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Latin American Research Review 38.1 (2003) 267-287

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Add Gender and Stir?
Cooking Up Gendered Histories of Modern Latin America

Elizabeth Quay Hutchison
University of New Mexico

Compromised Positions: Prostitution, Public Health, and Gender Politics in Revolutionary Mexico City. By Katherine Elaine Bliss. (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001. Pp. 243. $45.00 Cloth, $19.95 Paper.)
In Defense of Honor: Sexual Morality, Modernity, and Nation in Early Twentieth-century Brazil. By Sueann Caulfield, (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000. Pp. 328. $64.96 Cloth, $21.95 Paper.)
From Subjects to Citizens: Honor, Gender, and Politics in Arequipa, Peru, 1780-1854. By Sarah C. Chambers. (University Park, PA.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999. Pp. 296. $55.00 Cloth, $19.95 Paper.)
Hidden Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America. Edited By Elizabeth Dore And Maxine Molyneux. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000. Pp. 400. $64.95 Cloth, $21.95 Paper.)
Doña Maria's Story: Life History, Memory, and Political Identity. By Daniel James. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000. Pp. 336. $54.95 Cloth, $18.95 Paper.)
Gendered Compromises: Political Cultures and the State in Chile, 1920-1950. By Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt. Chapel Hill: University Of North Carolina Press, 2000. Pp. 368. $59.95 Cloth, $19.95 Paper.)

As several recent overviews of the literature have noted, 1 published works on the history of gender and sexuality in Latin America have made attempts at review an increasingly challenging endeavor. For those [End Page 267] of us who cut our teeth as graduate students in the search for scarce historical scholarship on Latin American women in the early 1980s, the current interest in gender evidenced by university publishers, scholarly journals, conference panels, and course offerings represents an exciting development. 2 It is now possible—as Sueann Caulfield has recently demonstrated—to turn our attention in a sustained way to theoretical and comparative issues, drawing from this exercise a sense of the dramatic potential of gender analysis to transform Latin American history and a preliminary diagnosis of what remains to be done. 3 The present review builds on recent attempts to "take the pulse" of the burgeoning field of Latin American gendered history and points out how such studies have contributed to historiographical debates on the modern period. 4 [End Page 268]

The six works reviewed here have been grouped according to three central concerns: continuity and change from the colonial to the national periods, processes of state formation and hegemony, and the innovative use of oral testimony. Despite the diversity of cases and subjects treated in these works, they share some basic characteristics: each employs gender analysis to reorient historical inquiry, raise new questions, and explore new sources. All reject an exclusive focus on women subjects and question teleological arguments about women's status in modern Latin America. Reading for gender sheds crucial light on social, state-society, and elite-subaltern relations, demonstrating how fundamentally constructions of gender and sexuality shape the mechanisms of power. Together these works advance our understanding of how specific historical processes have been gendered, allowing us to push towards broader synthetic and comparative perspectives on gender relations in modern Latin America. If, as many observers have noted, the recipe for early women's history was to "add women and stir," we can now see that gender has become a crucial ingredient for much of the recent scholarship cooked up in the field of U.S.-based Latin American history. 5

Challenging "Colonial Legacies":
Honor, Shame, and Nation

One identifiable trend in recent nineteenth-century Latin American gender history has been for scholars to question some of the prevailing assumptions about the legacy of colonial gender relations during the republican period. The scarce attention to Latin American women in pre-1970s scholarship was marked by teleological assumptions about women's advance in step with liberalism and modernization. Consequently, scholars have more recently struggled to historicize the sources of gender inequality in the republican period, asking what kinds of gendered continuities shaped...


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