Fernando Coronil
A pathbreaking study of U.S.-Latin American relations,
Close Encounters
of Empire
is also a landmark of postcolonial studies in the Americas. The
product of a conference at Yale University, this unusually coherent collec-
tion of essays reflects vigorous collective discussions, painstaking scholar-
ship, and skilled editorial work. While the individual cases examine with
sophistication a wide range of imperial encounters in the Americas, the
introduction and the two concluding interpretive essays relate the studies
to each other and discuss their collective achievements. I will exchange
the opportunity to comment further on the case studies for the chance to
discuss this volume's theoretical contribution to the broader field of post-
colonial studies.
The authors of these essays treat postcolonial encounters in the Ameri-
cas as complex affairs involving multiple agents, elaborate cultural con-
structs, and unforeseen outcomes. While evidently inspired by recent de-
velopments in social theory associated with cultural and feminist studies,
as well as with poststructuralism and postcolonialism, the essays also
build on a long tradition of Latin American scholarship on colonialism
and imperialism. The book's theoretical importance results from the di-
verse ways in which its authors establish, often implicitly, a dialogue
among these diverse bodies of scholarship.
In the introduction Gil Joseph highlights the significance of this dia-
logue, noting that the collection is distinguished by the pioneering use of
postmodern approaches to the analysis of U.S.-Latin American relations.
As Joseph observes, while the essays are informed by a postmodern sensi-
tivity to the formation of subaltern subjects, the ambiguities of power, and
the multi stranded character of historical processes, they do not abandon
a more traditional concern with large-scale historical contexts and over-
arching political relations. Through the interplay of these approaches, the
essays treat the "encounter" between the United States and Latin America
as a complex interaction among unequal social actors, illuminating in new
ways their modes of cooperation, subjection, and resistance under chang-
ing historical conditions.
This collection's engagement with modern and postmodern approaches
is also underlined by Rosenberg and Roseberry in the two interpretive
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