Latin America Research Seminar: “Bridging Fiction and Politics : Juan Egaña’s “Cartas Pehuenches” and Nation-Building in 19th-century Chile”
Presenter: Nayeli Riano, PhD Candidate, Department of Government
Abstract: A common literary style in 18th-century Enlightenment writings about the New World involved stories of “encounter” with Amerindians. The Chilean politician and thinker, Juan Egaña (1769-1836) curiously adopted this style when he wrote his “Cartas Pehuenches” (1819-1820) as a series of letters from a Santiago-based Pehuenche to his friend, in which he analyzed the strange customs of the developing South American city in contrast to the natural simplicity of his home and people in Pire-Mapu. The work has been analyzed as an early form of South American fiction that also recognizes the political context in which it was written during a time of republican nation-building in Chile. This paper, which is a shortened version of a chapter of my dissertation, expands these analyses by connecting the genre of the “Cartas” to its European discursive origins as an investigation into the relationship between barbarism and civilization. I argue that Egaña, a liberal philosopher and political actor who participated in the Chilean Independence process since its inception, probed the concepts of barbarism and civilization in his “Cartas” to better understand and convey the nation-building project of Chile. The “Cartas” and Egaña’s thought, moreover, are better understood within a wider intellectual and political context in Latin America in which the relationship between barbarism and civilization were used to assess a series of central questions for the region’s cultural, political, and economic development.
Bio: Nayeli Riano is a Ph.D Candidate in political theory in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. Her dissertation, “A Mirror of Modernity: Revisiting Civilization and Barbarism in Latin American Thought,” analyzes the conceptual impact and creative reconstruction of Enlightenment rhetoric in Latin American political thought during the long nineteenth century. Prior to Georgetown, she studied intellectual history at the University of St Andrews (MLitt) and English literature at the University of Pennsylvania (BA).
LARS will meet twice a month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. (see schedule below). Lunch will be served.
To see the full LARS schedule, please visit: https://clas.georgetown.edu/research/latin-america-research-seminar-lars/