Cholera, Workers, and State Formation in the Peruvian-Chilean Maritime World, 1880s–1920s

Thursday, January 5, 2017: 4:30 PM
Mile High Ballroom 1C (Colorado Convention Center)
Joshua Savala, Cornell University
This is a two-part paper using cholera and maritime workers (as workers and organizers) as material processes that shaped state formation in Peru and Chile.

When word reached Lima of the arrival of cholera to Chile in late 1886, the government of Peru declared all of its ports closed to ships arriving from Chile. Over the next two years both governments saw the potential problems with a prolonged closing of the ports, spanning from increased labor unrest and more death to a massive downturn in trade. Meanwhile, doctors in Lima organized an international sanitation conference and the Peruvian doctor David Matto traveled to Chile to research the outbreak and send reports back to Lima.

Throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries both Peruvian and Chilean authorities worried about maritime workers. Sometimes seen as both criminal and potential radical organizers, their practices and ideas forced the hand of the state to produce new types of policing.

Taken together, the two pieces of the paper argue (1) for a dialectical understanding of state formation; and (2) that the maritime world, often downplayed if not ignored, is central in understanding both Peruvian and Chilean history.

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