New Commentator Needed for 2023 American Historical Association (AHA) Panel on Non-State Actors in Twentieth Century Inter-American Relations

Casey VanSise's picture

Due to a last minute scheduling conflict, we recently lost our commentator for a panel taking place on Friday, January 6, 2023 from 1:30-3:30 PM as part of the upcoming 136th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association (AHA) in Philadelphia, PA from January 5-8, and are looking for a replacement. For any Post-Doctoral and Tenure-Track scholars, please reach out as soon as possible if you are interested (ideally by or before Saturday, October 15).

You can contact Casey VanSise ( and/or Josh Stern (

See the panel description below:

Panel TitleDo Non-State Actors Matter?: Rethinking Inter-American Affairs across the Twentieth Century

Session Abstract:

In their 2020 article “Recentering the United States in the Historiography of American Foreign Relations,” Daniel Bessner and Fredrik Logevall implored the field to bring the US state - as well as the specific US domestic imperatives that drive decision-making - back to the center of studies of the United States in the world. With a focus on post-1945 world affairs, Bessner and Logevall believe that the United States, as the straw that stirred the proverbial drink, has been lost to the transnational turn. State actors, such as government officials, executive advisors, and the like, feature prominently in this call to action.

But what about non-state actors? What about those individuals and agencies, from the United States and elsewhere, that fell beyond the purview of the state? How did these actors shape state power and foreign relations? If they did, were their actions consequential? We are seeking panelists interested in answering these questions. We wish to form a panel at the 2023 American Historical Association (AHA) Conference in Philadelphia, PA with the broadly defined mission of analyzing non-state and other understudied actors, and their roles in inter-American affairs across the twentieth century. These actors, whether applied through settler colonialism, free trade unionism, Third Worldism, or paramilitarism could present a more complicated view of twentieth century inter-American affairs.

Our panel represents research spanning twentieth century inter-American history. Graydon Dennison’s work focuses on the quotidian realities of US settlers and Panamanian and Costa Rican citizens during the former's colonial expansion outward from the Canal Zone. His examination, in particular, on non-state actors' effects on and reactions from the Woodrow Wilson administration broadens the scope of multilateral inter-American diplomacy. Joshua Stern’s paper explores the transition from New Deal to liberal consensus politics from the perspective of labor officials, experts, and local leaders and the particular attraction between labor institutions and the State. His exploration of the origins and transformation of free trade unionism as a transnational ideology brings new insight to inter-American modernization and anti-communist containment. Casey VanSise’s examination of rosa-golpista diplomacy across the region and beyond reveals the influence exerted by certain extra-governmental constituencies who supported (or opposed) the diplomatic initiatives of their leaders. In fact, he claims a new US foreign policy was constructed as a result. Finally, Hilary Francis claims we can discover the origins of twenty-first century forever wars by analyzing the Contra War of the 1980s. By showing the direct role US public opinion had on the crafting military strategy abroad, she implores us to reimagine the calculus of US foreign policy in the region.


Alan McPherson
Temple University