Theses Doctoral

Aporias of Mobility: Amazonian Landscapes between Exploration and Engineering

Kozikoski Valereto, Deneb

This dissertation argues that the journeys of naturalists, explorers, intellectuals, and engineers through the Amazon in the second half of the nineteenth and first decade of the twentieth century gave rise to perspectives that challenge foundational assumptions about technology in modern metropolitan centers. Chief among these assumptions are the ideas that technology contributes to specialization, the disenchantment of reality, the entrapment of the subject in the logistics of urban labor, and the removal of natural obstacles. The examination of the roles of nature and technology in texts and images of the period shows that travel and exploration were represented as experiences of enchantment and encounters with impassable terrains. The dissertation focuses on three interconnected cases to support its thesis: Euclides da Cunha’s reading of the naturalists in his essays on the Amazon; experiences and practices of exploration on the Madeira and Mamoré Rivers; and the construction of a railroad along these rivers to render the hauling of vessels over land and long voyages unnecessary. Developing a cultural-historical framework that counters narratives of technological domination and failure, the dissertation concludes that the tensions between exploration and engineering in these cases reveal the eschatological facets of the history of technology. The eschatological facets show both how technologies contribute to the construction of the farthest frontiers and how technologies themselves arrive at their final stages.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Latin American and Iberian Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Montaldo, Graciela
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 2, 2018