INTRODUCTION: Cosmopolitanism in the Americas: Becoming Worldly, Becoming Modern
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1 INTRODUCTION Cosmopolitanism in the Americas: Becoming Worldly, Becoming Modern American Cosmopolitics The Free Trade Area of the Americas, potentially the largest free trade agreement in the world, far surpassing the North American Free Trade Agreement, has a long history; in fact, it is the culmination of cosmopolitan theories of a Pan-American community founded on the universals of peace, justice, and equality. The PanAmerican movement originated in Latin America; it began as an ideal of southern hemispheric unity by Simón Bolívar, the great Venezuelan liberator, in his “Jamaica Letter” of 1815. Bolívar writes about a pacific union of nations and territories across Latin America that would protect against interventions from colonial powers and ensure freedom for self-rule. This ideal derives from international political thinking with roots in the Enlightenment reorganization of the world, from the writings on European pacific unions from Abbé de Saint-Pierre and JeanJacques Rousseau to those on perpetual peace by Immanuel Kant. Kant clearly delineates the theoretical principles for achieving perpetual peace among nations while asserting cosmopolitanism as the fullest measure of human achievement. For Kant, cosmopolitanism is a “universally philanthropic” policy that would ensure peace among nations and grant individuals the right to international hospitality or “the right of a stranger not to be treated with hostility when he arrives on someone else’s territory” (“Perpetual Peace” 105). Kant’s philosophical program has the contradictory ideological purposes inherent in Enlightenment values; he promotes humanist ideas while his work has been foundational for hierarchical theories of race, severely undercutting Enlightenment claims to universal principles of justice. The violent legacy of these universals—unveiled by critics like Fanon, Arendt, Adorno, and Horkheimer—is a major critical blind spot of the cosmopolitans. Yet the expediency of the Pan-American quest for security from modern colonization justified, to some degree, this political shortsightedness . 2 Introduction Bolívar’s cosmopolitan ideal came to fruition in 1826 with the InterAmerican Congress of Panama or “The Great American Assembly,” where its constituents—belatedly including the United States, whose delegates arrived after the meeting adjourned; and Brazil, then still a monarchy—discussed matters such as treaties of union and a permanent league and confederation of American states (Haring 44–45). The place of the United States at this first great congress was contested; Bolívar had worried that inviting the U.S. would antagonize England, whose allegiance was needed in the struggle against Spain, but Central Americans believed that the U.S. deserved to be included (Langley 49–54). The U.S., however , was not as enthusiastic about a politically driven defensive alliance, since mutuality, collaboration, and concession have never been defining virtues of the colossus of the north. In the end, fantasies about hemispheric justice and equity were soon punctured by the reality of an aggressive U.S. campaign to enlarge its economic, cultural, and territorial mass. Although Latin America would no longer be attacked or exploited by Spain, Bolívar’s ideals of Inter-Americanism would be colonized by North American politics under the ideology of the Monroe Doctrine; announced by James Monroe in his presidential address of 1823, this policy sought to limit European colonization in post-independence Latin America, though the United States would violate this principle in 1848 with its war with Mexico and the annexation of approximately one-third of Mexico’s territory. With the Monroe-indoctrinated Pan-American union, the U.S. could pass itself off as embracing the concerns of Latin America in the guise of hemispheric security. In the late nineteenth century in the Americas, cosmopolitan thinking culminated in the Organization of American States (OAS), established by the treaty of Bogotá in 1890. The OAS is the oldest international peace-keeping organization and served as a model for the League of Nations and the United Nations, both global pacts to protect human rights, promote global peace, and encourage development and is similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), under which the U.S., Canada, and other European countries banded together to promote peace and protect each other from attack. At the same time, several cosmopolitan literary movements began circulating ideas related to those of the cosmopolitical organizations. Various international writers attached their ideals to the utopian conception of a world-wide literary cosmopolis and the aesthetic principles of cosmopolitanism. Attesting to the force of this new movement was the sudden proliferation of texts bearing the title “cosmopolis”: Paul Bourget’s novel Cosmopolis originally appeared in French in 1892...


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Subject Headings

  • America -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
  • Latin America -- Civilization -- European influences.
  • Pan-Americanism -- History -- 19th century.
  • City and town life in literature.
  • Cosmopolitanism -- America -- History -- 19th century.
  • Literary movements -- America -- History -- 19th century.
  • American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Latin American literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • America -- Intellectual life -- 19th century.
  • America -- Civilization -- 19th century.
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