In recent years, pundits and thinkers alike have questioned whether the age of the nation-state is reaching its end. For many reasons, this geopolitical entity — in everyday language, a country (see: Introductory Essay) — appears less and less capable of resolving the political, social, economic, and ecological challenges facing humankind. In a sense, this is a continuation of a historical trend: since World War II, numerous international organizations — such as the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, and the World Trade Organization — have been founded to govern matters that exceed national borders. Today, crises of inequality, global warming, and coronavirus all supersede the capacities of national governments; increasingly, these challenges demand we appeal to institutions both larger and smaller than the nation-state to find support and organize responses. Meanwhile, the countervailing power of multinational corporations, terrorist organizations, and crime syndicates belie the belief that national governments have the power and sovereignty to shelter and protect their citizens. For these and other reasons, it is possible that within your lifetimes you will witness the erosion of the nation-state and the emergence of new forms of political organization in its wake.
Through States of Belonging we will collaboratively produce historical knowledge to help us contemplate our possible political futures. Through our interpretations of historical writings and our analyses of historical sources, we will interrogate the changing relationship between the people of Latin America and the nation-state over the past two centuries. Together and individually, participants will collect, synthesize, and analyze dozens of sources that speak to how citizens and non-citizens interpreted their relationships with their countries and how they fought for rights, liberties, and justice. We assemble these sources into a shared database and then map them in time and space to comprehend the temporal and geographical diversity of political experience throughout history. Through discussion and writing, we develop shared and individual interpretations of the relationship between citizen and state in the Americas and the meaning of this history for the 21st century.