EMBODYING MODERNITY IN MEXIO: RACE, TECHNOLOGY, AND THE BODY IN THE MESTIZO STATE
Dalton, David Scott
University of Kansas
Spanish & Portuguese
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Mexico’s traumatic Revolution (1910-1917) attested to stark divisions that had existed in the country for many years. After the dust of the war settled, post-revolutionary leaders embarked on a nation-building project that aimed to assimilate the country’s diverse (particularly indigenous) population under the umbrella of official mestizaje (or an institutionalized mixed-race identity). Indigenous Mexican woud assimilate to the state by undergoing a project of “modernization,” which would entail industrial growth through the imposition of a market-based economy. One of the most remarkable aspects of this project of nation-building was the post-revolutionary government’s decision to use art to communicate official discourses of mestizaje. From the end of the Revolution until at least the 1970s, state officials funded cultural artists whose work buoyed official discourses that posited mixed-race identity as a key component of an authentically Mexican modernity. Throughout this dissertation, I argue that post-revolutionary state and lettered officials viewed the hybridization of indigenous and female bodies with technology as paramount in their attempts to articulate a new national identity. As they fused the body with technology through medicine, education, industrial agriculture and factory work, state officials believed that they could irradicate indigenous “primitivity” and transform Amerindians into full-fledged members of the nascent, mestizo state. In the pages that follow, I analyze the work of José Vasconcelos, Emilio “El Indio” Fernández, El Santo, and Carlos Olvera. These artists, and many others, used very different media and produced their works during different decades; however, each artists’ work posits the fusion of the body with technology as key to forming an “authentic,” Mexican identity. The most remarkable finding of my study is that thinkers with vastly different worldviews concurred with the idea that technology could modernize indigenous bodies and thus aid in their assimilation to the modern, mestizo state.
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