The Making of a National Cadastre (1763-1807): State Uniformization, Nature Valuation, and Organizational Change in France
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CitationSantana Acuna, Alvaro Agustin. 2014. The Making of a National Cadastre (1763-1807): State Uniformization, Nature Valuation, and Organizational Change in France. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
AbstractHow does a cadastre, one of the modern state's most omnipresent and yet self-effacing instruments of power over territory and people, become national? How are the processes of nation-state formation and the rise of modern scientific expertise connected to the nationalization of a cadastre? This dissertation tackles both questions by studying the nationalization of the French cadastre between 1763 and 1807. This is one of the most influential national cadastres for it became the blueprint followed by many emerging nation-states in Europe and beyond.
The literature has explained its nationalization as the outcome of straightforward state centralization. This dissertation, on the contrary, argues that the shift from local cadastres to a national cadastre was the result of a dual uniformization process: political (the spread of a discourse of administrative uniformity) and scientific (the emergence of professional land surveyors). To advance this argument, the dissertation uses historical methods and analyzes unstudied documentation from five archives. Contrary to the available literature, it finds that cadastral nationalization faced royal intendants' resistance (conventionally portrayed as hardcore state centralizers) and benefited from citizens' enthusiastic input (traditionally presented as opponents to projects of territorial nationalization). Furthermore, it finds that cadastral nationalization was implausible without the transformation of land surveying from a local manual art into a national scientific profession: the engineer-geographer. This modern expert produced standardized cadastral facts for the rising nation-state. Hence, the nationalization of the cadastre helped to reconcile the political ideal of revolutionary egalitarianism with the scientific practice of disciplinary impartiality. The approval of the national cadastre in 1807 marked the successful intersection of political and scientific uniformization.
Due to the French cadastre' international influence, this dissertation makes three distinct and larger contributions. First, it brings to the forefront administrative uniformization as an understudied process of nation-state building. Second, it provides a new framework to understand how changes in bodily practices and instruments can enable the emergence of a modern scientific profession. And third it emphasizes that nation-state formation relies not only on the production of standardized individuals (citizens), but also the creation of a standardized "national nature," a lesser-studied phenomenon.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13065020
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