Week Six: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

All of this week’s readings have an “action” type feeling to them, that they contribute to a higher calling and whoever wrote them felt as if they specifically were in a position to help or educate others in some way. The textbook mentioned that the literature of post-emancipation represents both liberalism and scientific racism of the 19th century.

Unfortunately I didn’t really understand Nina Rodrigues’ “The Fetishist Anamism of the Bahian Blacks,” and I didn’t quite see the point of the Santa Rita de Casia y San Lázaro Manifesto. So I’ll comment on those in a limited manner, based on what I did understand.
From the perspective of someone living in a generally liberal society looking back on historical moments, I found that all these works fell in either “liberal” or “could be liberal” or “scientific racism” categories. Also, I identified many instances of the “affect” theme that Jon mentioned in the video lecture throughout the readings, and I’d like to analyse that too.
I think the point of Nina Rodrigues’ text was to understand the different religious customs of Afro-Brazilians. He interestingly pointed out that the “African element” of their culture had been “diluted” in the diverse environment of Brazil, and that the only pure thing left was “the feeling that animates beliefs.” Take that as you will, here the idea of “feeling” or “affect” comes up. Is Nina Rodrigues using the affect argument to deny these people access to equal, unemotional rights? Or to define specific rights that would suit them? I think this work fits into the “scientific racism” category.
I was surprised at how liberal the Political Program of the Partido Independiente de Color was! Some of what they call for is even controversial today, like the free university idea. I think this fits into the “liberal” category. Words like “love” and “worthy” are used to address the nation and its citizens, respectively. Did this “affect” aspect affect how rights and responsibilities are defined within the nation, with all of its diversity?
The only thing I managed to analyse from the Santa Rita de Casia y San Lázaro Manifesto is that death symbolism was used a lot in the wake of a massacre (context given by the textbook). Liberal notions of this text are paired with imagery of death: “Death is Nature’s justice,” and mentions of everyone being equal since everyone is born to die. Also interesting is the amount of times they declare they are “true Christians.” Is this to appeal to whoever they are writing to? This plays on the cultural/feelings/affect argument I believe. Elites may have a better impression of them if they share spiritual values.
Brush Strokes by Echenique is almost explicitly liberal. She critiques affect in favour of women’s rights and emancipation. She clearly rejects tradition, stating that “the women of today are not the women of the past.” And she defines rights and emancipation in the context of women: they must be more philosophical.
In Josefina Pelliza de Sagasta’s piece, she takes the opposite stance and fights for tradition, mostly on the basis of “affect” spirituality. This immediately seems illiberal, as she calls for tradition and not progress, but interestingly her support for women (at least women in her own class) is quite uplifting and inspirational. She clearly uses the idea of “affect” as she praises womanhood through words like “love” and “exalted.” Also her use of empowering words like “queens” and “strong” could be seen as catering to the individual.
One last thing: I feel like these readings especially pointed out some flaws of liberalism (building off the discussion my section got into on Tuesday!). Can liberalism lead to the loss of individuality while trying to protect the concept of the individual? All for the “greater good” of society? I think this especially shows in Echenique’s writing, she almost calls for the erasure of female feeling in favour of emancipation. Just a thought!

2 thoughts on “Week Six: Citizenship and Rights in the New Republics

  1. Linda

    Hey Kelsey, I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I thought you did a good job at analysing all the primary sources and I especially appreciate you trying to make sense of the one by Nina Rodrigues as I found it rather puzzling. I also think it’s really nice that you try to link this weeks topic back to our discussio on libralism although I am not sure what exactly you mean by ‘the loss of individuality while trying to protect the indivdual’? Did you maybe mean the loss of a sense of community as a result of increased indiviudality? Lastly, do I appreciate you stating your opnion on the argument between Sagasta and Echinique as it is very different from my own which makes me wonder wether I have to rethink wether my own opninion little too black and white. I’m looking forward to our discussion this tuesady. Thanks!

    1. kelsey wiebe Post author

      Hi Linda! Thanks for reading my post! I must admit my thoughts were a little all over the place as I found some of these readings quite difficult! I think by that quote I meant to identify discrepancies in the ideology vs execution of liberalism, connecting back to our discussion’s critique of liberalism last week.
      By placing all this value on “the individual” as a concept, rather than on actual individuals that differ greatly (like Echenique and de Sagasta, for example), perhaps the actual individuals lose what is theirs. Liberalism tries to preserve that, but look at what Echenique is saying: she wants women to become more philosophically-motivated and less sensitivity-motivated, and that will lead to a better society with bettered individuals. But what if some women don’t want to do that? For example, de Sagasta, whose traditional desires would be alienated by Echenique’s liberalism. To summarise, by bettering “the individual” through a liberal agenda, perhaps real individuals lose what makes them an individual to assimilate to a non-traditional liberal world.
      Thanks Linda for the opportunity to explore this some more! I think this is the part I found most fascinating about this week’s material 🙂


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