Cultural Diplomacy, Science, and Brazil-US Relations, 1930s–50s

AHA Session 21
Conference on Latin American History 1
Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Gilberto Hochman, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz
War, Science, and Cultural Diplomacy in the Americas: Frank Wilson and Brazilian Cardiology
Simone Kropf, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz; Joel D. Howell, University of Michigan
On the History of the Relations between Brazilian and American Physics
Olival Freire Jr., Universidade Federal da Bahia; Indianara Silva, Universidade Federal de Feira de Santana
Seth Garfield, University of Texas at Austin

Session Abstract

Speakers in this session will discuss cultural and scientific relations between Brazil and the United States during World War II and the first decades of the Cold War by addressing specific instances of Brazil/U.S. interactions in the fields of arts, culture, medicine and science. We will explore the limits, accomplishments, tensions and local appropriations of American cultural diplomacy in Latin America. In so doing we will consider the long-term impacts of these interactions on Brazilian society as well as on U.S. foreign relations within the so-called “Western Hemisphere.”

The panel brings together Brazilian and U.S. researchers who examine U.S. cultural diplomacy towards Latin America from a historiographical perspective that focuses on transnational/global networks and processes of knowledge circulation. Presentations will take account of how changing technologies, ideas, identities and practices shaped the specifics of each case study. The papers stress the importance of cultural diplomacy as a key element for shaping political and ideological relations between countries and regions. This perspective can be contrasted with the more traditional view that takes cultural diplomacy as a secondary aspect of "real" diplomacy, understood as one involving strictly foreign relations. The periodization of these studies is important. The period around WWII and the immediate postwar period is a particularly fruitful area for study. Some historians have asserted that the U.S. diplomacy towards Latin America that started in the 1930s (under Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor" policy) was somehow a "laboratory" for ideas and policies that were later implemented within the Cold War context, even though through different mechanisms and with different logics.

The proposed panel intends also to foster discussions on the key role played by science and medicine in the dynamics of cultural diplomacy, and, more specifically, on the broad process defined as the "Americanization" of Brazilian society. It also aims to compare and contrast studies that focus on different agencies of U.S. cultural diplomacy, encompassing both philanthropic and governmental agencies, such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, and the Division of Cultural Relations of the State Department.

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