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  • Disciplinary Conquest: U.S. Scholars in South America, 1900–1945 by Ricardo D. Salvatore
  • Elizabeth Kuznesof
Disciplinary Conquest: U.S. Scholars in South America, 1900–1945. By Ricardo D. Salvatore. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016. Pp. xii, 312. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $94.95 cloth; $26.95 paper. doi:10.1017/tam.2017.153

The "rediscovery" of South America by US scholars in the period 1900–1945 provided the basis for a new approach to US foreign relations: the development of an "informal" empire, or soft hegemony. Ricardo Salvatore argues that this informal empire was constructed through the "disciplinary interventions" of US scholars who did research in Latin America. The focused "scientific" research of scholars in archaeology, geography, political science, sociology, and history "apprehended, systematized, and rendered legible the realities of South America" (2). According to Salvatore, this new knowledge and the greater visibility of Latin America were the bases for the development of Latin American Studies as a field in US universities, a development usually considered to be a result of the Cuban Revolution of the 1960s. This scholarship did create a kind of "informal empire" and was the basis for US policy in this period. [End Page 407]

Before 1900, specialized regional knowledge was rare, so that cooperation between scholars and state power was unusual. The advent of new, focused knowledge contributed to the expansion of the Pan-American ideal, which privileged "economic cooperation, cultural engagement, and collective security" in a kind of "hemispherism" (3). In the United States, this approach would provide a transition from Big Stick diplomacy to the Good Neighbor Policy.

According to Salvatore, there were other dimensions of this development: the rise of disciplinary knowledge and professionalism in the US academy, the spread of progressive ideas, the consolidation of the research university, and the expansion of US financial and commercial capital into the territory of South America" (30). Professional associations such as the American Historical Association and the National Geographic Society appeared at the end of the nineteenth century. Some universities, including Harvard, Yale, and Johns Hopkins also emerged as important research institutions in this period.

Salvatore focuses on five scholars: Clarence Haring (history), Isaiah Bowman (geography), Leo Rowe (political science), Edward A. Ross (sociology), and Hiram Bingham (archaeology). He does not suggest that these scholars collaborated or were in any way intent upon a particular project concerning US hegemony, but rather that the new informal empire, although unplanned, seems to be the result of their separate and collective interventions, as well as those of other scholars. These scholars were important because of their transnational work in Latin America, their relationships to important institutions, and their disciplinary focus and practice. The periods in which they worked also represented a time of convergence between foreign policy and disciplinary concerns.

Hiram Bingham

Yale University Professor Hiram Bingham "discovered" Machu Picchu in 1911, a discovery trumpeted by National Geographic Magazine in 1913 as a kind of "second conquest" of South America through the association of business and science (75). Bingham led three expeditions of scientists to Peru and had collected vast materials by the end of 1915, including 12,000 photographs and between 90 and 100 cases of bones, pottery, and mummies.

Clarence H. Haring

From 1923 to 1953, Clarence H. Haring taught at Harvard University, where he focused on the comparative study of governments and societies. Although convinced that the United States was the "most advanced neighbor," Haring was able to "reimagine U.S. hegemony as a benevolent force seeking to spill democracy and economic welfare over the sister republics of the south" (106). He organized a series of summer round tables gathering prominent men in the US Latin American field, including diplomats, businessmen, and academics. [End Page 408]

Leo Rowe, Isaiah Bowman, and Edward Ross

Leo S. Rowe of the Pan-American Union, Isaiah Bowman of the American Geographic Society, and Edward Ross, professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin, also participated in the construction of the informal empire and soft hegemony of the period. These scholars developed a global vision for US policy that "would prevail without the need for military interventions...


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