Inter-American Networks and Racial Constructs in the Twentieth Century

AHA Session 215
Conference on Latin American History 58
Sunday, January 8, 2012: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Chicago Ballroom X (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Thomas C. Holt, University of Chicago
Jason Ruiz, University of Notre Dame

Session Abstract

The historiography on race in the Americas has recently begun to highlight
the interconnected frameworks that have helped define blackness and
indigeneity in local, national,and transnational arenas. This panel,
“Inter-American Networks and Racial Constructs in the Twentieth Century,”
introduces the concept of Inter-Americanism to the transnational networks
and exchanges that constructed blackness and indigeneity. Inter-American
networks perceived a shared cultural, political, and ecological bond in the
history of the Americas. Drawing on this common past, they sought to find
hemispheric solutions to contemporary social maladies that relied on
hierarchical constructions of race to justify political exclusion, economic
underdevelopment, and class exploitation across the hemisphere. This panel
examines the state-funded conservationist Inter-American Indian Institute,
U.S. and Brazilian communists, and anthropological correspondence throughout
the Americas. These formal institutions and informal networks helped to
forge inclusive, often populist, national cultures that challenged
race-based injustices in the Americas. Through these networks, intellectuals
assigned new, anti-imperialist racial signifiers to local, regional,
national, and hemispheric communities in order to engender class-based
social justice, economic development, and democratic political integration.
More broadly, this panel challenges historiographical separations of
blackness and indigeneity by showing the dynamic, interwoven construction of
black and indigenous identities in the Americas.

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