Beyond Pan-Americanism: Internationalizing the History of the Cold War in Latin America

AHA Session 207
Conference on Latin American History 50
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Room 603 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Eric Zolov, State University of New York at Stony Brook
Thomas Field, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Michelle Getchell, US Naval War College
Vanni Pettinà, Colegio de México
David M. K. Sheinin, Trent University
Eric Zolov, State University of New York at Stony Brook

Session Abstract

In recent years, Latin American Cold War scholarship has moved in three overlapping directions.  First, it has transcended the "historiographic hegemony" of U.S.-Latin American relations by re-examining the pursuits of Latin American countries as global actors.  This reorientation reflects new levels of access to multi-archival research, including from the former Soviet Union and Western European countries and is leading to a fundamental reassessment of long held assumptions regarding U.S. dominance and the limits of Latin American geopolitical agency.  Second, scholars have begun to newly periodize the late 1950s-early 1970s as constituting a "long 1960s" and, more recently, a "Global Sixties."  In doing so, researchers are demonstrating how Latin American particularities are best understood within a wider global circulation of people, ideas, imagery, fashion, discourse, and music—what Jeremy Suri aptly captured as a "language of dissent."  Third, historians have begun to examine the deeper contextualization of domestic ideological conflict during the Cold War.  This research has uncovered numerous transnational linkages between domestic actors on the right as well as the left, and institutional networks (such as the World Anti-Communist League and the World Peace Conference, respectively).  At the same time, such investigations have helped us to widen our historical interpretations of what the "Cold War" meant in Latin America—how the roots of ideological conflict extended back to the 19th century, on one hand, and how the conflicts that erupted in the 1950s-70s were intertwined with intellectual arguments and activists who sought common cause with utopian plans for purifying the body politic.

Mostly, these conversations have taken place through formal presentations of research.  Far too often, moreover, diplomatic historians remain in isolation from social and political historians. This roundtable will bring together five prominent scholars whose training and publications span the fields of diplomatic, social, and cultural history.  Each has been an active contributor to the emergent historiographical shifts described above.  Thomas Field and Vanni Pettinà discuss the limits to Latin American participation in prominent projects that came to define the "Third World," such as the Non-Alignment Movement and the New International Information Order. David Sheinin focuses on efforts by Argentina to detonate a nuclear explosion and the ways in which "nuclear intent" were used to establish a “modern” international position in the 1960s.  Michelle Getchell internationalizes the 1965 crisis in the Dominican Republic by incorporating Latin American as well as Soviet positions (based on Soviet archives).  Eric Zolov proposes that Mexico by the 1960s had become the "Last Good Neighbor" to the United States, yet leveraged that strategic position to pursue international diversification to offset U.S. predominance.

We expect this roundtable to garner tremendous interest from diplomatic historians as well as from Latin Americanists and lead to a lively exchange of ideas, methodological and epistemological, regarding the importance of moving Latin America scholarship beyond the "historiographical Monroe Doctrine," as Tanya Harmer has eloquently put it.

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