Book review: Latin America in Global IR

I’ve written a review of the brand new edited volume from Amitav Acharya, Melisa Deciancio, and Diana Tussie, Latin America in Global International Relations.

Latin America in global International Relations aims to demonstrate the analytical value of global IR from the perspective of Latin America and the Caribbean. The edited volume’s diversity and coverage will make it an essential point of reference for those studying and teaching about the international politics of Latin America and the global South. Indeed, anyone with an interest in decentring IR theory should take this book seriously.”

See the full review in the November issue of International Affairs.

New article: Republican Internationalism

My new article with Carsten-Andreas Schulz has been published in the Cambridge Review of International Affairs. It’s entitled “Republican internationalism: the nineteenth-century roots of Latin American contributions to international order.” The abstract is below.

For a long time, Latin America’s nineteenth century was mostly denigrated as an age of rebellions, caudillos, and chaos. That view has gotten a serious reappraisal, as historians have unearthed the importance of coherent political traditions of republicanism and liberalism during the period. But there has been little attention to how those traditions–and republicanism in particular–mattered for international relations. This is relevant because from about 1860 on, there were some profound developments for Latin American insertion into international order, both diplomatically and economically. Many components of what’s now considered a Latin American diplomatic approach emerged–such as the emphasis on non-intervention as in Latin American international legal diplomacy.

What we found is that core elements of Latin America’s diplomatic traditions were rooted in political developments and debates about republicanism. During the nineteenth century, republicanism’s centrality largely eclipsed that of liberalism (at least outside of discussions of trade). Key republican principles, which we identify in Latin American debates as well as the broader school of republican thought, had key corollaries in Latin American diplomatic practices.

The article originated in a workshop at Johns Hopkins University on Latin America and the liberal international order. Carsten and I connected those questions to our proposed research on Latin America’s nineteenth century international engagement–now funded by AHRC. The article is part of a forthcoming special issue in CRIA, edited by Christy Thornton and J. Luis Rodriguez. Many thanks to the workshop participants for their early feedback!

Article abstract
Although Latin America plays a minimal role in debates on the ‘liberal international order’, scholars recognize the region’s influence on international law, norms, and institutions. We contend that these Latin American contributions to international order spring from a tradition of ‘republican internationalism’, rooted in the region’s domestic political traditions and practices. Republican principles such as the separation of power, association, and the rule of law had important corollaries in Latin American international relations, including sovereign equality, confederation and regional cooperation, and international law and arbitration. These republican internationalist ideas shaped Latin America’s diplomatic traditions and its contributions to international order in the nineteenth century and beyond. Attention to republican internationalism and Latin American contributions demonstrates how actors beyond the North Atlantic shaped the origins of international order. This study also advances debates on the sources of the liberal international order by demonstrating the distinctive influence of republican ideas and practices.

Policy piece published

My short policy essay appears in the newly published issue of the NACLA Report on the Americas. The article gives a broad overview of US-Latin American relations at the current conjuncture, with particular attention to the transition to Biden. It’s set in a broader assessment of the state of US power in the Western Hemisphere today.

The new administration of President Joseph Biden is more rhetorically attuned to Latin American concerns, both because of the makeup of his team and Biden’s own longstanding connections to regional leaders. As a young senator, Biden cut his teeth in the battles over human rights and the 1978 Panama Canal treaties, which gradually returned the canal and adjacent lands to Panama’s control. Later, he emerged as a strong advocate for Plan Colombia, and the government of Colombian President Andrés Pastrana saw him as an ally. As vice president, Biden spearheaded the Obama administration’s economic dialogue with Mexico and its security and migration approach to Central America. Now, his team includes committed multilateralists and liberal internationalists in prominent positions, as well as seasoned Latin American policy hands and Latinx officials.

For all those reasons, there is little doubt that Biden’s discourse will re-bury the Monroe Doctrine. Will his policy do so as well?

Access the full article below. Please use your institutional access with the first link if you have it, or access a free copy (while they last) with the second. Thanks for reading, and comments are welcome!

New book chapters

I was very pleased to have chapters in two new edited volumes released in April.

This chapter, written as a broad survey with teaching needs in mind, gives a short and synthetic account of US-Latin American relations over two centuries. The book includes chapters on Latin America’s relations with countries across the world.

  • “The United States in Latin America: Lasting Asymmetries, Waning Influence?” in Gian Luca Gardini, ed., External Powers in Latin America: Geopolitics between Neo-extractivism and South-South Cooperation.
    (Routledge), pp. 15-28.

This book is causing a stir in Chile and is edited by my doctoral student Cristóbal Bywaters and colleagues. It proposes a new and progressive vision for Chile’s place in the world during a moment of social, political, and constitutional change.

  • “Chile en la convergencia de las crisis,” in Cristóbal Bywaters, Daniela Sepúlveda Soto, Andrés Villar, eds. Nuevas voces de política exterior: Chile y el mundo en la era post-consensual (Santiago, Chile: Fondo de Cultura Económica), pp. 59-69.

AHRC Grant: Latin America and the peripheral origins of nineteenth-century international order

Some very welcome news after a long, long year…

Alongside my colleague Carsten-Andreas Schulz, we have been awarded a grant from the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council for the project Latin America and the peripheral origins of nineteenth-century international order. The four-year project is funded at £249,996. (I don’t see any of that, of course, but it will allows us to dedicate much of our time to the research project and also support travel, research assistants, conferences, and more.) Carsten is an assistant professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile; he’s a wonderful scholar and friend. He previously visited Warwick on a fellowship and from the Institute for Advanced Study, after he was instrumental in helping facilitate my time as a Fulbright Visiting Professor in Santiago. In addition to the grant, we’re already working on a couple articles together.

Drawing on multinational archival work, our project will examine Latin America’s role in the development of international order during the nineteenth century. This era has drawn scrutiny in historical International Relations for the illiberal and imperial practices that accompanied the emergence of a ‘liberal’ international order. Latin America often occupied a distinct place as a group of sovereign states that was accorded lesser status by European powers. However, Latin America’s own vibrant republican institutions spurred vital contributions to international practices, norms, and institutions. Latin America’s engagement shaped international order in lasting ways that should shape our understandings of the ‘crisis’ if international order today. Long and Schulz will examine the roots of these contributions—and the ways international order influenced domestic hierarchies—in research in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States.

The project has several inspirations, but in part it seeks to develop an international counterpart to the work on republicanism and liberalism in Latin America’s nineteenth century by historians including Hilda Sabato, James Sanders, Eduardo Posada-Carbó and Iván Jaksic, Guy Thomson, Erika Pani, Marixa Lasso, Peter Guardino, Cristina Rojas, Muriel Laurent, Michel Gobat, Nichola Miller, and more. We are lucky to count Posada-Carbó, Sabato, Pani, Laurent, Thomson, Louise Fawcett, and Matias Spektor as members of our all-star advisory board.

Officially, the project starts in September, but if you look at my reading list, it is already under way! If you would like to learn more, the project summary is below, and I would be glad to discuss. We are also welcoming recommendations for readings, archival sources (especially digitized, given current conditions!), and possible collaborators.

AHRC project summary

Francisco Bilbao, with his 1856 text América en Peligro.

Debates about the state of the international order have leapt from academic journals to the front pages of newspapers and into the discourses of policymakers concerned about sustaining cooperation to address global challenges. International order-a complex of international norms, institutions, and practices that helps structure world politics-is understood to be challenged from without by the rise of new powers and weakened from within by a hollowing out of support from key states. This attention has driven scholarly attempts to better understand international order’s foundation and evolution-and to criticize assumptions of that order’s beneficence.

Many of the norms, institutions, and practices that underpin today’s order emerged in the nineteenth century; the great power bargains that shaped the order were intertwined with the expansion of empires and imposition of racial hierarchies. Scholarship in both global history and international relations increasingly understands the nineteenth century as a pivotal moment in the development international order. This project seeks to better understand the role of Latin America in this process-how did Latin American states shape and how were they shaped by their interactions with these foundational international projects? Given its status during this period-mostly independent but bereft of great powers and marginal to European international society-Latin America has been largely absent from discussions of international order or seen through the lens of their relations with the United States. This absence matters if we want to better understand how projects of international order relate to countries outside their cores. Our research will further de-center understandings of international order’s creation and examine the constraints and possibilities for peripheral influence.

The period was also pivotal for Latin American state consolidation and international insertion. Latin America was long
presumed to be an illiberal backwater during the nineteenth century; however, recent scholarship of the history of political ideas has shown the vibrancy of liberalism and republican projects and practices. Legal history, in turn, has emphasized the relevance of legal traditions and the way in which they informed state formation and international relations. However, we still know little about how domestic and international practices were connected; as such we propose the examination of “Latin America republican internationalism” as a lens through which to examine how domestic politics were manifested in diplomatic practice. The research will benefit global historians, international relations scholars, and historians of republicanism and liberalism in Latin America’s nineteenth century.

The project will examine these developments from 1864-1919 through original archival research in Argentina, Brazil,
Colombia, Mexico, and the USA. We will focus on key moments, such as international and regional summits and the
creation of international organizations, and re-engage the region’s international intellectual currents. We seek a better
understanding of how republicanism and liberalism shaped Latin American diplomatic practices, how Latin America’s
peripheral position affected its engagement with projects of order-building, and how its proposals may have influenced practices of multilateralism. The initial period starts with the First Geneva Conference and is marked by the growing domestic consolidation and international economic insertion of Latin America. At a global level, it was characterized by early creation of international public unions and larger projects of inter-imperial international order-building. From about 1889, we enter a second period in which disparate diplomatic initiatives begin to coalesce into forms that resemble today’s international organizations. Many of these bodies exist today or have been reborn in the post-Second World War institutional architecture.

ISA virtual convention and paper

Next week is the International Studies Association convention. Normally, it’s a highlight of my professional calendar, though doing ISA from my guest bedroom instead of the planned conventions in Honolulu (2020) or Las Vegas (2021) is something of a letdown. I don’t exactly miss the flights, but it certainly is less appealing to spend additional hours teleconferencing with time zones out of whack. Mostly, though, conferences are at least as much about the informal exchanges with friends and colleagues, chance encounters, and the opportunities to meet new people as they are about presenting papers. And so half the experience–by far the more enjoyable half!–is lost. Sometimes those things get written off as just “fun,” but those sorts of meetings have actually had somewhat career-altering effects for me, including with someone who is now a good friend with whom I’ve co-authored, exchanged fellowship visits, applied for grants, etc.

Despite attending ISA from my own house (and during a week in which we’re all supposed to be on holiday!), I’ve ended up with a full schedule. I’m presenting one paper (abstract and draft below), chairing a round table on Latin American contributions to international order, and acting as discussant for two other panels.

My paper is “Joining the global, protecting the regional: Latin America in the post-WWII critical juncture.” In part because the last seven months left almost no time for writing and research, it took a somewhat different direction. I have reams of archival documents from Chile and Argentina, in particular, that I’ve had little time to review. But the change of direction is also a reflection of some of the theoretical reading I’ve been doing, and my interest in engaging with work on international hierarchy more directly. So the abstract is in the right ballpark, but the draft paper, goes in a somewhat more theoretical direction.

Abstract: Following the Second World War, the United States advanced projects of international order-building at the global level, as well as across various regions. IR scholars have long been noted that US-led regional projects varied in nature—with leading accounts treating European projects as multilateral, Asian projects as networks of bilateralism, and the Western Hemisphere as “crudely imperial” in Ikenberry’s words. These projects of regional order-building have been studied predominantly from the perspectives of the United States and, at times, other Allied great powers. While Latin America has received limited attention in the immediate post-WWII period, it offers an important site for understanding how secondary and smaller powers engaged with the simultaneous reconstitution of regional and global orders. As that already possessed long traditions of sovereignty, diplomacy, and regional organization, Latin America was the most active group of Global South countries in shaping the postwar emergence of “liberal international order.” Drawing on archival work in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and the Untied States, this paper explores how Latin American leaders and diplomats understood and sought to shape the interface between inter-American regional institutions and global patterns of order.

Global Insights: Leadership and Legitimacy in Post-pandemic Latin America

Last Thursday, I joined the Global Insights panel on Latin American politics under the Biden administration and in the midst of the pandemic. It’s a challenging period for the region, which continues to have some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world. There are also major challenges for Biden, including negotiating with challenging counterparts in regional powers Brazil and Mexico, growing migration pressures in Central America, fires in the Amazon, the continued crisis in Venezuela, and so on. In addition to the public health crisis, the pandemic has caused massive social and economic damage in Latin America: increasing poverty and inequality, erasing decades of gains in education, and worsening reliance on informal employment in many countries. The panel, including Julia Buxton, Luis Schenoni, Matthew Taylor, and Juliano Cortinhas discussed all that and more.

Biden’s North America reset?

Along with Eric Hershberg, I have a new short post online at the American University Latin America blog. The piece is a policy-oriented slice of the work and conversations that have developed through the Robert A. Pastor North American Research Initiative during the past five years. We’ve made a lot of progress on an edited volume, with an optimistic publication target of late 2021.

After the Trump administration’s assaults on Mexico, migration, and NAFTA, there’s some hope for a change of pace in the post-NAFTA era. It’s worth mentioning that late in Bob Pastor’s life, we met with many of the folks who started new jobs in the Biden administration yesterday: Jake Sullivan, Juan Gonzalez, and Roberta Jacobson. The ideas in the piece are definitely differ somewhat from Bob’s, but depart from a serious engagement with his thinking and engagement

“President Biden inherits an old trilateral region that seemingly has no name and a badly damaged economic partnership, but the gravitational pull of the U.S. market, new rhetoric and policies from Washington, and other underlying drivers should restore the economic and political importance of the region, offering an opportunity to rethink the boundaries and purpose of North America.”

LSE Blog on Biden and Latin America

It is something of a cliché that there can be no “US policy toward Latin America” because there is no single “Latin America”. The region is too large and too diverse to be addressed by a single policy. Normally, this refrain is a helpful reminder that US policy should be attentive to variation in the region. But when the foreign policy team of the newly inaugurated President Joseph R. Biden looks to Latin America and sees that there is no “Latin America there”, this will reflect the central problem they face: a tremendous deficit of regional leadership. …

Now online, a new post at the LSE Latin America and the Caribbean Centre blog on President Biden’s relations with Latin America.

Out in FPA: “Status at the Margins: Why Paraguay Recognizes Taiwan and Shuns China”


My article with Francisco Urdinez, has now been just released in Foreign Policy Analysis. In “Status at the Margins: Why Paraguay Recognizes Taiwan and Shuns China,” we look at the relationship between Taiwan and its only remaining (but, so far, steadfast) South American ally.

Using a statistical model, we estimate Paraguay’s opportunity cost for recognizing Taiwan in terms of lost Chinese FDI and loans. Why would Paraguay pay this material cost? Drawing on elite interviews and documentary research, we connect the relationship to particular dynamics of international status-seeking. In doing so, we build on the small-state status literature and also examine how Paraguay’s domestic politics shapes this form of status-seeking. Comments welcome!

Working with Francisco was a lot of fun. This article emerged, spontaneously, from my time in Chile on the Fulbright. One of the wonderful things about the Fulbright is that is gives you the space and opportunity to forge new connections. This collaboration started over several lunchtime conversations. Great to see it, finally, make its way to the public. Even better to have made a good friend in the process.