From Two Republics to One Divided examines Peru’s troubled transition from colonial viceroyalty to postcolonial republic from the local perspective of Andean peasant politics. Thurner’s reading of the Andean peasantry’s engagement and disengagement with the postcolonial state challenges long-standing interpretations of Peruvian and modern Latin American history and casts a critical eye toward Creole and Eurocentric ideas about citizenship and nationalism.
Working within an innovative and panoramic historical and linguistic framework, Thurner examines the paradoxes of a resurgent Andean peasant republicanism during the mid-1800s and provides a critical revision of the meaning of republican Peru’s bloodiest peasant insurgency, the Atusparia Uprising of 1885. Displacing ahistorical and nationalist readings of Inka or Andean continuity, and undermining the long-held notion that the colonial legacy is the dominant historical force shaping contemporary Andean reality, Thurner suggests that in Peru, the postcolonial legacy of Latin America’s nation-founding nineteenth century transfigured, and ultimately reinvented, the colonial legacy in its own image.
About the Author
Mark Thurner is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Florida.
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From Two Republics to One Divided
Contradictions of Postcolonial Nationmaking in Andean Peru
By Mark Thurner
Duke University PressCopyright © 1997 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
Historicizing the Postcolonial Andean Predicament
This regional history of Huaylas-Ancash plots critical shifts in the discourse and practice of state-peasantry relations during Peru's long nineteenth-century transition from dual colonial to unitary postcolonial forms of nationhood. Although unreplicable, Peru's troubled transition from pluriethnic colony of castes toward unitary postcolony of citizens was an early moment in the universally ambivalent trajectory broadly characteristic of our age. To wit: in the world history of European colonialism and postcolonial nationmaking, the New World is old and the Old World new. And if the first wave of European colonialism washed up on American shores long before it reached high tide in late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century Asia and Africa, then the irreversible cultural and political conundrums of colonialism's aftermath were perhaps nowhere more unanticipated, and deeply contradictory, than in South America's pluriethnic Andean region.
Writing "in an anthropological spirit" on the origin and spread of nationalism, Benedict Anderson made an underappreciated move that in effect shifts the historical relationship between so-called old European nations and the new postcolonial states. Since, Anderson argued, the modern invention of nationhood was everywhere as fundamentally cultural (in Clifford Geertz's sense) as religion or kinship, one could sidestep the then regnant notion of nationalism as mere political ideology and approach nations as the cultural inventions of "print capitalism," as "imagined political communities" of intermediate scale wherein citizens were territorially bound by emerging concepts of sovereignty. This new style and scale of community was distinct from the face-to-face communities of the peasant village or small town, and it superseded the boundless, plurinational religious ecumenisms of the medieval (and early colonial?) world. The historical origins of this modern nation and its nationalism were traceable to the workings of absolutist dynasties and the rise of printing and national vernaculars, which served as narrative media for imagining the social space and "simultaneous time" of unseen national cohorts. Like Eric Hobsbawm and other critical scholars, Anderson proposed that nations and their nationalisms are of modern invention; contrary to "organicist" or "primordialist" readings, no "old nations" in this sense of the term could have existed before the late eighteenth century. Thus the Latin American republics are relatively old "by the standard of nationhood" — indeed, even "pioneering" in that they were the front line of anticolonial republican nationalism, thereby anticipating anticolonial nationalist movements in the colonized Old World. In light of this reformulation, Geertz's insightful summation of the postcolonial predicament of Asian and African "new states" as, to paraphrase, not quite the present without the past, nor the past in the present, may be rephrased for the Americas: Latin America's republics were "old" like some European nations, but they were also postcolonial like the African and Asian "new states" of the twentieth century.
Latin American nations are also relatively "old" because Spain's colonial rule in the Americas both predated and endured longer than most extra-Iberian European colonialisms in interior Africa and Asia. In the colonial core regions of Mesoamerica and the South American Andes, the antiquity of Iberian colonialism was deepened by the greater antiquity of densely peopled precolonial states and societies. The worn phrase of "old societies and new states" which Geertz summoned to describe postcolonial Asian and African predicaments, may also be applied to the core regions of ancient American civilization — despite the early demographic collapse of the indigenous population which, in the Peruvian case, did not begin to recover until the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Anderson's useful phrase "old empires, new nations" is perhaps a more precise reformulation of the state/society equation in nuclear Spanish America, since it captures the colonial predicament of much of the region. In this regard, Anderson noted, after Gerhard Masur, "the striking fact that 'each of the new South American republics had been a [colonial] administrative unit from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century.' In this respect they foreshadow the new states of Africa and parts of Asia in the mid-twentieth century." As in Africa and parts of Asia, postcolonial American nations inherited the political boundaries of colonial administrative units, in this case because "the very vastness of the Spanish American Empire, the enormous variety of its soils and climates, and, above all, the immense difficulty of communications in a preindustrial age, tended to give these units a self-contained character."
But by what "hegemonic trick" were colonial administrative units — which were inscribed across the fragments of precolonial polities — to be imagined as bounded and sovereign nations? Anderson's provocative, Habermasian thesis concerning the role of the elite public sphere spread by print capitalism and vernacular understandings gets us part of the way there, as do his sparkling hypotheses about the nationalist mutation of colonial spaces and the perambulations of Creole officials. But what becomes clear with local and regional historical analysis is that the colonial legacy of administrative frontiers was rather less significant for postcolonial nationmaking than were the hierarchical, discontinuous, and internal boundaries of ethnic caste, color, class, gender, and corporation (to mention only these) bequeathed by the centuries of Spanish rule.
In Andean Peru, as elsewhere in Spanish America, the postcolonial history of nationmaking was haunted by an earlier history of colonial state formation which, in the ambivalent fashion diagnostic of postcolonial nationalist predicaments everywhere, it was condemned both to negate and reclaim. Despite critical differences, Peru — like other old postcolonial nations of the New World South — may be seen to share this predicament with the new postcolonial nations of the Old World South. In all cases, this predicament meant that the postcolonial nation and its history had to be constructed — albeit in very different ways and to different degrees — by "contesting colonial rule and [at the same time] protecting its flanks from the subalterns."
The Postcolonial Creole Predicament
In contrast to most textbook versions of the advent of European nation-states, Anderson follows John Lynch (and other historians of Latin America) in asserting that the Latin American republics were not the political by-products of middleclass struggles against an aristocratic ruling class. Instead, they were states created from above by landed colonial elites who sought to break free from a decadent metropolis whose representatives still monopolized political and economic privilege in the colonies. But discontented Creole elites were at the same time spurred to Independence "by the fear 'of lower class' political mobilizations: to wit, Indian or Negro-slave uprisings." In short, "the perennial contradiction of the [Creole] position [was to be] forever caught between the intrusive authority of the European metropolis and the explosive discontent of the native masses." In practice, this contradiction meant that "the great challenge facing [Creole patriots] was to obtain independence without unleashing a revolution." One social result of this contradiction was, as Lynch observed in his monumental study of Spanish American Independence, that after Spanish rule the caudillo-ridden Latin American republics could look rather more like militarized haciendas, or landed estates, than liberal societies.
In the northern Andes (Venezuela, Colombia) the Creole liberator Simón Bolívar first had to put down the popular uprisings of loyalist black pardos and, later, the backland llaneros — although subsequently he wisely struck an alliance with "the hordes" that had once sworn death to the Creoles. Bolívar's dictatorial and patrician style of republicanism reflected a widely felt social distrust of popular democracy among Creoles In Peru, things could be worse: "memories of the great jacquerie led by Tupac Amaru [II in 1780] were still fresh" in the minds of the Creole elite. Andean Indians sometimes supported loyalist forces in the fight against the "foreign" troops of José de San Martín of Argentina (who fought his way up the coast from Chile) and Bolívar (who marched down the Andean Cordillera from Venezuela and Colombia). Perhaps a majority of Creole elites in Viceregal Lima could be persuaded to support the decrepit Bourbon monarchy, not least because they feared the consequences of widespread Indian unrest more than they reviled Spanish tutelage.
But, as Anderson is wont to show, the aspirations of the Creole movements for independence in South America went beyond mere reaction against popular mobilizations. The desire of regional elites to wield greater control over the indigenous and mixed-blood castes could and did merge with commercial and state-building interests. These desires and interests could also blend with the rising Creole patriotic impulse that sought to rid the Americas of "the tyranny of the Spanish stepmother" so as to be free to self-govern their adopted "native land."
Contrary to Creole nationalist historiography, Creole claims to this modern nativism conferred by place of birth did not make them the natural allies of indigenous elites in an epic, anti-imperialist, Pan-American struggle against the despised Europeans. Indeed, the Creole nationalist identification with America presented inevitable and transparent contradictions — of which Bolívar himself was well aware — given the historically deeper claims to native status made by rival Andean or Indian elites and their communities. As Bolívar confessed: "Americans by birth and Europeans by law, we [Creoles] find ourselves engaged in a dual conflict, disputing with the natives for titles of ownership, and at the same time struggling to maintain ourselves in the country of our birth against the opposition of the [Spanish] invaders. Thus our position is most extraordinary and complicated." This complicated Creole predicament was to be exacerbated by the colonial heritage of the state.
Of Colonial Fragments
As "the anthropologist among historians" Bernard S. Cohn noted for the case of the British in India, "one of the first problems confronting a colonial power after establishing de facto or de jure sovereignty over a new territory is to set up procedures for settling disputes arising within the dominated society, and to establish a whole range of rights in relation to property and obligations of individuals and groups to one another and to the [colonial] state." Key to the Spanish resolution of this colonial problem was the late sixteenth-century juridical invention of the colonized "Indian nation" and its "republic of Indians" juxtaposed, in binary fashion, to the colonial "Spanish nation" and its "republic of Spaniards." Although this flatly imperial designation did violence to the ethnic diversity enveloped within then current notions of nation and republic, the juri-political classifications nevertheless did create the necessary institutional "locale of contestation" wherein the colonial cultural politics of "national" identity could be played out. In Peru as elsewhere in the New World, Spain's dual-nation system of colonial rule also interstitialized in problematic ways the proliferating castes (castas) of mixed-blood or uncertain descent.
The colonial policy of legal-political segregation by "nation" and "republic" was made imaginable by virtue of the transnational imperial arch, or "head," of state provided by the ecumenical Catholic Crown of Spain. The Creole nationalist project that tore off what was left of this arch was, in contrast, partly inspired by the universalist, "enlightened liberal" ideal that "true" nationhood (and economic progress) could be achieved only if the "despotism" inherent in Spain's colonial particularism were abolished. Decolonization (or abolition) of the colonized Indian republic and the ambivalent banishment of the colonial Spanish republic (of which Creole nationalists were, and ethnically remained, members) would allow formerly oppressed Indians to be gradually "enlightened" and "civilized" so that they could "join the rest of the free citizens" of Peru in the semisacred unity of the independent nation of citizens. Thus — following the illusory logic of the liberal utopia envisaged by Bolívar and his associates — where two republics and their interstitial castes had once languished under the crushing weight of Spanish despotism, one free and united republic of national citizens would emerge.
For Creole liberals the "Republic" in the postcolonial Republic of Peru could not be the same as the "republic" in the colonial republic of Indians or republic of Spaniards. In his essays on nations and nationalism, Eric Hobsbawm noted that only after 1884 did the official Spanish notion of "nation" (nación) take on the connotation of "the inhabitants" or "people" (pueblo) under one "government" (gobierno) or "state" (estado). It was not until the 1920s that the rewritten formula of ethnicity = people = nation was combined with the modern doctrine of the so-called natural desire for statehood to produce the contemporary, quasi-ethnic notion of the nation-state, which is sometimes identified (in Eurocentric fashion) as "the German model." But prior to the European liberal age of the middle to late nineteenth century, and emerging during the post-Enlightenment Age of Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, "nation" carried an almost exclusively political meaning. It was then that the modern nation was increasingly thought of as "the body of citizens whose collective sovereignty constituted them a state which was their political expression." This nation was a novelty unencumbered by history and above ethnicity, and it was opposed to earlier, pre-Enlightenment usages that linked "nation" to ancestral lineage and, by instantiation, to local ethnic corporation. It was this novel, parahistorical concept of the nation — as a body of citizens whose expression was the territorial state — that infused the imagination of the "Creole pioneers" who founded independent republics in early nineteenth-century South America.
During most of Spanish America's long colonial period, quite different notions of nation and republic were in circulation. Official colonial usage designated "nation" as an ethnic-ancestral "collection of inhabitants" associated with a "kingdom" or place (not the same as late nineteenth-century notions of "race"), while the "republic" was often understood to be that nation's legitimate body of public governance as well as its "commonweal of interests" (causa pública). As mentioned, state discourse and fiscal classificatory schemes designated subjects of Spanish descent (including the "American Spaniards," or Creoles) and those of Indian descent, respectively, as members of the Spanish nation (colonizer) or the Indian nation (colonized). In Spanish legal theory, which buttressed a local form of colonial indirect rule, each nation's republic was granted distinct but unequal privileges and obligations to the Crown.
Like the postcolonial Republic of Peru, the overarching dual republics of the colonial period were more fictional and juridical than they were actual and social/ethnic, but one contention of the present book is that these imagined constructs had real historical consequences. The imperial legal architecture of state that classified the colonized as an Indian nation, juxtaposed in subordinate fashion to the Spanish nation, had its real historical manifestation in the local making of particular pueblos or repúblicas de indios. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, diverse and far-flung Andean ethnic communities and polities were "reduced," or resettled, in gridlike "Christian towns" (pueblos) where they would "live in republic," thereby acquiring the virtues of Christian civility and "good government." As post-Conquest fragmentation of far-flung Andean polities advanced in the wake of Spanish colonialism, the república or pueblo de indios emerged by the middle of the crisis-ridden seventeenth century as the new focal point of Indian political, religious, and juridical culture. Unlike the inward-looking, "closed corporate communities" of twentieth-century anthropology, the Indian republics of colonial Huaylas were hybrid imbrications, grids made plastic by Andean political and cultural dynamics. The complex historical formation of these new, but in many ways enduring, political communities during the Toledan (1568–80) and post-Toledan periods (1580–1700) of the Habsburg era challenges two notions: (a) that Andean social formations were "paralyzed" or wholly "destructured" by the trauma of the Conquest, and (b) that Indian identity was formed in violent opposition to Spanish domination. Although the imperial project of republic formation had missionizing, tributary, segregationist, and civilizing goals, the reconstituted Indian political communities worked these new jural identities in particularly Andean ways. Much of the cultural and political work was done by the Indian cabildos, or town councils, of Chiefs and elders, who represented the community assembly (república) of the pueblo. Thus the locally contested colonial site of the Indian republic became a "locus of enunciation" for subaltern or tributary politics wherein an "Indian republican" identity could be catholic in its heterodoxy. In short, the local, guild-based Indian republics were the building blocks and staging grounds for everyday forms of colonial state formation in the Andean hinterlands.
Excerpted from From Two Republics to One Divided by Mark Thurner. Copyright © 1997 Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press.
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Table of Contents
ContentsAbout the Series,
Chapter 1: Historicizing the Postcolonial Andean Predicament,
Chapter 2: Unimagined Communities,
Chapter 3: Republicans at War,
Chapter 4: Atusparia's Specter,
Chapter 5: Republican Histories, Postcolonial Legacies,