Untold Histories of the American Divide
The definition how the American continent looks like is at stake nowadays. The contours of Latin America –of what it is and where it is located– have become elusive and problematic, but also politically relevant. A growing literature on the history of Latin America has revealed its conflicting and competing definitions and genealogies. A flourishing Latinx movement has advanced a more complex political agenda, revealing the tensions and fractures, and the explosion itself of what Latino/Latin/Latinx is: from the Bronx, to Cuba, to New Jersey, to los Ángeles. The stability of Latin America has ceased to be self-explanatory (if one day it was).
This talk looks at the process of production of hierarchical differences over time and space, as it illuminates how America came to be divided and, ultimately experienced, as two continents –Anglo and Latin/Hispanic. I propose a certain genealogy of this continental distinction, selecting specific junctures throughout the nineteenth century that illuminate subtle, violent, and significant displacements of continental markers of difference –and the imperial histories embedded therein. It also tells the story of how Hispanic and Latin reflected competing visions of the Hispanic past and the American future, as they served different actors to advance political and cultural agendas and to imagine forms of continental imagination and solidarity. In short, this is a series of stories of the making of a hemisphere in a nation-building era, and of how hemispheric distinctions were woven together, and apart.