Jorge Cañizares-Ezguerra: Idealism and Dignity in History Writing
After months of busywork, I've finally gotten around to taking a look at the widely cited pieces of Jorge Cañizares-Ezguerra, one of the up-and-coming scholars of Latin America. In his book, Puritan Conquistadors, Iberianizing the Atlantic, 1550-1700, Cañizares-Ezguerra argues for an all-embracing intellectual framework for "American" history properly speaking. In the last chapter, for example, he notes that separate ontological categories are established for each history, North and South American respectively. While the prestigious journal, the William and Mary Quarterly, which previously focused on the 'thirteen colonies', have expanded the range of their geographical purview, this seems to be just the beginning. Though recently tasting the work, I get the distinct impression that the idealism guiding Cañizares-Ezguerra's work might tend to distort the two histories he seeks to unite. While we might recognize the oddity that Latin America is of Western origin while being typically placed within "Third World studies", one cannot help whether this is due to processes that actually occured, for example their differente 'worldviews' (ie, its science and technology). Cañizares-Ezguerra writes that "Unflagging committment to innovative thought through open intellectual debate and endless mental curiosity leading to original ideas are often seen as key cultural properties of the West, the source of its power and technological edge". (p227). How free has self-expression been in Latin America--or is there currently in the United States? While there will be original and openly communicative individuals in any society, the environment in which these are fostered tend to be very different, as anyone who has lived in two societies will recongize. (The developement of the internet in the United States, as opposed to the Soviet Union, as Manuel Castells shows, is somewhat of a testament to the correctness of this belief.) Cañizares-Ezguerra seems to place into question this assumption--whether it in fact is the bases of the modern--but also suggests that this valued trait was also present as a cultural norm in Latin America, Here we enter the realm in which the need to assert the self (identity and dignity) might actually intrude into our just understanding of the past--a step which should be refrained from if we are to be true to the 'truth' and to former historical actors. We should note, however, that the contemporary waning hegemony of the United States and the rise of some Latin American economies are implicity placing into question the very bases of the need to psychologically 're-write' the past to suit common purpose. Cañizares-Ezguerra's ideas are very suggestive, and will be given more time to 'ferment' before reaching a conclusion.