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Geopolitics, Culture, and the Scientific Imaginary in Latin America$
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María del Pilar Blanco and Joanna Page

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781683401483

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9781683401483.001.0001

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Reimagining Science in Latin America

(p.1) Introduction
(p.iii) Geopolitics, Culture, and the Scientific Imaginary in Latin America

María del Pilar Blanco

Joanna Page

University Press of Florida

The transnational transfers of ideas, technologies, materials, and people that have shaped the history of science in Latin America are marked, as in any region, by asymmetries of power. These are often replicated or even magnified in the narratives we have forged about that history. The journeys to Latin America of some of Europe’s most famous naturalists (Humboldt and Darwin, for example) are often depicted as the heroic overcoming by European science of savage local terrains and ways of life. Those epic explorers are recast, in other narratives, as the forerunners of (neo)colonial exploitation in the history of the ransacking of Latin America’s mineral riches to pay for European imperial ventures, repeated in the often-illegal plundering of the region’s dinosaur fossils to swell museum collections in Europe and North America. In such accounts, Latin America becomes the arena for European adventures, the testing ground for new scientific theories, or the passive victim of colonial profiteering, but rarely a place of innovation. It is certainly the case that over the centuries the flow of natural resources, data, and expertise from Latin America to more developed regions has generally been to the benefit of those regions and has not reduced an imbalance of power that dates back to the colonial period.

Keywords:   Latin America, Humboldt, Museum collections, Imbalance of power, Colonial period

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