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Title:Negotiated ecologies: Indigeneity and ecocriticism in 19th century Bolivia and Chile
Author(s):Good, Samantha
Director of Research:Meléndez, Mariselle
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Meléndez, Mariselle
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Goldman, Dara; Ledesma, Eduardo; Fornoff, Carolyn
Department / Program:Spanish and Portuguese
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Indigenous Studies
19th Century
Abstract:This dissertation examines four themes which underscore how the 19th century was, in a number of ways, a pivotal time period with regards to ecological relations in the Andean region. During the 19th century, food production became more mechanized, the introduction of the steam engine led to faster transportation across great expanses, and an intensification of resource extraction in the mining industry occurred, all of which further distanced Andean peoples from the environment and the other species which also inhabit its various ecological niches. However, these changes should not be thought of as totalizing or all-encompassing. An analysis of a variety of literary and cultural forms from the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century demonstrates that, in reality, a complex negotiation of worldviews and attitudes towards the environment was happening during this first century of nationhood in both Chile and Bolivia. By delving into sources which have not been traditionally deemed “canonical” 19th century texts, it is possible to perceive how certain groups of people in the Andes dwelled deeply with the landscape, even in the face of sweeping modernization. The first chapter of this dissertation explores the way in which animals are depicted in travel journals, oral tales and a novel, to explore attitudes toward both wild and domesticated animals and to question the human-animal divide. A brief discussion of travel writings In the Wilds of South America (1918) by Leo Miller and Carpenter’s Geographical Reader: South America (1899) by Frank Carpenter demonstrates how the perspective of the foreigner, relying on traditional forms of Western knowledge and influenced by economic and political motives, often fails to capture the nuances of interactions between human and animal inhabitants of the Andean landscape. Then I turn to Mapuche oral tales and the Bolivian novel Páginas bárbaras by Jaime Mendoza in order to consider examples of representations of human-animal interactions which demonstrate some level of persistence of indigenous attitudes towards multi-species interactions and which do not conform to Western binary divisions. In chapter two, I analyze newspaper articles from a few Andean newspapers, El heraldo (1877-1910), El nacional (1849-1854) and El mensajero de la agricultura (1856-1857), which demonstrate that it is the intersection of technological invention with an attitude of unbounded development that occurs in the late 19th century which truly transforms agricultural production in an ecologically unsustainable manner. However, alternative methods of food production and technologies certainly persisted, as is evident in Anselm Guise’s travel book Six Years in Bolivia: The Adventures of a Mining Engineer (1922) and Edmond Reuel Smith’s The Araucanians (1855). Both accounts offer fascinating insight into Andean agricultural techniques and methods of food preparation used by native inhabitants, as well as the attitudes which guided their use of said methods. The third chapter discusses transportation with specific focus on the introduction of railways in these countries in the 19th century, which marked a significant change in the way in which humans traversed the natural landscape. The accounts of German travelers Aquinas Ried and Cesar Maas from the 1840s demonstrate that travel which relied on animals created vital contact zones, where travelers in the Andes were forced into more interactions with the dynamic and ever-changing Andean landscape but also with people of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Through an analysis of photography from the Museo Histórico Nacional de Chile and newspaper articles published in El caracolino (1872-1879), La reforma (1871-1878), and El comercio (1878-1905), I examine how Andean officials imbued the steam-engine locomotive with the power to unite massive expanses of territory and to propel the nation as a whole into a state of modernity. Fortunately, an analysis of American adventurer Annie Smith Peck’s travel journal, A Search for the Apex of America reveals that alternative lines of transport persisted and thrived, resulting in a complex web of collaboration and exchange of people and goods. The last chapter considers the topic of mining and the lifestyles of Andean laborers. Baldomero Lillo’s short story collection Sub-terra (1904) and Jaime Mendoza’s well-known novel En las tierras de Potosí (1911) offer strong social critiques of life in mining towns and the dangerous conditions to which the workers were exposed. I argue that the literary techniques in vogue in the first decade of the 20th century utilized by both Mendoza and Lillo in their works, due to their emphasis on the space of the mining town and the plight of the mining labor force, offer a problematic representation of the scale of the ecological damage caused by this industry. I then turn to analyze two photography collections by photographer Robert Gerstmann (1896-1960), which help to dispel this false notion of the limited ecological impact of the mining industry. Specifically, Gerstmann’s photography from the collections Boliva: 150 grabados en cobre and Chile: 260 grabados en cobre reveal the farther-reaching repercussions of mining on the landscape and entities of the non-human environment.
Issue Date:2019-04-11
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Samantha Good
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-08-23
Date Deposited:2019-05

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