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Looking South

The Evolution of Latin Americanist Scholarship in the United States, 1850-1975

Written by Helen Delpar

Publication Year: 2008

In the Preface to her new study, Latin Americanist Helen Delpar writes, "Since the seventeenth century, Americans have turned their gaze toward the lands to the south, seeing in them fields for religious proselytization, economic enterprise, and military conquest." Delpar, consequently, aims her considerable gaze back at those Americans and the story behind their longtime fascination with Latin American culture. By visiting seminal works and the cultures from which they emerged, following the effects of changes in scholarly norms and political developments on the training of students, and evaluating generations of scholarship in texts, monographs, and journal articles, Delpar illuminates the growth of scholarly inquiry into Latin American history, anthropology, geography, political science, economics, sociology, and other social science disciplines.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xiii

Since the seventeenth century, Americans1 have turned their gaze toward the lands to the south, seeing in them fields for religious proselytization, economic enterprise, and military conquest. Some have been motivated mainly by intellectual curiosity and the desire to learn more about the region and its people. In the nineteenth century these individuals were likely to be independent travelers and investigators. At the start of the twentieth century, with the emergence of the modern university, academics with specializations in Latin America began to appear, initially in history, anthropology, and geography. By the end of the century the number of dedicated Latin Americanists in these and other disciplines had increased dramatically, courses on Latin America had become apparently permanent features of university curricula, and research on Latin...

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1. Beginnings

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pp. 1-24

The dislike of Anglo-Saxon Protestants for Spain and Roman Catholicism shaped early perceptions of the colonies that lay to the south of British North America. As the eighteenth century dawned, they were seen mainly as fields for missionary endeavor. The diary of the Massachusetts divine Samuel Sewall reveals a continuing interest in the possibility of Mexico’s revolting against Spanish rule, which would presumably open the door to English colonization there and the introduction of Protestantism. In 1702 the appearance of a comet...

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pp. 25-31

With the dawn of the twentieth century, the study of Latin America in the United States experienced substantial growth as a result of several developments. Perhaps the most important was the increasing interest in the lands south of the border exhibited after 1870 by industrialists, statesmen, and naval strategists. As the geopolitical doctrines of naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan gained currency and prompted the expansion of the U.S. Navy, areas of Latin America, and especially the Caribbean Basin, were seen as potential ...

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2. Early Historians

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pp. 33-51

The awarding of PhDs in history in the United States began in 1882 when Johns Hopkins and Yale conferred the first two doctorates in that field. Graduate study in history expanded rapidly in the following years: by 1901–2 eighteen institutions offered the PhD, and an average of nineteen history doctorates was being awarded each year, though this figure represented only 6.5 percent of all doctorates.1 The recipient of the first Johns Hopkins doctorate was John Franklin Jameson, who became a pivotal figure in the ...

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3. The Rise of Anthropology

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pp. 52-72

In the emerging social sciences of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Latin America was an important subject of teaching and research mainly in the field of anthropology. As chapter 1 showed, Latin America and especially Mesoamerica had been a major source of interest for nineteenth-century archaeologists and ethnologists. This interest remained keen as the twentieth century began, all the more so as native Americans in the United States seemed to be on the verge of disappearance. In many parts of Latin America,...

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4. Geography and the Other Social Sciences

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pp. 73-89

Of the other disciplines considered social sciences during the early twentieth century, only geography developed a cadre of academic specialists on Latin America who regularly conducted research and taught courses on the region. By contrast, in political science, sociology, and economics, a few individuals studied Latin America, but they did not constitute a group that was identified with, and sought to advance, scholarship about the region. In part this discrepancy was due to the relatively late emergence of the latter three as more or less ...

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5. Latin Americanists and the World of Policy Making

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pp. 90-107

Contemporary scholars often assert a linkage between Latin Americanists and U.S. political and economic ambitions in the region, especially during the first decades of the twentieth century. In fact, Mark T. Berger and others maintain that the development of academic expertise about Latin America was inextricably linked to the rise of U.S. hegemony in the region. According to Berger, “US emergence as an economic and politico-military power in Latin America was central to the constitution of ‘Latin America’ as an object of study and the ...


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6. A Decade of Expansion, 1935–1945

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pp. 111-128

The study of Latin America experienced what has been called “unprecedented expansion” during World War II. In reality the upsurge began in the mid-1930s largely as the result of initiatives by private and public agencies that provided support for more intensive study of the region. These initiatives seemed all the more pressing as the international situation deteriorated and a second global conflict seemed increasingly likely. During the war years, Latin America, although peripheral to the main theaters of operations, was nevertheless ...

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7. Marking Time, 1945–1958

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pp. 129-152

During the fifteen years following the end of World War II, the perception arose that Latin American studies were in a state of stasis if not decline. Lewis Hanke recalled this period as comprising “long years of drought”; Howard F. Cline described it more dramatically as a “cataclysmic, catastrophic tumble from 1942– 1945 heights.”1 In reality, drastic retrogression did not occur: professors continued to teach and conduct research and new graduate students continued to appear...

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8. The Boom Years, 1958–1975

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pp. 153-183

Reviewing the 1958 Newberry Library conference, Bryce Wood of the Social Science Research Council attributed the relative decline of scholarly interest in Latin America over the past fifteen years to the “tepid climate of opinion about the significance of Latin America that prevailed until recently in the United States.” He believed, however, that a change was in the air: “Stirrings of concern and calls to action are now replacing plaints of ‘neglect’ of Latin America and of inter-American relationships. The new atmosphere may originate in political ...

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pp. 184-190

Surveying the state of Latin American studies in the United States in 1966, Lewis Hanke described the current expansion as “staggering”: “Never before have so many libraries been able to strengthen their collections on both Brazil and Spanish America. . . . Never before has the academic marketplace been so attractive to graduate students; never before have so many professors and students been able to study and visit Latin America for such prolonged periods; never before have our research facilities and salaries been able to pull to our ...


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pp. 191-225

Select Bibliography

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pp. 227-233


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pp. 235-241

E-ISBN-13: 9780817380120
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817354640

Publication Year: 2008