Economy and Rebellion between Argentina and Chile, 1850s–60s

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:30 PM
Madison Room A (Marriott Wardman Park)
Kyle E. Harvey, Cornell University
In 1867, Tadeo Pávez found himself fighting for the rebels in the civil wars in Argentina after they broke him out of prison during an uprising in the western province of Mendoza. Faced with this life-threatening situation, Pávez did what many soldiers did during the civil wars, he appealed to the Chilean consulate in Mendoza for protection against military service, which Chilean citizens had during those years. Many of those claims reveal that young men were eager to avoid war and willing to claim Chilean citizenship despite being Argentine citizens. In the context of civil wars in a border region, what were the politics of those young men?

My paper seeks to break open the national binaries of the border region and the political binaries of civil war through examining the lives of those young men. With evidence drawn from Chilean citizenship petitions and criminal cases, I argue that the politics of those men were informed by the social topography of a mountainous border region. Many of them were mountain-crossing laborers. They helped transport goods across mountain environments, and developed a sense of social hierarchies and political loyalties fit for that labor and those environments. Intimately familiar with the state on either side of the border through customs, passports, and criminal law, they produced an understanding of it and its national discourse that was functionalist, often antagonistic, and always up for negotiation. Moreover, mountain-crossing labor provided them with an affective connection to mountain environments and the social relationships that accompanied them. In this sense, they manipulated wartime and national categories to avoid conscription and criminal prosecution, and to continue their mountain-crossing lives. Ultimately, my paper challenges nationally restricted narratives of civil war and emphasizes the importance of particular kinds of labor and geography in the construction of transnational political formations.

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