HDDH | Greg Grandin, "America?"

Thursday, October 15, 2015
2–4:00 pm

A discussion of the idea of America, or American Exceptionalism, usually references two things: first, the fact or belief that the United States has been exempt from the kind of domestic class conflict that has afflicted the development of other nations; second, the fact or belief that the United States has been able to project an unprecedented degree of global power free from the kind of direct colonialism and militarism that has defined previous empires. But in all the debates over what is and isn’t distinct about the United States, little discussion has been paid to one variable that can, at least in relation to its global ascendance, unambiguously be called unique: its relationship with Latin America. Unlike their European counterparts, the Anglo and Saxon settlers who colonized North America looked to Iberian America not as an epistemic 'other' but as a competitor in a fight to define a set of nominally shared but actually contested ideas and political forms: Christianity, republicanism, liberalism, democracy, sovereignty, rights, and, above all, the idea of America.

Our facilitator suggested reading Kennan's South American Diary in preparation for the discussion. Click here to download a PDF of the reading.

Greg Grandin is a Professor of History at New York University and the author of a number of prize-winning books, including most recently, The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World. Toni Morrison called this work “compelling, brilliant and necessary.” Released in early 2014, the book narrates the history of a slave-ship revolt that inspired Herman Melville’s other masterpiece, Benito Cereno. Philip Gourevitch describes it as a “rare book in which the drama of the action and the drama of ideas are equally measured, a work of history and of literary reflection that is as urgent as it is timely.”

Hemispheric Dialogues invite key thinkers to lead discussions about some of the pressing issues of our time. The series envisions informal yet sustained dialogue among faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, artists, and members of the community.

Hemispheric Institute of Performance & Politics
20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10003