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New Analytical Tools:
Raising Questions about Old Ideas

by
Crystal Eastman

All scholars constantly seek to hone their analytical tools in order to get closer to an answer that verges on truth. Historians are continually re-conceptualizing the methodology with which they study the past. This re-conceptualization of methodology gives rise to new paradigms that provide theoretical frameworks for how we analyze and think about the past. In the case of U.S.-Latin American relations, paradigms in need of revision include the dependency and imperialist master narratives, which portray the U.S. as the omnipotent hegemonic power in the Western Hemisphere. These bipolar paradigms depicting the U.S. power and Latin America weakness are being called into question by many scholars of U.S.-Latin American relations.

In the book Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations, the contributors introduce new concepts that challenge the old theories while offering new methodologies for analyzing U.S.-Latin American relations. In the following article I will discuss how Gilbert M. Joseph and Ricardo Salvatore argue against the old methodologies and describe what sort of alternative interpretation they offer instead. I then historicize their theories by using the case studies provided in Close Encounters. I will also critique the authors on how convincing these new approaches are.

A new spin on old theories

In his article "Close Encounters: Toward a New Cultural History of U.S.-Latin American Relations," Joseph outlines a new approach for analyzing the neocolonial U.S. presence in Latin America. He makes his case by first critiquing the various other paradigms that have sought to characterize U.S.-Latin American relations. He says that all the theories of the 1960s and 1970s are flawed because they presuppose the U.S. to be the monolithic dominant power manipulating Latin America: modernization theory


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