Between 1906 and 1930, five notable U.S. scholars in the fields of archaeology,
geography, history, po litical science, and sociology traveled to South America
to evaluate and appraise anew the realities of the region. At the time, U.S. diplo-
macy, capital, and technology were attempting to incorporate South America
as an area of influence. After Secretary Elihu Root’s visit in 1906, Washington
opened up the possibility of diplomatic and cultural rapprochement with the
southern republics. The works of Hiram Bingham, Isaiah Bowman, Clarence H.
Haring, Leo S. Rowe, and Edward A. Ross enhanced U.S. knowledge of the
region, making South America more easily apprehensible and legible to stu-
dents and the general public. Their findings constituted a “rediscovery” of
South America: new characterizations, based on disciplinary concerns, ob-
servations, and theories, about the present and potential of the subcontinent.
These disciplinary interventions brought some order to the apparently chaotic
and heterogeneous reality of the region. By simplifying the geography, history,
government, antiquity, and societies of South America, U.S. scholars produced
a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the different countries
and subregions. Their work highlighted problems in comparative develop-
ment, particularly in the region’s potential for adopting U.S. modernity and
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