A Proper Home for Our Nation: Architecture, Masculinity, Domesticity, and Diplomacy in Porfirian Mexico

Friday, January 3, 2014: 11:10 AM
Congressional Room B (Omni Shoreham)
Víctor M. Macías-González, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
Masculine domestic spaces and practices complicate our understanding of the intersection of gender and space in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Mexico, questioning our assumptions about the doctrine of separate spheres and gendered nature of conspicuous consumption.   This paper analyzes the domestic practices of Porfirian elite men—statesmen, diplomats, and bishops—to explore Pierre Bourdieu’s observations about the role of aesthetics in the elaboration of social distinction and the role that the design and construction of domestic spaces played in the elaboration of public narratives of success and achievement of “great men.”   Historians like John Tosh have observed how domestic practices and spaces helped men to contain anxiety about social change and cultural transformation while enhancing social rank. [1] Although the paper focuses on the projects of Mexican diplomatic missions to acquire or commission buildings to house legations and chancelleries abroad, it is contextualized within the design projects and decorative schemes of cabinet members and prominent clerics in Mexico.   Sources include diplomatic dispatches, society columns, and promotional literature from International Conferences in Mexico City discussing the homes of Mexican statesmen used to host visiting dignitaries.  This paper heeds the recent call of Gender Studies and French cultural historians to pay greater attention to the agency of objects and built spaces in the elaboration of gendered subjectivity and discourses of the national in modern societies.[2] 

[1] John Tosh, A Man's Place: Masculinity and the Middle-Class Home in Victorian England, rev. ed.  (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2007). 

[2] Leora Auslander, Cultural Revolutions:  Everyday Life and Politics in Britain, North America, and France  (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 2009).

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