Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Andrew C Rajca

Second Advisor

Jorge Camacho

Abstract

This study investigates the role race played as a key element in the construction of a nation-state and national identity both in Argentina and the United States as seen through the cultural productions of the early- and mid-nineteenth century in both countries, using as an analytical frame postcolonial, post-structuralist, and subaltern theories. In both the U.S. and Argentina, the African American and the Afro-Argentine populations and their cultural productions were ignored and/or rejected in the construction of the discourse of national identity in the nineteenth century. My argument is, however, that their cultural productions were disruptive of such hegemonic discourse as they did not only reflect the social, political, and economic reality of these groups but also proposed alternatives to a more inclusive idea of nation-state and national identity, which would imply a drastic change in the dominant paradigm of the time based on a discourse of natural race superiority.

After providing a historical and socio-political background, I focus on a close reading of texts by Afro-Argentine poets Mateo Elejalde, Horacio Mendizábal, and Miguel Noguera in combination with newspaper editorial notes and by African American intellectuals David Walker and Henry Highland Garnet as well as poets Charles Lewis Reason, Joshua McCarter Simpson, and Alfred Gibbs Campbell. Through this critical reading, I explore the formal elements, such as rhetorical techniques, chosen formats, and imagery, they engage with to denounce violence and discrimination, call for blacks to stand up for themselves, and claim for inclusion in the projects of nation building and national identity in both Argentina and the United States in the mid- and late-nineteenth century.

While the focus of this project is the construction of the nation and its national identity as an exclusionist process and the examination of cultural productions by excluded groups and their attempt to disrupt the hegemonic discourse, the ultimate motif for this study is the inclusion of Argentina in the studies of the African Diaspora. Therefore, the primary texts are analyzed in a comparative approach, bringing together works by authors that are not generally studied together and yet have many similarities, not only in the formal elements of their writings but also in their urge for inclusion in the national projects of their respective countries.

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