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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Comparison has been central to Latin American thought. It has been a consistent thematic preoccupation and key methodological approach. Since the era of independence, Latin American thinkers have worried about the adoption of political ideas and institutions developed elsewhere. Originally these anxieties about comparison were directed at Europe, but they increasingly shifted to the United States as it emerged as the region’s principal imperial threat. This chapter examines the ideas of two prominent Latin American thinkers—the Argentinean statesman Domingo F. Sarmiento and the Cuban nationalist José Martí—to trace the role of comparison in shaping the arguments of the anti-imperial strand of Latin American political thought. It shows that Latin American thinkers selectively read certain aspects of the United States’ racial history to intervene in Latin American political dilemmas. It also shows that for many of these thinkers, comparisons to US race relations functioned to obscure racial hierarchies within their own region. A genealogy of hemispheric comparison within Latin American political thought’s anti-imperial strand thus serves to complicate our understanding of the lineage and aims of comparative political theory.

Keywords: comparison, Latin America, race, anti-imperialism, United States

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