Conference at Yale, Oct. 14-15: Experts & Expertise in Latin America's Long Cold War

Andra Chastain's picture
October 14, 2016 to October 15, 2016
Connecticut, United States
Subject Fields: 
Diplomacy and International Relations, Environmental History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Latin American and Caribbean History / Studies, Urban History / Studies

Traveling Technocrats: Experts & Expertise in Latin America's Long Cold War

International conference at Yale University

Friday, October 14th, and Saturday, October 15th

This two-day conference seeks to interrogate the role of experts and expertise during the Cold War in Latin America. Throughout the twentieth-century, traveling foreign experts in a variety of professional fields gained significant socio-political influence as part of broader processes of state formation and the internationalization of the region’s economy. They continued a longer tradition of foreign expertise in Latin America, dating back to colonial-era scientific expeditions. However, the global upheavals of the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War and the emergence of new transportation linkages such as the Pan-American Highway and air travel, gave new contours and urgency to foreign expertise in the region. Political ideologies and professional interests were made material through the creation of agricultural experiment stations, social science think tanks, and infrastructures such as dams, metros, defense systems, and housing projects, among others. National and foreign experts collaborated to build new institutions and economies; in the process, they forged networks that at times reinforced, and at times defied, the North-South and East-West axes imposed by international geopolitics.

The conference welcomes a diverse group of scholars from the United States, United Kingdom, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Cuba, and Puerto Rico to Yale University, where historical evaluation of Latin America’s so-called “long Cold War” has helped to rethink the region’s twentieth-century political and social history. Participants will deliver prepared papers, dialogue across thematic and regional specializations, and critique the meaning of the terms “expert” and “expertise” in the context of Latin American political and social history. Who constitutes an expert and why? Where do experts originate? How do they travel and who funds their work? How were experts and expert knowledge shaped by ideology, geopolitics, and social unrest? How were questions of race, class, and gender addressed—or silenced—by experts? To what extent did Cold War dynamics shape the circulation of expertise in Latin America?

The conference will feature a keynote panel with Gilbert M. Joseph (Yale University), Eden Medina (Indiana University, Bloomington), and Mark Carey (University of Oregon) that frames the discussion in terms of the new cultural history of the Cold War, histories of science and technology, and environmental history in Latin America.

Registration is free but required so that we can anticipate the number of attendees. Space is limited, so please register by Monday, October 10th.

The conference is generously sponsored by the Yale Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies (CLAIS), the Edward J. and Dorothy Clarke Kempf Memorial Fund, and the Mellon Fund for Latin American History, with additional support from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Yale Environmental History, the Yale Latin American Studies Speaker Series, the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Yale Graduate and Professional School Senate.

For the full program and registration information, visit

Contact Info: 

Andra Chastain, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University

Timothy Lorek, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University

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