The Desertmakers : Travel, War, and the State in Latin America book cover
1st Edition

The Desertmakers
Travel, War, and the State in Latin America

ISBN 9781138668928
Published November 1, 2019 by Routledge
322 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book studies how the rhetoric of travel introduces different conceptualizations of space and time in scenarios of war during the last decades of the 19th century, in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. By examining accounts of war and travel in the context of the consolidation of state apparatuses in these countries, Uriarte underlines the essential role that war (in connection to empire and capital) has played in the Latin American process of modernization and state formation. In this book, the analysis of British and Latin American travel narratives proves particularly productive in reading the ways in which national spaces are reconfigured, reimagined, and reappropriated by the state apparatus. War turns out to be a central instrument not just for making possible this logic of appropriation, but also for bringing temporal notions such as modernization and progress to spaces that were described — albeit problematically — as being outside of history. The book argues that wars waged against "deserts" (as Patagonia, the sertão, Paraguay, and the Uruguayan countryside were described and imagined) were in fact means of generating empty spaces, real voids that were the condition for new foundations. The study of travel writing is an essential tool for understanding the transformations of space brought by war, and for analyzing in detail the forms and connotations of movement in connection to violence. Uriarte pays particular attention to the effects that witnessing war had on the traveler’s identity and on the relation that is established with the oikos or point of departure of their own voyage. Written at the intersection of literary analysis, critical geography, political science, and history, this book will be of interest to those studying Latin American literature, Travel Writing, and neocolonialism and Empire writing.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

A Note on Translations


Introduction: The Desertmakers

1 War in Terra Incognita: Richard Burton’s Letters from the Battle-Fields of Paraguay

2 In Praise of Deviation: W. H. Hudson’s The Purple Land

3 Making Museums, Making Deserts: Francisco Moreno in Patagonia

4 The Limits of Visibility and Knowledge: Euclides da Cunha’s Os sertões

Afterword: What Is Left?



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Javier Uriarte is Associate Professor in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literature, Stony Brook University, USA