The study of politics of the Americas requires a redefinition of how one defines what region, regionness, and regional area studies mean. By region, we are not speaking of clear, objective, and preconceived geographical divisions; rather, regions are historically constructed and contested spaces of imaginations in which power relations, economic dynamics, and material conditions shape the perception of what constitutes a region. Equally, the static conception of region precludes the novel interconnections among, between, and within the regions, which are by-products of the sustained interactions between structures, actors, institutions, processes, and the nexus between the global, regional, national, and local spaces. If we adopt this eclectic view of regions, knowing what the Americas mean becomes a problematique on its own.
The American Studies Research Area strives for diverse ontological, epistemological, and methodological positions as regards approaching the politics of the Americas. Whilst we there are many ways in studying political and economic change in Latin America, three main assumptions can be established as a point of departure. Firstly, we emphasise interconnectedness that links regions, states, institutions, and actors across the North and South Hemisphere. Amongst many things, this implies the recognition of the impact of changes that is happening in one part of the continent towards the other parts of the region. Migration, cross-border trade, and regional integration are some of the themes that immediately require such emphasis on interconnectedness. More crucially, globalisation studies is the study of the changes in economic, political and social relations within a spatial context that puts Latin American politics within the globalised context. Without losing analytical focus, any attempt to understand change in the region must take into account what is novel about this specific historical conjuncture of the globalisation of markets. Secondly, history and context matter. Whilst we do not advocate for an excessively historical approach to theory-building, research that makes sense to the general public is one that reflects on the consequences of the past to the present and future choices, processes, and institutions. That Latin American countries undertook dramatic policy changes and made their commitments towards marketisation cannot ignore the overwhelming failure of state-led development projects to structure state-society relations. Equally, we cannot ignore the costs associated with neoliberalism, and its embeddedness in state-market-society complexes, such that attempts towards a post-neoliberal phase of development are historically contextual processes that are constrained by the external environment. Political choices and socio-economic structures are by-products of decades of change that have reinforced and challenged state autonomy and societal discretion as regards the developmental trajectory of Latin American countries. Finally, since we live in a globalised world, no social or political action can be isolated from the international context. If we want to understand why radical institutional change has not been viable for some countries as policy options, then we need to examine the configuration of power, which inevitably brings in the global and transnational dimensions in political analysis. All these three key points remind us that Latin America, more than any other region in the world, has been integrated in the global system of states and markets. Therefore, the region’s historical role to political economy and international relations cannot be ignored.
Taking all these into accounts, we aim to assemble scholarly pieces that are not only policy relevant but also critically reflective of the ideas and policies that are being debated in contemporary Latin American societies. We also want to highlight the role of the region in global debates on international development, actual practices of inter-state relations, and in critical thought as regards ideas of politics, economics, and society.
CESRAN welcomes your contribution in building knowledge and expertise in relation to the analysis of contemporary politics in this important developing region of the world.