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Volume 59 / 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


TEN YEARS AFTER REVIEWING THE LITERATURE on the international relations of the region for the Handbook of Latin American Studies for the first time, my assessment of the recent work echoes my comments of a decade ago. The literature being produced is mostly journalistic and highly ideological. The bulk of the work lacks conceptual and theoretical concerns and is far removed from the leading theoretical approaches of the discipline (for example, constructivism). Nevertheless, one finds important contributions. For instance, the work on the impact of Cuban-Americans on US foreign policy breaks new ground and combines a theoretical contribution with a rich empirical contribution (item #bi 99008256#); so does the article on the Cuban rafter exodus by Ackerman (item #bi 97008273#).

Over the past years, the topics have changed, but the US concern for crises has not. Cuba continues to occupy a privileged place in terms of the number of items published, if not of the quality of the literature produced about its foreign relations. Noteworthy among these are items #bi 97008268#, #bi 97008270#, and #bi 97014971#. US-Cuban relations still dominates the research in this area. Several items, from the perspective of international law, refer specifically to the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 (i.e. item #bi 99004408#, among others). Two other topics loom large in this volume: the diplomatic history of the Dominican Republic (usually of solid quality, like item #bi 98011470#) and the process of globalization and its impact on the region. [DJF]


In the latter half of the 1990s, works on Caribbean international relations continued to reflect new global and regional concerns about issues once considered by adherents to the neorealist paradigm to be "low politics," among them integration, drug trafficking, crime, environmental and governance issues, and immigration. A fair number of the publications are the result of workshops and symposia. In the aftermath of the US/UN intervention in Haiti in 1995, good retrospective analyses continued to be published, especially from the US military perspective. Unfortunately, the perennial problem of theoretical weakness has deepened as authors continue to describe issues and events without much concern for contributing to the reconceptualization of international relations and foreign policy. There are a few exceptions: an original geographical perspective (item #bi 98011128#); a work integrating globalization and civil society theories into regional analysis (item #bi 00001308#); an explanation of niche marketing appeals in a framework of plural identity (item #bi 98006222#); and an initial application of feminist theory to Caribbean international relations (item #bi 98006982#).

Among the issue-centric works, many focus on "security," broadly defined. Surprisingly, not as many deal with economic issues as might be expected. Instead, the drug problem is given the most attention, including the "spin-off" controversy over the US-promoted Shiprider (interdiction) agreements of 1995. With respect to less well-known issues, informative analyses are offered of offshore-financial services (item #bi 98006222#) and telecommunications issues (item #bi 99001279#). The book-length investigation of organized crime in the Bahamas also deserves mention (item #bi 99001279#). One hopes that future publications will pay more attention to these more technical, but highly important issues.

With respect to Haiti, the works reviewed are primarily descriptive but among the best on the subject. They range from a decidedly pro-Aristide work (item #bi 98011127#) to a reporter's jaded inside view (item #bi 00005333#) to (perhaps the most informative work) a perspective that is sympathetic to the US military (item #bi 99001278#). An account of an intervention in Haiti in the 1960s makes an interesting counterpoint to the works on the 1995 occupation (item #bi 00001307#).

Overall, there appears to be some stagnation in terms of original analyses and theoretical work. Nevertheless, the rich detail of some of the descriptive works clearly contributes to our understanding of the changes that are taking place in the region as well around the globe. [JAB-W]

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