19th Century Narratives of Expansion and Indigenous Peoples
How was frontier expansion rationalized in the late nineteenth century Americas? As new states fleshed out expanded national maps, how did they represent their advances? Were there any distinct pan-American patterns? These questions arose from anthropologist and human rights advocate David Maybury-Lewis’ thinking, musing, and teaching over the last 30 years. Maybury-Lewis saw the Latin American frontiers as relatively unknown physical space and unexplored academic “territory” as well. This collection of essays, prepared by six country specialists for a 2006 conference that he hosted, explore public narratives of the expansion of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and the western regions of Canada and the United States during the late 19th Century, a time when those who then identified as “Americans” or saw their home as their patria claimed territories in which indigenous peoples lived and where now seen as economic and political obstacles. The chapters explore the perceptions, expressed in narrative forms, that stirred or rationalized expansion, and emphasizes their impact on the native residents.
Nationalism and its imaginative explanatory power created also illustrate geographic and ideological similarities across the peripheries of the Americas, linking these distinct and individual narratives into broad pan-American patterns. In less than one-half century and largely independent of one another, a set of ideas and images appeared that would justify the occupation of frontier countries and regions by people who were not indigenous, and who would do so at their expense. The incorporation of these frontiers created, for most intents and purposes, the boundaries of the present day Americas. While the expansion took place on the lands and homes of indigenous peoples, the old residents, with exception of few well-known rebels, were seen largely as anonymous objects on a newly incorporated landscape.
The chapters illustrate the variety and the similarities of these nationalist ideas and experiences. In most cases, these new states were imagined in symbolic and cultural terms, rather than explained in simple materialist or essentialist claims. The cases also illustrate that civic nationalism, often seem as inclusive as and more benign than ethnic nationalism, can produce similarly destructive human and cultural ends. As such the essays in this book suggest new ways to view nationalism, as a theoretical concept, as well as frontier expansion, as a historical phenomenon.
Includes 3-4 maps; no figures, prints, or drawings.