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MSc International Relations of the Americas
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The Americas in Comparative Perspective II: Contemporary Politics and Society

James Dunkerley (QMU)


The study of the western hemisphere as a whole offers a rich range of opportunities for comparative and inter-disciplinary study between and within the existing nation-states of the Americas as well as on a sub-regional plane. Popular acceptance of the USA as the sole “American” state remains strongly undergirded by the claims of “American Exceptionalism”, many of which can usefully be tested through the comparative method with the rest of the continent. The sectoral divisions upheld by the Cold War concept of Area Studies not only sharply divided “American Studies” from those of Latin America but also excluded Canada, which represents a quite distinctive North Americanism, and the Caribbean, which powered the economic growth of modern Europe and continues to be a crucial archipelago. The prism of comparison permits an invaluable critical appraisal of traditional scholarly depictions of the Americas.

This course will address the contemporary issues of political economy, cultural identity, and international relations of the American continent as a whole, with a particular emphasis on the scholarly schools and genres that upheld theses of difference, sameness and conflict – Exceptionalism and dependency theory. It will open with a consideration of the distinct political and cultural elements of ‘Americanism’, both within the USA and beyond. Treatment of Latin American dependency theory will introduce students to a powerful but historically bonded explanation of differentiation in the continental political economy. This will be complemented by an appraisal of the distinct approaches towards indigenous peoples/Native Americans by the Anglo-and Hispano-American elites, consideration of nationalism in the Caribbean colonies in the second half of the 20th century, with an emphasis on the particular experience of Cuba. The equal claims for an “exceptionalist” experience for Brazil, the region’s only Lusophone state and increasingly an international player, will introduce students to both cultural particularity and the challenge of understanding medium-powers in the modern system.

Since the 1980s the hemisphere as a whole has experienced significant political cycles from the ‘New Right’ Reagan administration to the ‘New Left’ of Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales. We review the ‘New Left’ perspective on these changes within and across Anglo and Spanish America Equally, the recent experience of intensive Hispanic migration to migration, whereby nearly one-sixth of the US population is of Hispanic descent, will be reviewed with an eye to demographic and cultural fissures in “American exceptionalism”. Finally, the allied experiences of globalisation in the western hemisphere will be considered in the light of cultural, economic and environmental change, as witnessed in Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake.   

The module aims to provide students with the opportunity to undertake multi-disciplinary comparative analysis of one of the world’s major politico-cultural regions. It will encourage and challenge students progressively to build, analyse and test the constituent features of one of the modern world’s dominant phenomena – Americanism. The module will build familiarity with the comparative method – whereby sameness, similarity and difference are assessed from various deductive and inductive perspectives - through analytical practice and varied empirical objects. It will also break from the traditional scholarly parameters, including Canada and the Caribbean as core constituents of the hemisphere. Students will be expected to acquire a firm outline empirical knowledge of the modern evolution of the Americas as a whole as well as of the principal intellectual schools seeking to explain the commonalities and divergences in hemispheric patterns of development throughout the 20th century.

The overwhelming bulk of the assigned literature is in English and reflects both the mainstream and critical currents of North and Latin American historiography and social science. Students will not be expected to read Spanish, French or Portuguese, but knowledge of those languages will strengthen certain cultural aspects of the module, which has been designed as an interdisciplinary option, with no disciplinary prerequisites.

General, Disciplinary and Background Surveys

The Latin American Perspective

  • L.Bethell (ed.), Latin American Politics and Society since 1930, CUP 1998
  • A.Cooper and J.Heine (eds.), Which Way Latin America? Hemispheric Politics meets Globalization, United Nations University 2009 
  • P.Drake, Between Tyranny and Anarchy. A History of democracy in Latin America, 1800-2006,  Stanford 2009
  • J.Grugel and P.Riggirozzi (eds.), Governance after Neoliberalism in Latin America, Palgrave 2009
  • M.Gutmann, F.Matos Rodríguez, L.Stephen, and P.Zavella (eds.), Perspectives on Las Américas. A Reader in Culture, History and Representation, Blackwell 2003
  • J.Adelman (ed.), Colonial Legacies. The Problem of Persistence in Latin American History, Routledge 1999
  • M.Reid, Forgotten Continent. The Battle for Latin America’s Soul, London, Yale 2007
  • L.Whitehead, Latin America. A New Interpretation, New York, Palgrave 2006
  • N.Miller, Reinventing Modernity in Latin America. Intellectuals Imagine the Future, 1910-1930, New York, Palgrave
  • N.Miller and S.Hart (eds.), When was Latin America Modern?  New York, Palgrave 2007
  • J.Larraín, Identity and Modernity in Latin America, Cambridge, Polity 2000
  • J.King (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Modern Latin American Culture, Cambridge University Press 2004
  • R.Sieder (ed.), Multiculturalism in Latin America,  Palgrave 2002

The Hemispheric/Regional Perspective

  • T.Bender, A Nation among Nations. America’s Place in World History, Hill and Wong 2006
  • T.Bender (ed.), Rethinking American History in a Global Age, University of California Press 2002
  • R.Bourne, “Trans-national America” (1916), in The Radical Will: Selected Writings, 1911-1918, University of Califorina Press 1992
  • A.Arciniegas, America in Europe: A History of the New World in Reverse, Harcourt Brace, 1975
  • C.Véliz, The New World of the Gothic Fox. Culture and Economy in English and Spanish America, University of California Press, 1994 
  • D.Cohn, History and Memory in the Two Souths: Recent Southern and Spanish American Fiction, Vanderbilt UP 1999
  • G.Brotherston, Book of the Fourth World. Reading the Native Americans through their Literature,  CUP 1992
  • K.Jrade (ed.), ` Rethinking the Americas: Crossing Borders and Disciplines’, Vanderbilt e-Journal of Luso-Hispanic Studies ( 
  • D.Sánchez-Ancochea and K.Shadlen (eds.), The Political Economy of Hemispheric Integration. Responding to Globalization in the Americas, Palgrave  2008
  • D. Sánchez-Ancochea and I.Morgan (eds.), The Political Economy of the Public Budget in the Americas, ISA 2008

The  North American Perspective

  • Jones M., 1995, The Limits of Liberty. American History, 1607-1992, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press
  • McKay, David, 2009, American Politics and Society, Blackwell
  • Hofstadter, Richard, 1989, The American Political Tradition, Vintage
  • Branch, Taylor. 1989. Parting the waters: America in the King years, 1954-63. New York: Simon and Schuster
  • —. 1998. Pillar of fire: America in the King years, 1963-65. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
  • —. 2006. At Canaan's edge: America in the King years, 1965-68. New York: Simon & Schuster
  • Frank, Thomas. 2004. What's the matter with Kansas? How conservatives won the heart of America. New York: Metropolitan Books
  • I.Morgan and P.Davies (eds.), Right On? Political Change and Continuity in George W.Bush’s America, ISA  2006
  • Jacobson, Matthew Frye. 1998. Whiteness of a different color: European immigrants and the alchemy of race. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press
  • Takaki, Ronald T. 1990. Strangers from a different shore: a history of Asian Americans. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Penguin Books
  • Waters, Mary C., Reed Ueda, and Helen B. Marrow. 2007. The new Americans: a guide to immigration since 1965. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press
  • Wilson, William J., 1997. When work disappears: the world of the new urban poor. New York: Vintage Books
  • J. Bumsted (ed.), Interpreting Canada’s Past, 2 vols., Oxford University Press, Toronto 2005
  • J. Bumsted, “Visions of Canada: A Brief History of Writing on the Canadian Character and the Canadian Nation,” in Passion for Identity: Canadian Studies for the Twenty-First Century 4th ed (Thomson Nelson, 2001)
  • J.Bumstead and l.Kuffert (eds.), Interpreting Canada’s Past. A Post-Confederation Reader, OUP 2005
  • Margaret Conrad and Alvin Finkel, Canada: A National History , Toronto, 2003 
  • John L Finlay, The Structure of Canadian History , Scarborough, 1997
  • H V Nelles, A Little History of Canada , Oxford, 2004
  • Janet Ajzenstat et al, Canada’s Founding Debates , Toronto, 1999
  • John A Dickenson and Brian Young, A Short History of Quebec, Toronto, 1993
  • Frederick Vaughn, The Canadian Federalist Experiment, Montreal, 2003
  • J L Granatstein, Yankee Go Home? Canadians and Anti-Americanism, Toronto, 1996
  • David Thomas (ed.), Canada and the United States: Differences that Count, Peterborough, 1993
  • J.Kaufman, The Origin of Canadian and American Political Differences, Harvard 2009

The Caribbean Perspective

  • Gordon Lewis, The Growth of the Modern West Indies [1968] Ian Randle: 2004
  • Franklin Knight, The Caribbean: Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism, Oxford University Press, 1990
  • Franklin Knight and Colin Palmer, (eds.)The Modern Caribbean, University of North Carolina Press, 1989
  • Verene Shepherd and Hilary Beckles (eds.), Caribbean Freedom: Economy and Society from Emancipation to the Present, Markus Wiener, 1996
  • Sidney Mintz, Caribbean Transformations, [1974], Columbia University Press, 1989 and Caribbean Contours, Johns Hopkins, 1985
  • Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro: the history of the Caribbean 1492-1969, Andre Deutsch, 1970
  • Carlene Edie (ed.), Democracy in the Caribbean: Myths and Realities, Praeger, 1994
  • Cynthia Barrow-Giles and Don Marshall (eds.), Living at the Borderlines: Issues in Caribbean Sovereignty and Development, Ian Randle, 2003
  • Ramesh Ramsaran (ed.), Caribbean survival and the global challenge, Ian Randle, 2002
  • Anthony Payne and Paul Sutton, Charting Caribbean Development, Macmillan Caribbean, 2001
  • Anthony Payne and Paul Sutton (eds), Modern Caribbean Politics, John Hopkins, 1993
  • Denis Benn, The Caribbean: an Intellectual History 1774-2003, Ian Randle, 2004
  • Gordon Lewis, Main Currents in Caribbean Thought, John Hopkins, 1983
  • Brian Meeks and Folke Lindahl (eds), New Caribbean Thought, University of the West Indies Press, 2001