The Rites of Statehood: Violence and Sovereignty in Spanish America, 1789-1821

Jeremy, Adelman

This essay explores the varieties of expressions of political violence during the revolutionary conjuncture, 1789 to 1821, across Spanish America from New Spain to Buenos Aires. It challenges some of the familiar ways in which historians have pointed to violence as an inevitable effect of the end of empire, and instead argues that violence became a means to engage in the political process that brought down empire. At the same time, it argues that the role of violence in bringing down the old regime and creating new institutions and habits of rule and protest was at least as important as the role of the public sphere and elections, which historians have recently accented. Indeed, the essay suggests ways in which historians of the public sphere might consider the rituals and languages of violence as part of public conduct, while it was the opening of the public sphere that created a means, or space, to push vindictive patterns of violence into more vindictive directions. Violence was not of a piece, a constant display of carnage. The essay accordingly seeks to illustrate the varieties of uses of political violence and its changes over time, from the first crises of the 1790s to the widespread savagery of the 1810s.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute of Latin American Studies
Published Here
December 18, 2009


Presented at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, April 16, 2009.