Alcohol drinking as cultural construction from colonial to early twentieth-century South America

Monica Patricia Morales, Purdue University


This project explores how alcohol drinking emerges as a double discourse in which the notions of identity and deviance coexist throughout the historical period under consideration. This duality functions as a cultural generator of literary as well as non-literary artifacts aiming at rescuing autochthonous values and modifying and controlling social practices and environments. To depict this duality, I selected a plural sample of literary documents such as colonial chronicles, travel narratives, novels, poems, lexicography and medical studies as well as advertisements. Through this cultural production, alcohol drinking emerges as a cultural construction shaped by the agendas of colonialism, national formation and modernity in South America. ^ Colonial chronicles are essential to illustrate alcohol-drinking duality. In colonial discourse, the construction of alcohol drinking as deviant draws strongly on the notions of difference that aligned this behavior with the trope of barbarism along with that of destabilization due to imperial commodity and control. Within this context, I claim that the indigenous body used ritual alcohol/chicha drinking as a vehicle of cultural identity to forge and maintain a collective cultural space in the advent of the Spanish conquest. ^ Key to the cultural construction of alcohol drinking were nineteenth-century men of letters who engaged in national formation projects and efforts to install the ideology of domesticity in the young republics. In their effort, I locate the second claim of this dissertation that states that South American letrados and also travelers in their mercantile objective, articulated alcohol drinking and socialization practices and spaces of the lower class as discursive instruments of power to criticize, police, and modify social behaviors in the name of progress. ^ Finally, the literary production of the twentieth century highlighted this duality and reproduced it through the conflict of the modern individual in narratives of adherence and rejection of the autochthonous. In this depiction of the modern dilemma summarized in identity crisis, scientific and capitalist drive, I present the final claim of this study. I show how the influence of alcohol drinking voiced marginal identities and practices and how its commodity prevailed over domesticity and progress to engender identities of addiction. ^




Major Professors: Mariselle Melendez, Purdue University, Marcia C. Stephenson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Literature, Latin American

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