The Political Language Of Regeneration In Colombia And Mexico

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This dissertation concerns the production of a political language in Colombia and Mexico during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I argue that this new political language emerged and was made intelligible through a rhetoric and vocabulary of national regeneration: the task of giving new life ( regenerating ) to national populations becomes the common ground of political debate. My objects of study are the political essays and literary texts that were essential for producing and solidifying the idea of regeneration in two national contexts. Colombia and Mexico make a striking comparison in this regard. On the one hand, they represent a political dichotomy during the late nineteenth century: while Colombia was passing through an ascendant and newly aggressive conservativism, Mexico was embarking upon a long period of official liberalism that still reigns hegemonic today. And yet on the other hand, these political-historical contexts meet on the common ground of regeneration. It is illustrative to note that between the most reactionary conservatives in Colombia and the most radical liberals in Mexico, both shared a common thesis regarding their capacity to make vigorous a national society perceived to be in decay: both literally took a vocabulary of regeneration as their own. In Colombia, politician-writers such as Rafael Nunez (1888) and Miguel Antonio Caro (1886) would summarize their political task to the nation as nothing less than the choice between regeneration or catastrophe . More explicitly literary writers, such as Jose Asuncion Silva (1896 [1925]) took up the language of regeneration as a mode of social critique. In the political middle, the intellectuals in and around the more centrist Diaz regime (Ignacio Altamirano [1888], Justo Sierra [1885, 1900]) would recur constantly in their treatises, essays and novels to tropes of social regeneration. Precisely through a comparison of these two cases—at once divergent and convergent—this…

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