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Volume 57 / Social Sciences


DAMIAN J. FERNANDEZ, Associate Professor of International Relations, Florida International University
JACQUELINE ANNE BRAVEBOY-WAGNER, Professor of Political Science, The City College and The Graduate School, University Center CUNY


WITH NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS, the literature considered for this volume can be summarized by the phrase, "old wine in new bottles." Neither the topics nor the approaches to them have altered significantly in the past years. This is surprising given that the end of the Cold War ushered in new expectations and concerns for the region, while calling into question the traditional scholarly paradigms (specifically, realism and Marxism). But the end of the Cold War also rendered the area less important to the US foreign policymakers and other international players. For the first time in decades there is no crisis and no international competition. Perhaps this will translate into reduced academic attention to the region.

Security continues to be a topic that draws attention, but with a new twist. Issues once deemed low politics, such as the drug trade, immigration, and the environment, are now of high import. The other recurrent topics are fairly typical ones: Cuban foreign policy, despite its decline since the late 1980s; US-Cuban relations; Dominican-Haitian affairs (see items bi 94009364, bi 96007786, and bi 97012507); and regional integration in the Caribbean. Other timely issues produced several valuable articles, including the Haitian crisis of 1990 (items bi 95014464 and bi 99000338) and the region's relations with Europe (items bi 94010561 and bi 96016144). Few scholars addressed topics of international political economy.

One of the positive trends in the literature is the publication of valuable primary and secondary documents, as well as works of diplomatic history that rely on recently declassified sources. Two studies, one on the Bay of Pigs (item bi 95014434) and one on the Missile crisis (item bi 94009311) are excellent pieces of scholarship. Also noteworthy for its extensive and insightful use of the historical record is a work on the architect of Puerto Rico's industrialization policy, Operation Bootstrap (item bi 97004680).

In the future, one can only hope that highly studied topics, particularly US-Cuban relations will one day benefit from historical hindsight, newly released documents, and fresh analysis. In the meantime, the literature produced inside Cuba, with a few important exceptions, still suffers from limits imposed by an ideological imperative. Whether the future literature on the general and specific aspects of the region's international relations is marked by topical and analytical continuity or by change will reflect whether the end of the Cold War represented a watershed or merely more of the same.[DJF]


Major changes have taken place in global relations in the 1990s and this has been reflected in the foci of the literature on Caribbean international relations: The new works deal less with “high politics”than with dilemmas of globalization, trade, and social policy, including environmental policy, drugs, human rights and democracy. The exception to this new thrust is the outpouring of work on Haiti. Not unexpectedly, the 1990s saw a spate of analyses and reports dealing with the overthrow of President Aristide, the subsequent years of negotiation, and the final US/UN intervention in Haiti.

The studies reviewed here are of variable quality and utility. The most serious analytical works employ political economic frameworks (items bi 95023489, bi 96010998, and bi 97014414). The best issue-focused works provide rich detail, on, for example, trade (item bi 97014418) and Haitian political history (item bi 96000624). Informative analyses of new issues are also offered by volumes on human rights and democracy (item bi 97004946) and on cultural relations between Latin America and the Caribbean (item bi 97014413). Finally, for pure informational value, there is a large volume of documentation from US Congressional and other intergovernmental sources.

Global change has been matched in academia by a certain invigoration of international relations theory. The theoretical debate has taken the form of discussions of various postmodern approaches, questions as to the very epistemological and paradigmatic foundations of the field, and certainly, attempts to modify existing models to include new actors and new assumptions. Regrettably, the Caribbean literature contributes little to this theoretical debate, preferring to continue the descriptive tradition. If anything, the rise of post-Cold War issues has led to a perceived need by scholars for more policy analysis and an attendant, unfortunate abandonment of incipient attempts at theoretical rigor. However, in this respect, two theoretically-oriented works deserve special mention, a class-structuralist interpretation of Caribbean international relations (bi 95023489), and a rigorous methodological framework for analyzing conflict in the Caribbean (bi 96008001).

The remarkable increase in the volume of works on Haiti is clearly the natural outgrowth of the political crisis. Many of these works have a very narrow focus and are publications of nongovernmental or US agencies (for example, item bi 96011573 on the refugee issue; item bi 96011117 on the demographic “time bomb;” or item bi 97014412, an interesting report on military-civilian relations during the intervention). A number of works are of rather limited, descriptive value (for example, items bi 95020571 and bi 96006566). The most useful work dealing with recent Haitian events is also the most comprehensive and analytical one (item bi 97014414).

Overall, while studies of Caribbean international relations in the 1990s are proving to be relatively rich in scope and detail, there continues to be a lack of good theoretical and rigorous methodological work, a lacuna that makes these contributions more useful for narrow policy and informational purposes than for broader comparative research in international relations. [JAB-W]

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