American University
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posted on 2023-09-07, 05:03 authored by Johnny Holloway

Conceptions of Latin inferiority and concurrent American superiority have been foundational elements of U.S. - Latin American relations throughout its more than 175 year history. Clearly articulated in the Monroe Doctrine, these taken for granted, interrelated themes figured prominently in a consistent U.S. foreign policy of direct and indirect interventions in the 19th and 20th centuries designed to ensure American dominance within the hemisphere. This dissertation focuses on drug policy as one means of evaluating U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century. Specifically, it takes as its object of investigation the American component of Plan Colombia in 2000 and (re)situates the discourse constituting this federal legislation in the wider social and historical context of U.S. foreign policy toward Colombia and Latin America generally. Rather than unproblematically searching for the reasons why this intervention occurred, this dissertation instead questions how this intervention was possible. Focusing on texts produced by the most powerful actors, transmitted most effectively, and interpreted by the most recipients, a multimethod approach is employed drawing on historical material and on data from two important institutions - government and the media. Via analytical tools and methods from drawn poststructuralism, critical discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, and critical media studies, this dissertation examines Plan Colombia relevant congressional hearings and newspaper coverage to evaluate whether historical representations of American superiority/Latin inferiority conditioned the terms of the debate surrounding this contemporary legislation. It argues that representations of Latinos as incapable of self-control and effective governance, of Latin America as a breeding ground for regional instability, and of the <“>natural hemispheric leadership and authority of the U.S. combined to create the logical, <“>common sense supporting a billion dollar, militarized aid program for Colombia. This reading of the data is supported by the failure of an identified competing discourse (informed by representations of U.S. culpability and weakness) to frame the logical necessity of a large scale domestic medical intervention to address the American drug problem. In broad terms, these findings underline the utility of social constructionist oriented analyses in the study of international politics and U.S. foreign policy that identify specific societal puzzles and challenge the existing accounts and frameworks that constitute them. More narrowly, the findings of this dissertation highlight the continuing significance of historical conceptions of American superiority/Latin subordination in the context of contemporary U.S. drug policy and overall relations with Latin America. Because it effectively shapes the very conditions of its possibility, the formulation of United States drug policy cannot be adequately explained without fundamentally addressing this core binary opposition. The dissertation concludes with a brief consideration of the utility of this analytical framework for evaluating analogous U.S. drug policy interventions directed towards Latin America.



American University


Degree awarded: Ph.D. School of International Service. American University


Degree grantor

American University. School of International Service

Degree level

  • Doctoral

Submission ID