From Local to Global in Latin America and the Caribbean: Where Have We Come from and Where Are We Headed?

From Local to Global in Latin America and the Caribbean: Where Have We Come from and Where Are We Headed?

Canadian Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies University of Calgary
Rozsa Centre, University of Calgary
From - Until
28.09.2006 - 30.09.2006
Kraay, Hendrik

At the beginning of a new millennium, when the celebration of rapid global integration has become commonplace, the richness, diversity, and historical contradictions of regions such as Latin America challenge any simplistic notion of globalization. Contrary to the prediction of a smooth continuum from local to global integration, developments in Latin America and the Caribbean show complex and often discordant interactions among local, national, regional, and global levels. On the one hand, policymakers promote common international standards for economic and political performance across the region; while on the other local populations resist one-size-fits-all recipes and demand local solutions for local problems. This conference will examine such interactions, tensions, points of contact, contested arenas, emerging spaces, and new grounds for discussion in this diverse and rapidly changing region.

Globalization is nothing new in Latin America and the Caribbean. Worldwide forces have for centuries profoundly shaped the region. The conquest created one of the largest empires in world history; the silver trade and the slave trade tied Latin America to Asia and Africa. Nineteenth-century economic developments pulled independent countries into tight economic relationships with Europe and North America. More recently, as indigenous movements across the Americas (and around the world) have found common ground, they have begun to challenge political and cultural landscapes that have too often marginalized them. While the nation-state remains a major focus of people’s struggles, states themselves are increasingly unable to resolve people’s problems. Indeed, in many places states have hardly existed.

The impact of globalization is not limited to the political and economic spheres. In a way that mirrors today’s complexities, nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin American artists and writers struggled to find their voices in the spaces between the demands of international (European) high culture and their own cultural experiences. Contemporary fiction writers, filmmakers, and other artists continue to wrestle with the pressures of globalization and often criticize its homogenizing tendencies. Yet globalization is not necessarily a one-way street, as the surprisingly rapid global spread of capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art, suggests. Migration to and from Latin America (and within the region) has constantly reshaped social, political, and cultural identities.

Paradoxically, given the historical importance of global forces in the region, contemporary scholars of Latin America and the Caribbean have recently eschewed grand narratives and broad generalizations, retreating to ever-narrower scholarly specializations. While we do not call for readopting discarded frameworks, we do call for taking stock and making sense of the current complexities, a task that requires seeing the big picture and paying attention to multiple voices and perspectives. What are the relationships between local, regional, national and global levels in Latin America and the Caribbean? How should scholars understand the current interactions in light of past experience and future possibilities? How do the cultural, social, economic, and political spheres interact on these different levels?

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Hendrik Kraay (chair), Christon I. Archer, Denise F. Brown, Jillian Dowding, Bill King, Elizabeth Montes-Garcés, Pablo Policzer
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