I await your comments on Michel Gobat’s book.
I am a little more than halfway through the book and I will admit at first I did not quite see the transnational paradigm in this work. Yes, the U.S. plays an important role in this narrative (the book even starts with the first American involvement in the country), the majority of it deals with details of a long and complicated Civil War. It wasn’t until I reached the point where the author touches on Wall Street, where I could see how Nicaragua affects Wall Street and the US economy as well as vice versa. This poses the question again: must the relationship in transnational history be reciprocal? The economic relationship between the US and Nicaragua is an example of a network between the two countries, therefore it is transnational in that sense, although the book is clearly confined to the nation of Nicaragua.
I also wanted to bring up a question regarding upward mobility in Nicaraguan society. I noticed that even though the civil war is mostly one between two flavors of the upper class, one of these factions worked their way up the social ladder. It seems to me like this group was large enough to infer that this was common and I wonder what that has to say about Nicaraguan society and their adulation of American society as well. I was wondering what you guys thought?
Hello! I am finally up and well; I am excited to finally be able to contribute here with you all. I thought the text’s central focus was the unintended consequences of the United States’
interventionist policies in Nicaragua. It read to me as more of a study on the dangers of imperialism and the results of a government believing it can ‘fix’ another nation by forcefully installing American ideals. I did not quite interpret Nicaragua and the United States’ relationship as it was presented in the text as fitting the transnational model- touching on Alan’s post, I think a transnational relationship implies a reciprocal exchange, and as Gobat conveyed it, the U.S. seemed like it was more of an occupying force in the country. Does anyone else have additional thoughts on this topic?
The text also indirectly poses the question of modernity to its audience- by what standards are a country and its
institutions ‘modernized?’ Does modernization equate to western and/or American ideals? Particularly in sections “Manifest Destinies” and “Dollar Diplomacy,” it seems like Gobat poses to his audience the pitfalls and consequences of this interpretation of modernity. What do all think?
You bring up a good point regarding modernity. Even after finishing this book I am still a bit unclear as to what modernity or modernization meant in the end for Nicaragua in this narrative. It seems to me that in the beginning of Gobat’s work, modernity seemed to be linked with an Americanization of Nicaraguan economy and society. As we see however, this changes as the years go by and I am led to think that in the end of this narrative that a “modern” national Nicaraguan identity is one that embraces and looks inward to what they once thought was a “backwards” culture (even the Americans thought this was backwards). This is a very simplified answer as there are so many other nuances to this, but overall I think that is how I ended up interpreting this modernity oxymoron.
I very much enjoyed reading Gobat’s book because of how he approaches “the American dream” and its effect on Nicaragua’s social structure. Everyone knows what the dream consists of but Gobat acknowledges its use as propaganda for American expansionism. He also points out the affect of americanization on Nicaraguan identity. Though William Walker’s filibuster invasions proved disastrous, he points to the long lasting effects the admiration of the “American dream” had on the national identity in Nicaragua.
In response to, or perhaps as a tangent to Alan’s question of whether reciprocity is imperative to transnational history, this book makes me think that a large advantage to transnational scholarship is unveiling the reciprocal effects of cross-cultural interactions. Through economics, politics and even social identity, Gobat clearly outlines the effects of early American expansionism, and how the U.S. inadvertently invited Nicaraguan influence into, what they assumed to be, an idealized system.
First I want to warn you that I am on a lot of medication as I write, so forgive me if my thoughts aren’t exactly clear. 🙂
Throughout “Confronting the American Dream” I kept looking for the answer as to whether it was transnational or not based on reciprocity or the same time period/event going on in two different places. And in the end, I would say it’s not transnational by those markers. Gobat wrote a very descriptive work about Nicaragua and the effects of American expansionism on it. However, it discussed very little about what was going on in the US at the time or what influence Nicaragua had on the US.
I will admit I had some trouble keeping track of the anti-US sentiment. I felt as though at some points the Conservatives were very much in favor of US influence and the Liberals were not, but at other points it was some variation of support of the US way of life, but not US intervention in Nicaragua. It seemed that the two political parties made adjustments to their views depending on their political aspirations and the temperature of the lower classes at any point in time.
Also, I felt as though in contrast to the previous books we’ve read where race and racism played a major role in the story, this focused on class. I got the sense that the elite classes as well as the US government used their influence and power to bend the lower classes to their will. I’m not sure this is surprising, but I do think that it was the reality contrary to the democracy the Nicaraguan people expected from the US influence. US interests prevented that from ever materializing.
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