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Improvised Continent
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Improvised Continent
Pan-Americanism and Cultural Exchange

Richard Cándida Smith

352 pages | 6 1/8 x 9 1/4 | 27 illus.
Cloth 2017 | ISBN 9780812249422 | $47.50s | Outside the Americas £38.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Arts and Intellectual Life in Modern America

"Count Richard Candida Smith among the best of those scholars doing transnational history. Improvised Continent is a brilliant investigation of U.S. and Latin American intellectuals and artists who formed networks that the United States used for its cultural diplomacy. But as Candida Smith deftly shows, there was an irony in cultural imperialism, as these intellectuals and artists served not only to teach U.S. audiences about the rest of the Americas. They also served as critics of American society and offered up a distinctly robust liberalism rooted in the utopia of pan-Americanism."—Andrew Hartman, author of A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars

"Poets, painters, policymakers, and others wrestle over pan-American hopes and disappointments in Richard Cándida Smith's illuminating and thoughtful work. Spanning the twentieth century, and ranging across diverse sources in four languages, Improvised Continent brings new cultural and intellectual depth to the history of Latin American and U.S. relations."—Brooke L. Blower, Boston University

How does a country in the process of becoming a world power prepare its citizens for the responsibilities of global leadership? In Improvised Continent, Richard Cándida Smith answers this question by illuminating the forgotten story of how, over the course of the twentieth century, cultural exchange programs, some run by the government and others by philanthropies and major cultural institutions, brought many of the most important artists and writers of Latin America to live and work in the United States.

Improvised Continent is the first book to focus on cultural exchange inside the United States and how Americans responded to Latin American writers and artists. Moving masterfully between the history of ideas, biography, institutional history and politics, and international relations, and engaging works in French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese, Cándida Smith synthesizes over seventy years of Pan-American cultural activity in the United States.

The stories behind Diego Rivera's murals, the movies of Alejandro G. Iñárritu, the poetry of Gabriela Mistral, the photography of Genevieve Naylor, and the novels of Carlos Fuentes—these works and artists, along with many others, challenged U.S. citizens about their place in the world and about the kind of global relations the country's interests could allow. Improvised Continent provides a profoundly compassionate portrayal of the Latin American artists and writers who believed their practices might create a more humane world.

Richard Cándida Smith is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of several books, including The Modern Moves West: California Artists and Democratic Culture in the Twentieth Century, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

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