Fashioning Sovereignty in Latin American Narrative

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Fashioning Sovereignty in Latin American Narrative

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Title: Fashioning Sovereignty in Latin American Narrative
Author: Ulloa, Esmeralda
Citation: Ulloa, Esmeralda. 2012. Fashioning Sovereignty in Latin American Narrative. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: With the arrival of the Europeans, the dressed body became a discursive forum upon which to negotiate the possession of land and the legitimate right to govern in Latin America. In conquest chronicles, the Aristotelian notion that mother nature marked the bodies of those she destined for slavedom came to be applied as a primary discursive tool to justify Spain’s claim to sovereignty. Amerindian forms of dress (or lack thereof) served as visual markers of mental and moral inferiority, lack of civic principles, and an inability of indigenous peoples to self-govern. This study examines the persistence of these impressions of inferiority in modern day body politics. It also questions the applicability of concepts imported from Europe that are involved in the configuration of sovereignty as its formulation changed from something imposed by the conquest to a political principle upon which Latin America’s political communities defined themselves. I analyze the representation of politically charged bodies in four 20th century narratives that dialogue with three crucial moments in the evolution of sovereignty in Latin America (the conquest, the independence movements, and modern-day popular revolutions). Drawing from recent political theory, which views sovereignty as a continually evolving multifaceted social practice involving a wide variety of cultural and legal practices, this dissertation examines the complex processes by which bodies, both physical and symbolic, become vested with political significance. In response to Moira Gatens’s work, which argues that just as theory has abandoned neutral and abstract conceptualizations of material bodies, bodies politic should similarly be examined as historically situated practices determined by specific power relations (gender, class, race, etc.); I propose that we, scholars of Latin American Studies, must find the equivalent of what Luce Irigaray, referring to women’s bodies, calls ‘our body’s language.’ This dissertation observes that the link between sovereignty and the dressed body in Latin America begs further examination, and that we must develop a set of terms and concepts that capture the specific cultural, political and ideological circumstances behind how the body performs at a material and symbolic level in Latin America’s quest toward sovereignty.
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