Latin American Studies

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LAS/HIST/PSJ Event: “Is the United States a Civilized Nation?”

Allison Powers Useche, a Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellow at Columbia University, gave a talk titled “Is the United States a Civilized Nation?”: The Forgotten Tradition of Mexican Legal Claims Against the American Government. 

Powers presented the cases of hundreds of Mexican citizens living in the United States in the 1920s and 30s who turned to international courts to argue that the American justice system sanctioned forms of state violence, racial discrimination, and labor coercion that violated the legal norms known as the “standard of civilization.” By demonstrating how Mexican nationals questioned the ability of the United States government to protect life and property within its borders, the talk uncovered a forgotten moment of struggle over the limits and possibilities of international law to address structural injustices within the American legal system. 


This event was organized by the Latin American Studies Program and sponsored by the History Department and the Peace and Social Justice Studies Program.