanist use of the term “Americas,” see Kadir (2003).

12 The different visions of the Americas promoted by Cuban independence leader José Martí and US historian Herbert Eugene Bolton in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, respectively, exert contradictory pressures on contemporary inter-American scholarship that bear especially upon Latin American studies’ orientation toward inter-Americas studies. For Martí’s relevance to studies of race and ethnicity in the United States, see Saldívar (1991) and Spillers (1991). For other contemporary studies of Martí’s US writings, see Ramos (1989), Avelar (1997), Belknap and Fernández (1998), and Rotker (2000). Bolton articulates his synthetic, hemispheric perspective toward American history in his 1932 American Historical Association presidential keynote address (Bolton, 1964) and in his widely used syllabus for a history of the Americas (Bolton, 1935). For contemporary work on Bolton, see Hanke (1964), Hurtado (1993, 1995), Magnaghi (1998), and Truett (in press).

13 The Network’s founding documents were drafted by George Yúdice, Stanley Aronowitz, Juan Flores, and Néstor García Canclini at a conference held in Mexico City in May 1993. Among the results of the IACSN’s activities is the Biblioteca Virtual, housed at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro ( and a series of books on “studies and other intellectual practices in culture and power” published by Daniel Mato, former chair of the CLASCO working group on culture. As the IACSN is now defunct, many of its functions have been incorporated into George Yúdice’s Cultural Policy Center at NYU. We thank George Yúdice for providing information about the IACSN.

14 In García Canclini’s view, Mexico’s membership in NAFTA and the European trade agreements with Mercosur countries make those two Latin American regions the ones primarily affected by the inter-American and Euro-American categories. As for the “real” impact of globalization on Latin America, David Felix argues that its effects have been most evident in the financial sector and in policy-making, rather than in “the actual volume of internationally traded goods” (Felix, 1998: 193). At the time of our writing, Argentina, Venezuela, and Brazil are among the Latin American countries witnessing a rise in economic nationalism in response to financial and political crises. These movements, in turn, may cloud the future of free trade initiatives.

15 See Miller and Yúdice for a useful overview of this scholarship.

16 The term “Latin America” was coined in the mid-19th century by Louis Napoleon in order to justify French rule in Mexico. For critiques of Latin America as a concept and as an area designation, see O’Gorman (1961), Berger (1995), Larsen (1995), and Mignolo (2000).

17 See Avelar (1997), Richard (1997, “Intersectando” and 1997, “Mediaciones”), de la Campa (1999), and Moreiras (2001). For comparative studies of Whitman and Martí, see Molloy (1996) and Sommer (1998).

18 For critiques of intellectual authority, see Rama (1984), Avelar (1997), and Miller (1999). For theories of “modernity from below,” see Rowe and Schelling (1991). See also Latin American Subaltern Studies Group (1994) and Rodríguez (2001).

19 LASA’s membership continued to grow significantly even through the lean decades of the 1970s and 1980s (Mesa-Lago, 1980: 3). Today, LASA is a broadly interdisciplinary organization, with a tradition of concentration in the social sciences. Its membership totals approximately 5,500, 30% of whom reside outside the United States (

20 Kokotovic notes that Latin Americanist historians who work with postcolonial theory do so differently than the literary critics who form the membership of the Latin American Subaltern Studies Group. He likens these orientations to diverging foci in the South Asian Group, from the Gramscian influence manifest in Ranajit Guha’s writing to the deconstructionist approach evident in Gayatri Spivak’s work. For postcolonial work in Latin American history, see Mallon (1994), Hispanic American Historical Review (1999), Berger (2000), Delpar (2000), and Knight (2002).

21 The debate between Moreiras and Sarlo appeared in the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies 8.1 (1999). A revised version of Moreiras’s contribution, “On the Order of Order,” was subsequently published as a chapter of his book, The Exhaustion of Difference (2001).

22 For debates about cultural imperialism, see Mattelart and Dorfman (1975) and Tomlinson (1991).

23 Such scholars include Jorge Castañeda, Beatriz Sarlo, Néstor García Canclini, Jesús Martín Barbero, Roger Bartra, Enrique Dussel, Martín Hopenhayn, Roberto Schwartz, and Silviano Santiago.

24 The orientalist legacy of Latin American area studies in the US academy takes a peculiar form in the humanities – especially outside of Spanish and Portuguese departments – where magical realism and the “Boom” novels are commonly considered paradigmatic of all Latin American literature (see Fuguet and Gómez, 1996, and Reati and Ocampo, 1998).

25 For studies about the growth of transnational Latina/o consumers, see García Canclini (1995) and Dávila (2001); on transnational migration, see Rouse (1991, 1992, 1995), Sassen (1998), and Martínez (2001).

26 De la Campa insightfully observes that “[Most US Latino cultural forms] are rejected or resisted in Latin America, particularly in literary circles. For many scholars there, and some here, the inclusion of Latino mapping constitutes a distortion, if not a threat, to Latin Americanism, both in terms of literary history and disciplinary markets” (de la Campa, 2002: 3). For a promising effort to bridge the gap, see Poblete (2003).

27 Valdés (1985) and Spillers (1991) stress such connections.

28 American studies have a slightly more complex history, which includes radical roots in the 1930s and 1940s (Denning, 1996). The field grew under the conditions of Second World War nationalism and patriotism, and was eventually institutionalized during the Cold War. The New Americanists largely reacted against the prevailing “myth and symbol school” of the 1960s, which aimed to define the distinctiveness of the US national character against what were believed to be its exclusively European origins.

29 John Carlos Rowe, for example, theorizes a “North American studies” model that would demand “investigations of how the many different Americas and Canada have historically influenced and interpreted each other” (Rowe, 2000: 13). In referring to Canada in the singular but to the United States in the plural, Rowe reiterates the common view of Canada as an internally homogeneous nation. We are indebted to Traister (2002) for making this same point.

30 Compared to 9.3% of the US population that was foreign-born in 1997, 14% of Canada’s population was made up of recent immigrants and refugees at the time of the 1996 census (Statistics Canada, 1999; US Census Bureau, 2002). Canada’s official policy of multiculturalism has been widely critiqued as a means to undercut Québec’s demands for special recognition by bestowing recognition on other cultural groups.

31 Efforts to protect Canadian culture after World War II were manifested in the establishment of four major commissions. The Massey Commission (1949) focused on the arts, letters, and science; the Fowler Commission (1955) on radio and television broadcasting; the O’Leary Commission (1961) on magazine publishing, and the Laurendeay Commission (1963) on bilingualism and biculturalism (Mackey, 1999: 54).

32 For a concise characterization of the Canadian literary tradition and its relationship to cultural nationalism, see Davey (1993). The process of canon formation included an increase in Canadian literature courses in public schools and universities, growing government support for writers and for library purchases of Canadian literature, and the re-publication of out-of-print 19th-century Canadian texts (Lecker, 1993: 40–42).

33 For examples of work on Canada as a “newly postcolonial country,” see Bennett (1993–4). For criticism of this approach’s tendency to overlook significant distinctions between a Commonwealth settler colony and Third World postcolonial nations, see Hutcheon (1989) and Chanady (1994). The application of postcolonial theory to Québec is, however, widely resisted (Heninghan, 2002: 81).

34 See, for example, Fee’s argument that indigenous Canadians, unlike other ethnic groups in Canada, have been primarily interested in constructing a sense of pan-nationalism and protecting their status as sovereign nations (Fee, 1994: 684).

35 On the belated, mid-1990s development of Asian Canadian studies, despite similar exploitation of Chinese labor in the 19th century, the exclusion of Chinese immigrants during most of the first half of the 20th century, the internment and repatriation of Japanese Canadians during World War II, and the exclusion of immigrants from India between 1908 and 1951, see Miki (1995), Beauregard (1999), and Goellnicht (2000, “Long Labor”).

36 The examination of Native peoples has largely been separated from the analysis of other Canadian “visible minorities.” To this day indigenous peoples constitute a much higher proportion of Canada’s total population than they do of the United States, largely because British colonial policies recognized aboriginal land rights in North America and afforded Canada’s First Nations greater integrity and cultural persistence than many US tribes (J. Miller, 1993: 373). The first full-time, degree-granting Native Studies program was created at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario in 1969 (Price, 1978: 9), and others soon followed. In contrast, there exist few other ethnic studies programs, such as an Asia-Canada studies minor program at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia and a Centre for the Study of Black Culture at York University, Ontario.

37 While work in Canadian communication or media studies was greatly influential in 1960s cultural nationalist debates, little scholarship on Canadian popular culture or cultural studies exists today. The Canadian Association of Cultural Studies was founded as recently as 2002, and a Canadian journal of cultural studies called TOPIA was inaugurated the same year.

38 Canadianists often construe US scholars’ motivations for their work on Canada as a prelude to takeover (Winks, 1993: 3). At the highpoint of cultural nationalism, these attitudes hardened to the point that US Canadianists were largely ignored for committee positions in professional organizations (Winks, 1993: 7).

39 US-based scholarship on Canada emerged in the 1940s and 1950s and was centered in history departments. Throughout the 1980s, interest shifted to economics, business, political science, economic geography, law, and on occasion, anthropology or sociology (Winks, 1993: 7–8). Today US-based Canadian studies are represented by the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States (ASCUS), which produces the American Review of Canadian Studies and has a national secretariat in Washington, DC.

40 The extensive work on Canada–US borderlands, produced with the support of the Canadian-American Center at the University of Maine, constitutes a notable exception. In general, there exists more comparative scholarship in economics and business than in history or literature (Lipset, 1993: 407).

41 In 1998, for example, Duke’s Center for North American Studies broadened its original focus from Canadian studies to include comparative and international relations research about the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

42 For examples of comparative work on indigenous peoples in Canada and the United States, see Price (1978) and Nichols (1998). For comparative scholarship on Asian Canadians and Asian Americans, see Goellnicht (2000, “Bones”). For work on Asians in Latin America, see Ong (1999), Hu-DeHart (1999), and Rachel C. Lee (1999). For work on hemispheric histories of slavery, see Handley (2000) and Cox (2001). For work on the Latina/o presence in Canada, see Basok’s research (2002) on Mexican migrant workers.

43 For work that comparatively addresses cultural productions about the Mexico–US and Canada–US borders, see Brégent-Heald (2003).

44 For comparative social sciences approaches to economic and immigration issues involving Mexico, Canada, and the United States, see Drache (1993) and Driscoll (1995).

45 Virginia Scott Jenkins’ Bananas: An American History (2000) and Steven Soderbergh’s movie Traffic (2000), for example, would have been enriched by focusing more on the sites that produce the commodities they study. For examples that do utilize an expanded frame of analysis, see Barrientos et al. (1999) and Brandt (1999).

46 Although the topic lies outside the scope of this article, inter-Americas research also needs to interface with work on the hemisphere and its trans-Atlantic European connections. Such projects are under way at the University of Central Lancashire’s Department of Cultural Studies, at the Center for Advanced Study on the Internationality of National Literatures at the University of Göttingen, Germany, and at the Maastricht Center for Transatlantic Studies, launched in 1995 by a consortium of universities from the United States, Mexico, and Europe (Buchenau and Messmer, 2001). In Mexico, the National Autonomous University (UNAM) has a Center for US Studies, while throughout Latin America individual scholars in literary and cultural studies have dedicated themselves to US-oriented American studies. Thank you to Virginia Domínguez for this last piece of information.

47 We thank Robert McKee Irwin for his insightful comments on this section.