When Alexander von Humboldt traveled to South America in 1799–1804, he developed the idea of the “American Mediterranean,” shorthand for his comparative project to explore whether and how the physical and human geography—mountains and seas, languages and nations—of the New World resembles those of the Old. By “mediterraneanizing” America—and otherwise demonstrating its own complex comparability not only externally with Europe and Asia but also internally with what he calls Spanish America, Portuguese America, the English possessions in North America, and the United States—Humboldt’s hybrid travelogue/scientific/historical account of his voyage provides a model for Américas studies, both cautionary and inspirational. Attuned to asymmetrical, uneven, and incommensurate comparisons, the Humboldtian American Mediterranean comments self-reflexively on the limits and possibilities of the Mediterranean as a comparison and thus raises larger contextual issues of linguistic and cultural translation inherent in the project of rethinking the Américas in global, world-historical perspectives.


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pp. 505-528
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