This position paper offers a reflection on Edmundo O’Gorman’s seminal La invención de América as a critique of the New World exceptionalism underwriting much of twentieth-century hemispheric American studies. It suggests that the paradigm of New World exceptionalism emerges, as a state of exception, from the modern Western (Protestant) idea that America was discovered by Europeans in the fifteenth century, or that America was ever “discovered” by anyone at all. This exceptionalist paradigm of discovery can be understood in terms of a “White Legend” that structurally depends on the idea of the “Black Legend” of the Spanish conquest, for, contrary to conventional wisdom, it was the conquest of America (not its “discovery”) that legitimated the modern idea of discovery in international law and science.

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