The Illusion of Ignorance: Constructing the American Encounter with Mexico, 1877-1920

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9780761853541: The Illusion of Ignorance: Constructing the American Encounter with Mexico, 1877-1920
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The Illusion of Ignorance examines the cultural politics of the American encounter with Porfirian Mexico as a precursor and model for the twentieth-century American encounter with the world. Detailed discussions of the logistics of conducting diplomacy, doing business, or traveling abroad in the era give readers a vivid picture of how Americans experienced this age of international expansion, while contrasting Mexican and American visions of the changing relationship. In the end, Mexico's efforts to promote Mexico as a partner in progress with the U.S. was lost to an American illusion schizophrenically divided between fantasies of American leadership toward, and refuge from, modernity. The Illusion of Ignorance argues that American ignorance of the experience of other nations is not so much a barrier to better understanding of the world, but a strategy Americans have chosen to maintain their vision of the U.S. relationship with the world.

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About the Author:

Janice Lee Jayes received her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College and her masters in foreign service from Georgetown University. She then earned a Ph.D. in history at American University in Washington, D.C. She has taught American studies in the U.S. as well as abroad, including work for the Civic Education Project at the University of Latvia, the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, and as a Fulbright teaching scholar in Egypt.

Review:

Jayes, a scholar with a background in international study and teaching, examines the way Americans think about Mexicans by dissecting the relationship between Mexico and the US during the Porfiriato (1877-1910). Under Porfirio Díaz, Mexico sought to carve out respectability in the eyes of its northern neighbor. Jayes notes that this effort failed, leaving a legacy of misunderstanding and ignorance toward Mexico and its people in the eyes of many in the US. She argues that Mexican stereotypes, constructed through experiences by three groups (diplomats, tourists, and merchants) shaped US views toward Mexico that persist today. Despite the Díaz administration's attempt to cast Mexico as a modern and viable economic and cultural counterpart, US observers developed a fascination with Mexico's primitive past instead of its modern potential. Easy to read and comprehend while offering good detail and quality research, this is a solid entry for faculty or students interested in Mexico or US foreign relations. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic libraries. (CHOICE)

The Illusion of Ignorance is an original and well-written book that utilizes a wide variety of travel accounts from the era. The author revels how stereotypical images if Mexico not only severed to de-legitimatize Mexico’s sovereignty, but also influenced how Americans saw the world. Thus, although the focus of the book is on the Porfiriatio and its aftermath, it sheds light on our present-day interaction with the world that is expressed in a combination of ‘interest and aversion’. (Southwestern Historical Quarterly)

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