Raquel Escobar

  • Fellowship year:2018-2019
  • University: University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: United States
  • Dissertation Title: Reconcile the Indian, Reconcile the Nation: Transnational Indian Reform in the Era of Inter-American Politics, 1930-1960
  • My dissertation "Reconcile the Indian, Reconcile the Nation: Transnational Indian Reform in the Era of Inter-American Politics, 1930-1960" traces the hemispheric struggle to reconcile indigeneity and nationalism during the twentieth century. In the twentieth century, the concept of the "Indian problem" in the Americas was broadly defined by the task of reconciling modern notions of liberal democracy with older, paternalistic ideas about the incompatibility of indigenous and modern ways of life. Focusing on the Inter-American Indian Institute (IAII) my research illuminates the national and transnational anxieties that arose as the United States, Mexico, and other American nations responded to what many viewed as an increasingly multicultural, and/or multiracial public and sought to incorporate indigenous populations into the state.
    Using this complex institution as a framework, my dissertation examines how indigenous politics- policy, law, and formal and informal diplomatic relations- and US and Mexican iterations of Indian reform intersected and co-constituently developed during the early-mid twentieth century. I argue that during the twentieth century the concept of the "Indian problem" began to serve as a transnational grammar for nation-states to engage one another under the guise of indigenous development and aid, creating an early testing ground for increasingly invasive U.S. non-militarized intervantion/interference in Latin America while simulatneously employing similar rationale to move towards legal termination of Native nations in the U.S. This movement to create a transnational Indian policy preserved and reframed nineteenth century notions that "Indianness" persisted as a central barrier to the development of the nation, casting unassimilated twentieth century Indians as unincorporated/undisciplined indigenous bodies that constituted a central threat to national and hemispheric stability.