Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Since the 1930s, Anglo-American scholars have been grumbling about the paucity of good works treating the intellectual history of Latin America. Despite a slowly growing literature and a consensus that the region has nurtured some of the world’s most imaginative artists and writers, few historians today feel compelled to rectify the situation, preferring to leave the subfield to their colleagues in literary or cultural studies. The reasons for this resigned neglect are multiple. The vogue of intellectual history — that most American of historiographical inventions — had already passed by the time academic research on Latin America took off in the 1960s and 1970s, and subsequent decades brought only increased epistemological and moral-political skepticism about the historical study of ideas. The decision to focus on intellectuals could also provoke charges of elitism or irrelevance, especially...

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