Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Beyond the Nation: The Idea of the Public in Nineteenth-Century Latin American History

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2007), 84, (1), 9–24.

Abstract

Nineteenth-century Latin American history has almost invariably been depicted in a negative light, with a focus on the post-independence failure to realise republican ideals. This article argues that such a perspective relies on certain methodological assumptions that should be aired and questioned. There are three main issues: 1) the tendency to see the whole century through the prism of the positivism that became influential towards the end of it; 2) the claim that terms such as nationalism and modernity are irrelevant to the region until the end of the nineteenth century at the earliest; and 3) the division in the literature between analysis of state formation (usually by historians) and analysis of the creation of national imaginaries (mostly the preserve of literary critics and cultural theorists). The idea of the public, it will be suggested, is a potentially illuminating way of rethinking these questions so as to go beyond the nation without losing sight of it altogether.

Ocurre casi siempre que se representa negativamente la historia de América Latina en el siglo diecinueve, poniendo el énfasis en la frustración de los ideales republicanos de los movimientos de independencia. Este artículo sostiene que tal perspectiva depende de ciertas suposiciones que es importante identificar y poner en duda. Las tres cuestiones principales son: 1) la tendencia de ver el siglo entero por el prisma del positivismo que influyó tanto hasta el fin; 2) la prevalencia de la idea de que los términos nacionalismo y modernidad no tienen relevancia a la región antes del fin del siglo diecinueve; y 3) la separación en la literatura académica entre el análisis de la formación del estado (por lo general emprendido por los historiadores) y el análisis de la creación de los imaginarios nacionales (normalmente del dominio de los críticos literarios y de los teoristas de la cultura). Mi propuesta en lo que sigue es que el concepto de lo público ofrece una manera esclarecedora de pensar de nuevo estas cuestiones, con el propósito de ir más allá de la nación sin perderla de vista por completo.

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Miller, Nicola