On the Edge of Citizenship: Inclusion in the Modern Nation State

Thursday, February 5, 2015
3:30pm – 4:45pm
Race Conference Room 201, Lavin-Bernick Center (LBC)
Moderated by: Dr. Justin Wolfe, Department of History, Tulane University

El Paraíso de las Mujeres: Women’s Suffrage in Ecuador, 1895-1929
Robert Franco, Duke University

This paper is on the women’s suffrage movement in Ecuador from the Liberal Revolution of 1895 to the successful enfranchisement of women in 1929. Most importantly, it challenges the dominant historical narrative that Ecuadorian suffrage was a tool used by a conservative regime to co-opt women’s votes. Instead, it proposes an alternative reading of women’s suffrage as a compromise between reformers, who hoped for broad social change, and the state, which attempted to limit such change. It places Ecuadorian suffrage in the context of post-World War I social reforms, and uses Ecuador as a lens to explore variations in strains of feminism, women’s enfranchisement, citizenship, and labor reforms in the early twentieth century. Additionally, this paper explores varied forms and degrees of citizenship in order to place women’s suffrage in the longer history of indirect exclusion employed by Ecuador’s dominant political parties. In the end, the vote benefitted only a select group of women – mainly urban, educated middle- and upper class women. Most indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian, lower-and working-class women remained formally disenfranchised until the second half of the twentieth-century. However, the history of women’s suffrage can play an important role in linking Ecuador’s period of nation-building to the large-scale social movements of the 1980s and 1990s and catalyze new debates as to the meanings of nation, citizen, and democracy in Latin America during the early twentieth century.

This Modern Mining City: Corocoro, Bolivia, 1900-1940
Elena McGrath, University of Wisconsin

Building on the first chapter of my dissertation, my paper explores early twentieth-century dreams of cosmopolitanism and urban development in Corocoro, a small copper mining town in Bolivia. Using court records of two moments of anti-foreign agitation during the 1930s and 1940s, I emphasize the articulation of ideologies of resource nationalism, social welfare, and modern development that enabled the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR) party to create a viable political project supported by both working-class and middle-class voters in provincial mining centers such as Corocoro prior to the 1952 Revolution. Given Bolivia’s history of periodic indigenous uprisings, several of which involved communities near Corocoro, Bolivian revolutionaries and their political allies had to confront the specter of imagined indigenous tendencies toward violence and race war. The political actors of the 1940s and 1950s differed from earlier generations, seeing indigenous Bolivians as redeemable through conversion into western categories of subjects: workers, farmers, and urban residents. These reformists and aspiring revolutionaries resolved the “problem” of indigenous difference by privileging the Bolivian mining family as a model for creating a new kind of citizen, and mining towns as crucial sites of change.I show how these visions were created out of the struggles of the Great Depression and Chaco war, but also were crucial to the way peripheral cities imagined themselves as generative centers of Bolivian modernity. Of course, even as this narrative of transformation allowed for a more expansive notion of Bolivian citizenship based on the valorization of working class men, it also rendered peripheral indigenous communities themselves from the imagined nation of laborers and citizens. My paper thus also works recuperate the exclusions written into this narrative of modern urbanity, using court cases to highlight the moments of social and cultural friction in this period.

A Cause for Reflection: Imagining Brazil at 100 Years of Independence
Joseph Pendergraph, Vanderbilt University

The first aerial crossing of the Southern Atlantic Ocean (from Lisbon to Rio) and the state visit of the Portuguese president António José de Almeida to Brazil to help commemorate the centennial of independence from Portugal both occurred in 1922. Newspaper coverage of these two events, along with telegrams and speeches from both sides of the Atlantic indicate, I argue, that this was the pinnacle of conflicting racialized discourses regarding Brazilian national identity. Several scholars have show that Brazilian elites of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries attempted to emulate Northern European high culture and called for European immigration in trying to mask the mixed-race heritage of their tropical country. Scholars of race in Brazil also hold that São Paulo’s Semana de Arte Moderna (also in 1922) was a key moment for reasserting the positive impact of racial mixing on Brazilian society. Neither group of scholars is off the mark in these observations, but my research indicates that an important element has gone completely unconsidered. The presidencies of Epitácio Pessoa (Brazil, 1919 – 1922) and Almeida (Portugal, 1919 – 1923) saw a high-water mark of cordiality in the history of Luso-Brazilian relations, and this cordiality hinged on the fact that both countries were young republics and the particularly strong republican sentiments of these two men. This attempt to fashion a historical narrative that downplayed important moments of conflict between the two places should be understood as a calculated move to discard the emphasis that had been placed on Northern European cultural inheritance, which at this late date held little sway, and exchange it for a more authentic connection to Brazil’s Portuguese past. In this way, Brazilians were encouraged to maintain their focus on their country’s status as a modern, European, essentially white nation; indigenous people and Afro-descendants still found no purchase in this conceptualization. This was the actual conservative platform against which the modern artists rebelled in São Paulo in 1922.