Identity Politics and Citizenship in the Hispanic World

-- first year seminar, fall 2001

-- Teresita Martínez Vergne

This course will explore the insistent efforts of several Latin American republics to define what kinds of people would form part of their nation -- which is another to say they were deciding who would or not be entitled to citizenship. The characteristics that countries have recognized as forming part of the attributes of the national character have not always been the same across space and time. Identity politics is precisely the strategic working out and projecting of an image that will promote a particular axis of alignment, in this case, national identity. The reasons for embracing certain groups of people and excluding others, and the ways in which the process of selection is carried out, are questions of enduring relevance, that they have also acquired immense significance in certain periods and specific places. What is our object of study in an academic setting has formed part of the lived experience of millions of people in the past and to this day.

The growing historiography on the growth of nationalism and definitions of citizenship in Latin America has focused -- I would venture to say, in chronological order -- on class, race, and gender. We will be reading the latest scholarship on several countries, which analyzes how these axes of power bear on each other. The readings are organized roughly in chronological order, but we will also be paying attention to the authors? thrust in examining the forces at play in defining nationhood. At the end of the course, we will have looked, probably ad nauseam, at the factors influencing the national image: legislation, religious considerations, national pride, ethnicity, imperialism, labor activism, misogyny, racism, political expediency, and more.


Assigned readings:

Julia Alvarez. In the Name of Salomé

Sarah Chambers. From Subjects to Citizens. Honor, Gender, and Politics in Arequipa, Peru, 1780-1854

Jay Kinsbruner. Not of Pure Blood. The Free People of Color and Racial Prejudice in Nineteenth Century Puerto Rico

Paul Vanderwood. The Power of God Against the Guns of Government. Religious Upheaval in Mexico at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

Sueann Caulfied. In Defense of Honor. Sexual Morality, Modernity, and Nation in Early Twentieth Century Brazil

Aviva Chomsky and Aldo Lauria-Santiago, eds. Identity and Struggle at the Margins of the Nation-State. The Laboring Peoples of Central America and the Hispanic Caribbean

Michael Hanchard. Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil


2 short book critiques

longer paper on the shaping of nationalism in any one of countries studied

2 in-class essays