TOP YOUNG HISTORIANS
Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman
50: Alan L. McPherson, 4-17-07
Teaching Position: Associate professor, Howard University, 2004-present
Area of Research: U.S. foreign relations; U.S.-Latin American relations; resistance to U.S. power.
Education: Ph.D., History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001
Major Publications: McPherson is the author of Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations (Harvard University Press, 2003), which won the A. B. Thomas Award for
Best Book of the Year from the Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies and was named Outstanding Academic Title for 2004 by Choice Magazine. He has since published three more books. The first, Intimate Ties, Bitter Struggles: The United States and Latin America since 1945 (Potomac Books, 2006) is a concise, up-to-date narrative with primary documents. The second is an edited volume titled Anti-Americanism in Latin America and the Caribbean (Berghahn Books, 2006). The third, co-edited with Ivan Krastev, is titled The Anti-American Century (Central European University Press, 2007).
He is presently at work on Occupation and Resistance: The United States in Latin America, 1912-1934, on resistance to U.S. occupations in the Caribbean and Central America from 1912 to 1934. This second project takes him to various U.S. archives and to France, England, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.
Awards: McPherson is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including among others:
Yankee No! awarded A. B. Thomas Award for Best Book, Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies, 2005. Yankee No! named 2005 Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine. Course Development Grant, Howard University, 2007;
Fulbright Fellowship, Dominican Republic, 2006 Fulbright lecturer, Dominican History, UASD, Dominican Republic, 2006;
Humanities Research Grant, Howard University, 2005-2006;
Grant to enhance History Department’s multimedia, Howard University, 2004;
Research Grant, University of Florida, Gainesville, 2004;
Research Grant, Herbert Hoover Library, Iowa, 2004;
Research Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, New York, 2004;
New Faculty Research Grant, Howard University, 2003-2005;
Travel Grant, Fund for Academic Excellence, Howard University, 2003;
International Affairs Program, Howard University, 2002;
Research Grant, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Texas, 2001;
Three Mellon Travel Awards, Duke-UNC Latin American Studies Program, for national and international travel, 2000;
Dissertation Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for Research in U.S., Panama, and Dominican Republic, 1999-2001;
Matching Grant, Social Science Research Council, 1999-2000;
Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship to cover tuition and health care, Department of Education, 1999-2000;
Research Grant, John F. Kennedy Library, Massachusetts, 1999;
Mowry Award from UNC History Department for summer research, 1999;
Research Assistantship, UNC History Department, 1998-1999;
Mowry Award, UNC History Department and Tinker Field Research Grant from UNC Institute for Latin American Studies for travel to Cuba, 1998;
Finalist, Outstanding Teaching Assistant, UNC History Department, 1997;
International Predissertation Fellowship, Social Science Research Council for Research and training in U.S., Nicaragua, Panama, and the Dominican Republic and workshops in Lima, Peru, and Scottsdale, Arizona, 1997-1998.
McPherson has also appeared as a commentator on television and has published op-ed pieces and refereed book chapters and articles in The Americas, the Latin American Research Review, Diplomatic History, the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Diplomacy and Statecraft, and Gender and History. He has written over a dozen book reviews and has presented at over two dozen national and international conferences ranging from Prague, Budapest, and Beirut to San Juan, Veracruz, and Santo Domingo.
He has also been a television panelist, for “This is America with Dennis Wholey,” PBS-TV. Topic: “America Today: Historical Perspectives.” Aired first, live, on 11/23/2002.
My path to the study of Latin American resistance to U.S. power has involved following the tensions of identity, personally and intellectually.
I grew up Québécois, attending French-language schools through my undergraduate years and preparing for a journalism career. Suddenly I turned toward U.S. history and crossed the border for graduate degrees. Why I chose to do so remains somewhat of a mystery. To me, Canada was-and still is-an inviting, multicultural, egalitarian society, and the United States in contrast loomed as a dangerous, divided, unequal behemoth. Yet it was this turmoil in a land of virtuous ideals, recognized in the writings of U.S. historians such as Richard Hofstadter, Gary Nash, and Daniel Boorstin, that steered me south. Though these writers came from widely different political persuasions, their accessible, democratic sensibilities gave me hope. The clash of identities within U.S. nationalism made for vibrant academic traditions.
In my adoptive country, I migrated back toward intellectual equilibrium by choosing to study how foreigners saw the United States. I was fascinated by anti-Americanism, a concept that offers a window into the tensions of global and national identities. There were the tensions within Latin America’s perceptions of the northern neighbor, what I have termed its ambivalence, a mixture of attraction and repulsion often acting simultaneously on the Latin American consciousness and forcing it to compartmentalize emotions and choose battles carefully. Tensions equally marked U.S. national identity when facing anti-Americanism: wanting to known “why they hate us” but refusing to change the behaviors that spurred that hate.
All of this was before 9/11. I published Yankee No! in 2003 but had done the bulk of the research before that terrible event. That day recast the relevance of a topic that was headed for obscurity. Soon, however, I realized that the so-called ready audience for anti-Americanism studies was perhaps not so ready. Publishers were more than willing to take it on as a topic, and so were most colleagues, conference organizers, and students. Yet there was skepticism, mostly from those who wondered if anti-Americanism was a “useful category of analysis.” Even the U.S. government seemed of two minds. On one hand, it held conferences on foreign perceptions and graciously invited me to a few of them. On the other, the Bush White House, engaging in modern-day McCarthyism, included anti-Americanism among the many topics that would not be funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities-a decision that meant years of blacklisting for me.
Through it all, I remain optimistic that an audience will always exist for what “they” have thought of “us” and why it mattered. Now engaged in a study of Latin American resistance to U.S. military occupations from 1912 to 1934, I hope to continue to produce a usable past. More important, I have found a good fit between historian and history. Being an insider-outside in the United States has forced me to confront my assumptions and know myself better, and I hope that U.S. citizens can use foreign criticisms in the same way, not to “bash America” or defend it “right or wrong” but to engage in a dialogue with the world about who they are and why they matter.
By Alan L. McPherson
- The alarm, anger, and soul-searching that followed September 11 stirred familiar
ghosts. In the decade or so starting in the mid-1950s, U.S. readers had surely felt similar emotions as they read the following headlines: “How Deep ‘Hate-America,'” “Why Is America Misunderstood?” “Anti-Americanism Sweeps World,” “Do They Like Us?” and “Why Do They Hate Us?” . . . . In the first half of the 1960s, there were more assaults on U.S. embassies and libraries abroad-one measure of anti-Americanism-than in the previous sixty years combined. . . . [T]he U.S. response to anti-Americanism revealed U.S. national identity: idealist, universalist, and exceptionalist. It suggested a uniquely Yankee way of approaching negative foreign public opinion. Anti-Americanism and U.S. responses to it exhibited then, as they do now, recurring patterns that went to the heart of U.S. relations with the outside world. — Alan L. McPherson in “Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
About Alan L. McPherson
- “This timely, deeply researched, analytically rigorous, and handsomely written study probes the many anti-Americanisms that have bedeviled U.S. relations with Latin America. Why do they hate us?’ is an urgent question today. McPherson impressively demonstrates that it has profound historical roots that can inform caring policymakers eager to prevent global violence.” — Thomas G. Paterson, author of Contesting Castro reviewing ” Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
- “Alan McPherson has not only made a valuable contribution to the literature on U.S.-Latin American relations but, more importantly, he has provided a superb analysis of anti-Americanism by identifying its variability, its ambivalence, and the U.S. resilience in confronting the challenge during the critical years framed in this book. In his sophistication and in his writing he demonstrates all the attributes of a seasoned historian.” — Lester D. Langley, author of The Americas in the Modern Age reviewing “Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
- “McPherson examines the years from 1958 to 1966, when anti-Americanism was a prominent theme in inter-American diplomacy, to deliver a helpful reminder that anti-Americanism is not a new phenomenon nor a product only of the Middle East– and that it has been confronted quite effectively in the past, at least when its sources were sought out and taken seriously. He provides several vivid case studies, starting with the attacks on Vice President Richard Nixon in Caracas and continuing on to Cuba, Panama, and the Dominican Republic. Together, these examples show the variability and ambivalence of anti-Americanism; they also emphasize the importance of U.S. policies that respond to its challenges rather than dismissing it as a cynical invention of alienated elites…This well-written and balanced book should be required reading in the White House, in Langley, and around Foggy Bottom.” — Foreign Affairs reviewing ” Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
- “[Yankee No!] makes a singular contribution to our understanding of a generally neglected aspect of inter-American relations. It represents a bold attempt to add a cultural dimension to diplomatic history. The current upsurge in anti- Americanism across the globe in the wake of the Iraq war makes its appearance most timely.” — Philip Chrimes, International Affairs reviewing ” Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
- “This is a book that should be read by everyone interested in foreign relations, not merely historians specializing in the field but others in the academy and general public. Latin America has always been the testing ground for the development of U.S. foreign policies, and McPherson admirably takes these case studies and demonstrates the nature of anti-Americanism, one that bears a striking resemblance to the current global phenomenon.” — Kyle Longley, American Historical Review reviewing ” Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
- “[McPherson’s] understanding of Latin American anti-Americanism and the U.S. response is more complex and has more analytical depth than any previous study. The book is extremely well researched in both U.S. archival and Spanish-language sources, and combines a rich discussion of U.S. foreign policy through three presidential administrations, with a sophisticated attention to larger domestic historical processes in both the United States and Latin America.” — David Sheinin, International History Review reviewing ” Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
- “Exquisitely timed…McPherson’s scrupulous historical account and subtle treatment of inter-American relations illuminates the dilemmas and complexities posed by the multiple variants of anti-Americanism. His superb study can help interpret contemporary political realities and the strains and challenges of managing global affairs in a decidedly unipolar world…McPherson treats ‘anti-Americanism’ precisely as it deserves to be treated–seriously, carefully, and with great sophistication.” — Michael Shifter, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs reviewing ” Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
- “The urgency of Alan McPherson’s excellent book increases daily during these tumultuous and sanguinary times. The United States would do well to heed his conclusion, that ‘arrogance in the face of aggression eventually produce[s] more aggression’… Yankee No! is a timely call to form a new genre of scholarly inquiry into the global phenomenon of anti-Americanism, which has not been treated widely heretofore.” — Eric Roorda, Hispanic American Historical Review reviewing” “Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
- “McPherson expertly extends the field of U.S. foreign relations into social and cultural history. In his analysis of U.S. relations with Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Panama, he deftly avoids the trap of writing international history solely with the ‘view from Washington’ perspective. I unequivocally recommend it.” — Stephen Rabe, author of “Eisenhower and Latin America reviewing” “Yankee No! Anti-Americanism in U.S.-Latin American Relations”
Posted on Monday, April 16, 2007 at 5:55 PM