Review: "Race and Nation in Modern Latin America"

Updated on August 7, 2019
Larry Slawson profile image

Larry Slawson received his Masters Degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian History.

Race and Nation in Modern Latin America (Book Cover).
Race and Nation in Modern Latin America (Book Cover). | Source


Throughout the collection of works presented in, Race & Nation in Modern Latin America, each of the authors provide a detailed analysis of issues concerning race and identity across “postindependence Latin America" (Applebaum, 2). Taken together, their arguments and main points provide crucial insight into “the historical roots of popular and elite expressions of race and national identity,” and explore the overall connection between racial and nationalist discourse across both time and space (Applebaum, 2). According to the contributors of this volume, former slaves, Chinese immigrants, and natives all played a substantial role in the process of nation-building as “tensions between sameness and difference and between equality and hierarchy” helped define national identities and social ideals across Latin America (Applebaum, 1). As the authors collectively demonstrate, these “ideals of nation were mobilized by different individuals and groups [elites and subalterns] for different ends,” and, in turn, resulted in “multiple imaginings of national community” Applebaum, 13-14).

Modern-Day Latin America

Personal Thoughts

In each of the works presented, the authors provide an intricate and well-researched approach to race and national identity that rely on numerous primary sources. These sources include marriage records, court documents, government reports, journals, diaries, memoirs, and newspapers. A major contribution of this collection lies in the historiographical background provided by each of the authors through their heavy reliance on secondary resources. The authors shed tremendous light on both the strengths and weaknesses of their field in a manner that is both informative and easy to read. A clear weakness of this work, however, is the lack of background information to each of the case-studies, as the authors write on the assumption that their readers possess prior knowledge of these subject-areas. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, as their main arguments remain strong and fully intact throughout each section.

All in all, I give this work 4/5 Stars and highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the racial politics of Latin America during the twentieth-century. Both amateur and professional historians, alike, can appreciate the contents of this book and should definitely check it out. Highly recommended.

Questions to Facilitate Group Discussion:

1.) Are the arguments presented by the authors a good representation of all Latin American countries and societies in the post-colonial era?

2.) Were the experiences of Latin Americans similar (or different) to race issues that occurred in the United States?

3.) Can the arguments presented in this collection shed light on racial and national discourses for other countries and regions of the world at large?

4.) What did you like/dislike about this book? Was it organized in a logical manner? Why or why not?

5.) In what ways could each of the authors have improved the content of this book?

6.) What sources are incorporated by each of the authors? Does this help or hinder their overall argument(s)? Why or why not?

7.) Would you recommend this work to a friend or family member?

8.) Who was the intended audience for this collection of works? Can both scholars and non-academics benefit from its contents?

Were racial issues in Latin America similar to problems experienced by the United States?

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Works Cited:

Applebaum, Nancy et. al. Race & Nation in Modern Latin America. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

© 2018 Larry Slawson


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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I just spent too much time down there. Indians try to get up North which is 6 miles from my home. I do not want a porous border but I want these Native South Americans to be my son's best buddies, which they are. Love of those held down is not an option.


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