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Olson, Christa J.

Special Issue, 45:3, pages 264-277

“But in regard to these (the American) continents”: US National Rhetorics and the Figure of Latin America

Abstract: This essay draws attention to the vital role that the “other” America has played in the creation of (US) American rhetorics. It examines how US presidential invocations of the Monroe Doctrine make use of the figure of Latin America to imagine the United States and its role in the world. In 1823, when James Monroe articulated what became the “Monroe Doctrine,” the idea that the United States had a two-continent sphere of influence was novel at best. Over time, however, US public discourse developed a ubiquitous common sense in which US strength, security, and even national being have a hemispheric basis. From Monroe’s assertion that actions against any American state would manifest “an unfriendly disposition toward the United States” to Theodore Roosevelt’s lionized national virility and into the present moment, the figure of Latin America—present and absent—has become powerfully definitive for US national image.

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