Light Beyond Modernity's Long Shadow: Social and Medical Science in the Making of the 'State' of Guatemala, 1871-1900
AdvisorGosner, Kevin M.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 05/22/2025
AbstractThe present investigation situates late-nineteenth-century Guatemala’s nation-state building project in a broad nexus of Atlantic-World intellectual, medical, and political movements fusing the art of governance to the sciences of nature and humankind; and statesmen, to the ideas, understandings, methodologies, solutions and outcomes they promised. Racial and cultural criteria had long been primary determinants of social status, power, and privilege in colonial and early-Republican Guatemala. However, transnational debates over the meaning behind the concept of race and ever-evolving notions of culture emerged with renewed vigor after mid-century in historical interpretations of the national past, and to serve as a prism for prognosticating the nation’s future. Once combined in a single analysis, they functioned as a meta-language – a discursive bridge connecting disparate phenomena, temporally and spatially. During the processes of analysis and representation, the biases and prejudices of authors originating from within and beyond the national frontier were translated into the language of science in terms of dissimilar states of being human and being in civilization. Biological, and even more so, psychological and sociological diversity, became increasingly associated with fluid ideas surrounding national-level racial and cultural distinctions amongst separate nations in works produced by writers in the United States and Great Britain. Guatemalan authors tended to downplay the significance of race by focusing more intently on reifying the meaning of cultural differences between ‘Indians’ versus ‘Ladinos’ inhabiting the national space. Professional scholars laboring in history, archaeology, anthropology, ethnography, sociology and political science variously associated national-level differences with atomization at a time when contemporary philosophies of governance throughout the Americas and Europe aimed for coalescence, cohesion, and collective collaboration to actualize national-development objectives in the name of the Patria’s best interests. These were not completely new concerns to be sure, yet, the novel order of the nation-state guided by a newer order of modern science and political philosophies then dominant throughout much of Latin America, the United States, and Europe required active forms of intervention for practical reasons, as well as, ideological purposes across the board. Analytical action on the part of individual writers communicated through mutual participation in constructing the laws of human nature and interpreting the meaning of civilization. And as result of collective intellectual movement, these ‘laws’ were embodied in overlapping discursive fields, and concretized as scientific truth through representation of a nationalized racial and cultural ‘self’ and Others in analyses of the historical past and the historicized present. To address these matters, Guatemalan social scientists and reformers in tandem with an international entourage of fellow professionals throughout the Atlantic World appealed to medicine for answers. Medicine, after all, was the science of man in nature; a readily available lens for translating lessons from nature into State strategies of intervention, particularly, in the realms of public health and education. Together, social and medical scientists converted the idea(s) of modernity crafted at home and abroad into government institutions, educational institutes, legislation, and public policy designed to educate and refine the national citizenry through cultivation (culture) of the mind, manners, and through physical biological improvement.
Degree ProgramGraduate College