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I spent last week at the 2016 International Studies Association conference in Atlanta. I am finding every ISA a little more beneficial, as I move away from being a grad student who feels like a bit of a supplicant to being an established “early career” scholar. That is, it is much nicer to be able to refer to past publications and ongoing projects than to always be talking about one’s dissertation and hoping to meet people on hiring committees.
ISA was particularly useful this year, my first traveling from the UK to participate. On the one hand, it gave me the chance to catch up with many Washington contacts, which was professionally beneficial and personally gratifying. It’s wonderful that American University has such a presence. ISA feels a bit like homecoming, and that’s special when you are an ocean away. On the other, I had a great excuse to introduce myself to people from all over the UK, with whom I might be able to collaborate, but whom I might not usually meet here. The Bridging the Gap project has provided another, related, home at ISA. I am bumping into BtG folks wherever I go, and the community active and welcoming.
ISA is truly international, and I had many useful conversations with colleagues from CIDE and ColMex in Mexico City, from Los Andes in Bogota, from PUC in Rio, to name just a few. The Latin American participation appears to be growing (though I would love to see some numbers), despite some pretty obvious currency and fiscal pressures for many institutions there. I think there is growing interest in IR in Latin America and an increasing quality and professionalization at many Latin American universities (something in great evidence at CIDE, of course). The grad students I met from Latin America were also top notch. Perhaps the largest crowd for any panel I attended was for an 8:15 am panel on Latin American foreign policy. The papers were great and the discussion even better.
I presented a paper on asymmetry and small states in International Relations, with the great privilege of having many of the key authors I was citing (and at times arguing with) on the panel and in the audience. Again, it was a productive engagement that I think will lead, most directly, to a follow-up panel and, a bit later, to additional collaboration.
In grad school, I was a bit of a conference-skeptic, but at this point, I am already looking forward to ISA 2017. I assume the call for papers will go out in about a week…
While we are still waiting for the first hardcover copies of Latin America Confronts the United States: Asymmetry and Influence, the Kindle version is now available from Amazon. You can also download a sample of the book for free to your Kindle or any other device that runs the Kindle Reader program.
The Amazon site also features more information about the book, including some advance reviews from some of the top scholars of U.S.-Latin American relations: Philip Brenner, Abraham F. Lowenthal, and Richard Feinberg. Check it out!
My first book, Latin America Confronts the United States: Asymmetry and Influence is now available for pre-order through Cambridge University Press. It has a cover design, too! The book is due out in November–so why not do your holiday shopping now? (Don’t all families do hard-cover academic book exchanges?)
Here is the summary from Cambridge:
“Latin America Confronts the United States offers a new perspective on US-Latin America relations. Drawing on research in six countries, the book examines how Latin American leaders are able to overcome power asymmetries to influence US foreign policy. The book provides in-depth explorations of key moments in post-World War II inter-American relations – foreign economic policy before the Alliance for Progress, the negotiation of the Panama Canal Treaties, the expansion of trade through NAFTA, and the growth of counternarcotics in Plan Colombia. The new evidence challenges earlier, US-centric explanations of these momentous events. Though differences in power were fundamental to each of these cases, relative weakness did not prevent Latin American leaders from aggressively pursuing their interests vis-à-vis the United States. Drawing on studies of foreign policy and international relations, the book examines how Latin American leaders achieved this influence – and why they sometimes failed.”
I just attended the International Policy Summer Institute, a program put together by Bridging the Gap. The event was held at my alma mater, the American University School of International Service, and led by Dean James Goldgeier, Bruce Jentleson from Duke, Jordan Tama from AU, and Brent Durbin of Smith College. Heavily influenced by the work and mission of Alexander George, BtG seeks to help interested scholars connect their work with policymakers, the media, and the general public. My fellow participants were an impressive group, including many up-and-coming assistant professors with a book (or several) with top university presses. All shared interests in producing excellent scholarship that contributes to the scholarship and builds theory while also engaging with other audiences (though not always the same ones). In the spirit of the event, I want to draw a few lessons from my week.