Radical History Review 89 (2004) 1-10
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This special issue of Radical History Review—"Our Americas: Political and Cultural Imaginings"—emerges from a longstanding dialogue simultaneously personal and political. As friends and scholars in the fields of Latin American history and American studies, we have for many years explored how the questions that animate our intellectual work have found wonderful, if surprising, complementarity. Ideas about empire, regionalism, nationalism, race and ethnicity, class, and gender and sexuality might have been articulated specifically to "Latin America" or "the United States" within the individual professional spaces in which we moved, but it always seemed the case that the most interesting conceptual possibilities emerged when we could gaze at these topics comparatively and connectedly. More to the point, we continually asked ourselves and others whether it was possible to conceive of social investments in local spaces as fully autonomous from the broader regional interactions in which they were embedded. And finally, and more recently, as members of the editorial collective of the Radical History Review, it seemed only natural that in a moment of intensified U.S. imperial projects and the globalization of capital, we should strive to formulate an object of study that would stress internationalism, cooperation, and alternatives beyond the overwhelming power of the nation-state.
The "Americas" is one kind of answer to that impulse. As the title of this journal issue might suggest, we were drawn to José Martí's seminal essay "Nuestra América" ("Our America") as we began our inquiry. In 1891, during a time of U.S. capitalist crisis and impending imperialist aggression in the hemisphere, Martí offered a glimpse of what a regional project might look like for the twentieth century that he faced. His "America" was the heterogeneous formation of countries that lay to the south of the United States, which should stand in strong alliance against unfair incursions from the north. But Martí's intervention was more than anti-imperial in the geopolitical sense; it also sought some broader epistemology to contest the ideologies [End Page 1] that undergirded a looming U.S. invasion. As he wrote: "The scorn of our formidable neighbor, who does not know us, is the greatest danger for our America; and it is imperative that our neighbor know us, and know us soon, so she shall not scorn us, for the day of the visit is at hand." Naïveté aside, Martí argued most compellingly for dialogue and encounter between and among the varied spaces of Latin America and the Caribbean, and also between that "America" and, indeed, another "America" in the north. And despite the time in which he was writing, one of undeniable racial hierarchies, Martí opined in a most utopian vein: "There can be no racial hate, because there are no races. . . . The soul emanates, equal and eternal, from bodies distinct in shape and color." It is Martí's spirit of encounter, tinged by a desire to overcome formidable differences, that inspires this project that we have called "Our Americas," in which we seek to travel from our specific locations in the United States, toward scholarship and activism throughout the world that Martí was beginning to elaborate, and back again. In that circulation, we have hoped to view different configurations of the political and the social that might help us imagine different possibilities for knowledge.
Casting this issue's thematic as the Americas has allowed us to explore a set of questions central to an exciting body of work in formation, some of which appears here. Thoroughly integrating regions like "Latin America" and "North America," while also remaining attentive to the more expansive contours of a formation that would include the Caribbean, as well as other sites of U.S. empire such as Hawaii and the Philippines, is part of the challenge that faces any project of this kind. Specificity helps, and so we begin by proposing that by the Americas we mean a transnational and multiregional formation that is ideally defined against the notion of nation-states. Following Martí, we envision such a...