"New Motherlands": Nineteenth-Century South American National Personifications

Adam Michael Hancock, Purdue University


National personifications, fictive collective imaginings that serve patriotic ends, have existed at least since Roman antiquity. But such figureheads, meant to unify and galvanize a nation’s citizens, omit dissenting opinion and minorities and simplify complex political and social issues ad absurdum. South America proves a promising site to analyze such figures, given that their origins and evolutions can be traced from colonial imaginings to the advent of national independence and the first international conflicts between sovereign nations. Through national personification conservatives hallow national heroes and revel in past triumphs, liberals foresee the future, and radicals and revolutionaries depose yesterday’s oppressors and fashion a new national identity. In war, national personification promises soldiers forthcoming rewards and emboldens civilians to rise to challenges. In peace, it sets forth national agendas and prescribes characteristics for the citizenry to adopt. National personification supports the majority’s national narrative while suppressing minorities. It champions domestic values while spurning opposing foreign ideals. It resists and silences dissension within. National personification thrives best in reductionism. It is anti-diversity; it opposes not just the masses, but also the phenomenon of the masses. It amalgamates the masses into one. It assumes and champions a united voice. Like democratic elections, it only represents a single opinion, all minority opinions aside.




Dixon, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|Latin American literature

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