Roundtable Everyday Nationalism in the Rio de la Plata and Brazil, 1850–1910: From Military and State Consolidation to Popular Expression

AHA Session 84
Conference on Latin American History 15
Friday, January 6, 2012: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Kansas City Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
William Acree, Washington University in St. Louis
William Acree, Washington University in St. Louis
Michael Huner, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Matthew M. Barton, University of Chicago
Mollie Lewis Nouwen, University of South Alabama
Jeffrey Shumway, Brigham Young University

Session Abstract

Scholars from a broad range of disciplines have long focused on nationalism in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Latin America. The bicentennial celebrations of the independence wars have breathed new energy into research on the processes of state formation and divergent forms nationalism. Likewise, everyday practices have been at the heart of scholarly attention on themes spanning from food and dress to resistance and reading. But what about “everyday nationalism”? That is, how did a powerful ideology like nationalism meander from expressions of popular culture to official state discourse, or vice versa? In Brazil and in the expansive region of the Río de la Plata, stretching from today’s Uruguay and Argentina to southern Brazil and Paraguay, massive waves of immigration, war, and a transformation of agricultural practices during the second half of the 1800s all stirred up strong feelings and served as material for lasting storylines. The quotidian and experiences of nationhood converged in all of these.

The papers of this panel will explore distinct realms in which the quotidian became 1) a site for the cultivation of nationalist sentiment; 2) a springboard for the transfer of popular, everyday nationalism to official, state policy; and 3) the groundwork for making official nationalism into meaningful content informing daily life. Mollie Nouwen takes up these questions in her focus on how Jewish immigrants attempted to “become Argentine” in both rural and urban settings. She highlights the adoption of food and dress and the imitation of speech to achieve this cultural shift, while the nation itself was questioning its identity. William Acree deals with the popular plays that traveling circus troupes performed in the Uruguayan and Argentine countryside (and later in urban centers) from the 1880s through the 1910s. Such plays staged economic challenges facing peasants, presented a strong nativist reaction to immigrants, and critiqued liberal state policies that negatively affected “native sons.” Moreover, circus plays became so popular that their nationalist content was effectively appropriated in state discourse. Michael Huner’s paper delves into the world of labor relations between the Paraguayan state and workers, between men and women, on the eve of and during the devastating Paraguayan War (1864-1870). He emphasizes the explosive reaction when the power of patriarchy, the rhetoric of republicanism, and Guaraní came together during the war. Matthew Barton's work provides a striking point of comparison for a region just outside the Plata region and suggests the broader implications of examining everyday nationalism in 19th-century South America as a whole. He examines how efforts of state consolidation in Minas Gerais, Brazil, specifically involving the remaking of police forces and building of prisons, produced their own curious expressions of everyday nationalism among a hard-bitten, frontier populace.

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