Kerr, Ashley Elizabeth. Vanderbilt, 2020
Literary scholar Kerr (Spanish, Univ. of Idaho) interrogates a broad variety of texts to analyze the nature of racial and gendered encounters in 19th-century Argentina. She argues that women’s bodies were central to those encounters, even though they become marginalized in scholarly narratives. Furthermore, sex and gender were tightly intertwined with racial science. Indigenous peoples and white women shaped ideas of scientific racism and its application to attempts to create a white, civilized country, actively contributing to understandings of racial science rather than serving as passive objects. Although most of the authors at the time were men, women were also aware of the nature of racial theories and appropriated them for their own purposes. Kerr contends that women played a larger role in defining these ideas than is commonly understood. In the process, they sometimes challenged aspects of scientific racism that scholars have long assumed were the dominant ideology of the late 19th century. This book is a useful contribution to debates about constructions and understandings of race and gender in 19th-century Latin America, particularly in terms of highlighting the agency of otherwise marginalized segments of the population.
Summing Up: Recommended. All levels.
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