Richard Candida Smith's new book Improvised Continent: Pan-American and Cultural Exchange
(University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), offers a richly detailed cultural history of pan-Americanism and how it was propagated among elites and popular audiences. Elihu Root, a major architect of U.S. international power, and a vision of liberal global governance were the initial drivers for pan-Americanism. Carrying the vision were civic leaders, philanthropists, artists, writers and publishers acting as cultural ambassadors with different political, cultural, and personal agendas often at odds with official policy. In fostering a utopian vision of hemispheric solidarity, both U.S. and Latin American cultural leaders were faced with overcoming preconceived ideas and misconceptions of the other, but World War II and the Cold War increasingly turned a project of mutual cultural exchange into an accelerated U.S. propaganda campaign that resulted in political intervention in Latin America. U.S. domestic policies came under scrutiny as well. Smith has given us a thorough study of the complexities of cultural exchange in a time of developing U.S. power and the unforeseen consequences of pan-Americanism.
Richard Candida Smith
is Professor Emeritus of History
at the University of California.
This episode of New Books in American Studies was produced in cooperation with the Society for U.S. Intellectual History
Lilian Calles Barger is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled
The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology, forthcoming in 2018 from Oxford University Press.