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Americas Quarterly: Policymakers, Scholars Give Mixed Messages

Prof. Russell Crandall
Prof. Russell Crandall

An article by Associate Professor of Political Science Russell Crandall in Americas Quarterly magazine examines major differences between how scholars and policy makers consider Latin American politics. Citing examples from his time as an Obama appointee at the Pentagon and experience on the National Security Council, he classifies the majority of academic writing on Latin America as flawed, focusing all too much on categorization and "‘big think' political analysis."

He notes that political scientists often have little to no fieldwork experience in their area of interest, and know little about the nuts and bolts of diplomacy practiced every day in the administrative arena. He wrote, "pursuing any particular policy is simply a lot harder and less coherent than what observers assume on the outside."

"If there is a maxim I attempt to impart to my undergraduate students at Davidson College," he writes, "It is that our role as scholars is to explain, not justify.

"We all need to refresh our ideological lens when it comes to Latin America and the role the U.S. plays in this region, given how quickly the region is changing... If our academic community doesn't rise to this challenge, we might wake up one day to discover that the region we thought we knew everything about has left us behind."

Read the full article.