The key proposition of IdeAs Idées d’Amériques is to look beyond the Latin American / North American dichotomy that has traditionally obtained in research on the Americas. This separation has in fact a relatively recent history.
Latin American studies took shape principally in the United States and Europe in the post World War 2 period, contemporaneously with the appearance of Latin American institutions such as ECLA (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America). Latin America became an important locus for both observation and confrontation between disciplines, giving rise to in-depth, transversal monographs such as those of Fernand Braudel, Claude Lévi-Strauss or Pierre Monbeig. The political exile in France during the 60s, 70s and 80s of a considerable number of Latin American intellectuals was a further factor in the emergence of French Latin American studies.
The dynamic behind North American studies was different. The two volumes of Alexis de Tocqueville’s ground-breaking and visionary Democracy in America (1835 and 1840) have remained one of the fundamental references for North American studies in France and the US. The work of André Siegfried played a seminal role in reviving interest for both the United States and Canada. There exists in France, a long-time ally of the United States, a dual tradition of anti-Americanism and of fascination for the country. The 1960s saw civilisationists, geographers, historians and political scientists beginning to develop finely tuned approaches to the United States thus contributing to a boom in American studies. Canadian studies, which began to develop in the 1970s, offered the perspective of a “different America”, non-European and not confined to the US.
However, the relevance of this distribution of fields of study along a North-South axis, based on colonial languages and history, is questionable. Does it provide the most valid approach to the past and present dynamics at play in the Americas? For one thing, those concerning the Amerindian populations fall, to a large extent, outside colonial distributions. Furthermore, as the development of Atlantic history during the 1980s has shown, the history of the Spanish, Portuguese, French and British empires in the Americas has everything to gain from an integrated approach. Today, the question of the frontier, and of Central American, Mexican and US relations has become a major political issue. The various stages of globalization, from the 16th century to the present day, must be apprehended on the scale of the entire American continent.
The usual objects of analysis and the usual categories deployed (North-South, the State as central concept, the debate on US hegemony) have today been displaced by other issues: new continental interconnections, shifts from State to other-level organization, the emergence of sub-continental poles of economic and political influence, instances of transnational intellectual cooperation, the circulation of new discourses and the rise of comparative approaches. Accordingly, a trans-American, multi-disciplinary approach is increasingly a necessity.
IdeAs is committed to the circulation of knowledge and research dynamics arising from both Latin American and North American studies. It seeks to track the emergence of new questions and transdisciplinary approaches throughout the American continent as a whole, perceiving it as both a cultural area and a space for circulation and exchange.
IdeAs has various sections to choose from:
• a set theme, or thematic, dossier accompanied by a state of the question in relation to the theme studied
• a section entitled “Eclairages” (or “Spotlight”) with short pieces on current affairs, political, economic or cultural subjects
• a book review section
• an interview, or conversation, section that may supplement either the dossier or the Spotlight content.