Imagining the 19th-Century Americas: New Perspectives, New Angles

AHA Session 214
Conference on Latin American History 52
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Governor's Square 14 (Sheraton Denver Downtown, Plaza Building Concourse Level)
James Sanders, Utah State University
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel explores how a diverse array of historical actors envisioned América/America in the nineteenth-century. For those whose lives were defined by local or regional identities, the nation remained remote and abstract. But too often we forget that that various trans or supranational formulations had as much, or more meaning than the nation for individuals as well. The question that animates these papers then is how those inhabiting, or moving through the Americas saw and understood the world around them, locally, regionally, nationally, hemispherically, or even in Atlantic and Global terms?

The papers included here demonstrate that imagining ones’ place beyond the local and the national and embracing transregional, hemispheric or broader conceptions of space, and, at times, similarly broad and expansive notions of identity was not the privilege of statesmen and diplomats, nor the prerogative of mobile subjects. To be sure, the major population shifts that drew individuals across seas, oceans and borders from countrysides to cities in the nineteenth century, changed the way travelers understood their worlds, but the accelerated movement of people, goods and ideas and the technologies that drove those changes also deeply affected the lives of those who stayed at home.  If slaves and freedmen, elite and non-elite political exiles, wartime refugees, economic migrants, indentured laborers, speculators and other adventurers conceived and reconceived the Americas as they moved through it, those who did not travel, or who were rendered immobile were also impacted by the processes and technologies of mobility.

Historical actors often had more expansive visions of the meaning of the Americas than the academy, with its subdivisions of areas and disciplines, holds today. This panel explores not only the way historical actors from across the hemisphere understood the idea of America, but also how scholars themselves draw the boundaries of their scholarship as they think beyond national frameworks in their studies to embrace transnational, or hemispheric approaches. Thus, these panelists work at many scales and move between the local, regional and national while engaging critically with a variety of supra-national academic formulations like the Atlantic World, the Pacific World, the Gulf World, and, of course, the Americas.


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