writingthe hemisphere
Talk about globalization is everywhere in American studies these days,
but what this means for the field and its traditional national boundaries
do we practice it? According to Carolyn Porter, the historical and geo-
graphical frames of U.S. national narratives are collapsing (468), sending
Americanists in search of what Lawrence Buell has described as various
and fluid ‘‘cultural spheres’’ that have historically traversed, overlapped,
or intersected with our nationally circumscribed Anglo-American one
(‘‘Circling the Spheres,’’ 479). Even the name ‘‘America’’ bespeaks the
States, its implicit erasure of Latin America and Canada is now pain-
fully apparent, leading Buell and others to suggest that one response to
this global trend might be the ‘‘refashioning of American studies as a
hemispheric project’’ (‘‘Circling the Spheres,’’ 478).1
But if, in the words of Giles Gunn, ‘‘territories of knowledge can no
longer be considered as geographically discrete’’ (18), we must also in-
terrogate the construction of the hemispheric frame, and examine the
powerful tradition that defines America spatially with reference to ‘‘its’’
hemisphere. While we are questioning the porous boundaries of the
nation-state, we must also test the assumptions that allow us to imag-
ine a ‘‘hemispheric’’ relation that links the cultures of the United States
and, for example, Bolivia. Arthur P. Whitaker’s 1954 history The Rise
of the Western Hemisphere Idea traces both the development of the idea
that the globe could be meaningfully divided into eastern and western
halves and the decline of that idea after World War II. Whitaker explains
that the idea originally came from ‘‘looking at America through a Euro-
pean perspective as it was represented on European maps’’ during the
1400s and 1500s (7). Figure 1 exemplifies this cartographic convention,
one that scholars of colonial discourse argue ‘‘invented’’ the New World
for European colonization (see O’Gorman and Rabasa). But Whitaker
also notes that the ‘‘Western Hemisphere idea’’ was appropriated and re-
defined during the revolutionary period of 1776–1823, when many of the
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