University of Cambridge > > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term > Between Pan-Americanism and Intervention: The Quest for a Pan-American Legal Order and the Foundations of US Hegemony in the Americas, 1898-1933

Between Pan-Americanism and Intervention: The Quest for a Pan-American Legal Order and the Foundations of US Hegemony in the Americas, 1898-1933

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Marina Salorio-Corbetto.

In my presentation, I will explore the origins of US progressive engagement with Latin America in the early twentieth century in the context of US ascendancy as a hemispheric power and the creation of the Pan American Union, then the Organisation of American States (OAS). Such engagement adopted the form of two contradictory attitudes: one was US active advancement of interventionist policies in Central America and the Caribbean and the other one was the promotion of commercial and intellectual cooperation, solidarity, peace and international law in the Americas, a policy that was associated with the so-called Pan-American movement. While US interventions in Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands in 1898 epitomised the first of these attitudes, the second one did not emerge as a consistent US policy until the early twentieth century. The visit of US Secretary of State Elihu Root to Latin America in 1906, in the context of the Third Pan American Conference held in Rio de Janeiro, initiated a more solid and long-standing Pan-American policy of advancing international law and peace in the Americas. A few years later, in 1912, Robert Bacon made a very similar visit and itinerary throughout Latin America, under the auspices of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

These visits led to the official foundation of a hemispheric organisation of international law in 1915, the American Institute of International Law (AIIL), an organism founded by James Brown Scott (USA) and Alejandro Alvarez (Chile) that unified all the existing national societies of international law across the continent. Scott and Alvarez sought to develop further the Pan-American movement, putting forward a project for the advancement of a hemispheric legal order in the Americas. The creation of the AIIL as a Pan American organisation of international law and order was instrumental in both advancing international organisation in the Americas and legitimising US hegemony. Indeed, US approach to Latin America has been dominated by the convergence and tension between international organisation and hegemony, Pan-Americanism and intervention. I will thus examine the origins of these projects for the construction of a Pan-American legal order in the Americas in order to contribute to illuminate these mentioned convergences and tensions.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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