Latin America and the World

AHA Session 139
Conference on Latin American History 39
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Columbia Hall 5 (Washington Hilton)
Jeremy I. Adelman, Princeton University
Using the World to Define Latin America
Josť C. Moya, Barnard College, Columbia University
Re-provincializing Latin America?
Karin A. Rosemblatt, University of Maryland at College Park
Brazil and the World
Steven Topik, University of California, Irvine
The Audience

Session Abstract

This roundtable invites discussion and debate on the intersections between Latin American History and narratives about the world.  Studies of Latin America have long considered international dynamics of conquest, migration, trade, development, and imperialism.  Yet the discipline of history’s recent turn towards inquiry about global and transnational dynamics has pushed the boundaries of cold war area studies, generating new paradigms for thinking about Latin America’s relationship to other parts of the world and what constitutes “Latin America” to begin with.   Latin Americanists now more often look to connections with Asia, the Middle East, and Africa; and they more thoroughly challenge unidirectional models for thinking about U.S. and European influence and domination.  Scholarship on “the Americas” and “the Pacific World” have conceived of region in new ways and considered Latin America’s dynamic connection to histories of the United States, Canada, Hawaii, China, the Philippines, etc.

This roundtable proposes that scholars of Latin America are particularly well-suited to contribute to debates about world history, transnational studies, and globalization. Much of the new thinking about Latin America and the world draws on Latin American Studies’ longstanding materialist and comparativist traditions, including the history of empire, commodities, state-formation, and labor.  It has also been shaped by recent scholarship on gender, sexuality, and race that examines the ideological and cultural production of difference as social and political inequality. Certainly there is no one “school” or unified approach for thinking about Latin America and the world.  Comparative history remains a vital tradition for addressing the relationship between nations and regions.  For other scholars, the goal of tracing trans-national or trans-regional dynamics is precisely to dispense with “comparison” of discrete entities and, instead, to show how difference is produced.  The notion of “world history” or “global history” remains problematic for those wary of universals and metanarratives that preclude attention to specificity or ignore women and subaltern actors.  For others, the rubric of  “the transnational” flags the dangers of scholarly disinterest in the state or political economy.   While such suspicions are often ill-founded or overdrawn, they spring from different intellectual investments and goals. 

This roundtable features opening comments from scholars who have written and taught about Latin America’s relationship to the world from a range of different angles.  It seeks to elicit vigorous audience participation from both Latin Americanists and scholars of other regions and specialties who interested in the challenges and promises of thinking about history for a global age. Presentations will be limited to fifteen minutes, with discussion led by the round-table’s chair.

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