How did the nationalisms of Latin America’s many countries—elaborated in everything from history and fiction to cookery—arise from their common backgrounds in the Spanish and Portuguese empires and their similar populations of mixed European, native, and African origins? Beyond Imagined Communities: Reading and Writing the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Latin America, discards one answer and provides a rich collection of others.

These essays began as a critique of the argument by Benedict Anderson’s highly influential book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Anderson traces Latin American nationalisms to local circulation of colonial newspapers and tours of duty of colonial administrators, but this book shows the limited validity of these arguments.

Instead, Beyond Imagined Communities shows how more diverse cultural influences shaped Latin American nationalisms. Four historians examine social situations: François-Xavier Guerra studies various forms of political communication; Tulio Halperín Doghi, political parties; Sarah C. Chambers, the feminine world of salons; and Andrew Kirkendall, the institutions of higher education that trained the new administrators. Next, four critics examine production of cultural objects: Fernando Unzueta investigates novels; Sara Castro Klarén, archeology and folklore; Gustavo Verdesio, suppression of unwanted archeological evidence; and Beatriz González Stephan, national literary histories and international expositions.

John Charles Chasteen is professor of history at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sara Castro-Klarén is professor of Latin American culture and literature at Johns Hopkins University.


Introduction: Beyond Imagined Communities
John Charles Chasteen

1. Forms of Communication, Political Spaces, and Cultural Identities in the Creation of Spanish American Nations
François-Xavier Guerra

2. Argentine Counterpoint: Rise of the Nation, Rise of the State
Tulio Halperin Donghi

3. Letters and Salons: Women Reading and Writing the Nation
Sarah C. Chambers

4. Student Culture and Nation-State Formation
Andrew J. Kirkendall

5. Scenes of Reading: Imagining Nations/Romancing History in Spanish America
Fernando Unzueta

6. The Nation in Ruins: Archaeology and the Rise of the Nation
Sara Castro-Klarén

7. An Amnesic Nation: The Erasure of Indigenous Pasts by Uruguayan Expert Knowledges
Gustavo Verdesio

8. Showcases of Consumption: Historical Panoramas and Universal Expositions
Beatriz González-Stephan


“Every Latin Americanist will welcome the insight provided by this book into Latin America’s complex heterogeneity.”—Mario J. Valdés, University of Toronto

“The anthology gives scholars intelligently argued, well-supported, and novel approaches in the search for the origins and spread of nationalism.”—Histoire Sociale - Social History

“This collection of essays is essential reading for all who work on questions of ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ the nation in Latin America.”—William G. Acree, Jr., Hispanofila

“An excellent volume for historians and literary scholars… all those interested in the process leading to the construction of nations in Latin America, as well as the multitudes of those who have been captivated by Anderson’s groundbreaking work, will find the volume most rewarding.”—May E. Bletz, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies