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A Seat at the Banquet of Civilization? : Latin American Cultural Politics at the League of Nations, 1922-1946

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abstract In 1936, the Mexican intellectual and diplomat Alfonso Reyes presented his reflections on the relation between Latin America and Europe to a select group of Latin American and European colleagues (among them Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Afrânio Peixoto, Jules Romains, and Jacques Maritain). At this conference, which took place in Buenos Aires and formed part of a series of “Entretiens” organized by by the League of Nations, Reyes conceded that Latin America had “arrived late at the banquet of European civilization.”

In continuation, he delivered a brief characterization of Latin American culture, emphasizing its idealism, its capacity for intellectual synthesis as well as for integrating ethnically heterogeneous populations. He concluded that Latin America had reached maturity now and should be accepted as partner by the Europeans. In its ambivalence between deference to the Europeans implied in the demand for their recognition and the nascent self-confidence to proclaim difference as a positive aspect of Latin American identities, this episode illustrates major themes of the proposed book, which uses the League of Nations’ Organization of Intellectual Cooperation as a site to examine Latin American cultural politics as well as the process of internationalizing the League.

Conditioned by the catastrophe of World War II, historians have generally viewed the interwar period in terms of resurging nationalism and the League of Nations as a failure because it could not prevent renewed military aggression. But another facet of the League is emerging from the newer historiography: Increasingly, the League of Nations is considered as an actor in the construction of a “global community” beyond the nation state, fostering transnational networks in diverse fields even as other processes of globalization were halted or reversed in the interwar years. Pioneering scholars such as Akira Iriye have suggestively outlined how international organizations have contributed to this global community, but they have not always followed Keohane’s admonition that “the analysis of international cooperation should not be confused with its celebration.” Studies exploring the terms on which different regions of the world became part of those international organizations and an assessment of their activities in them are still scarce. With its focus on Latin American cultural politics, my book is a contribution towards filling this gap.
   
type book (English)
   
keywords
   
date of appearance 2012
publisher in progress
page(s) 420
citation Pernet, C. A. (2012). A Seat at the Banquet of Civilization?: Latin American Cultural Politics at the League of Nations, 1922-1946: in progress.