Gendering Latin American Independence: Women's Political Culture and the Textual Construction of Gender 1790-1850

The aim is to rethink Latin American Independence in terms of gender. The project consists of three lines of enquiry: the study of women’s political culture, women’s writings, and the textual construction of gender in literary and political discourse.

Research Questions: The project is a textual and historical study that investigates the ideas and activities of women who, as a social group, contributed to the making of public culture in early nineteenth-century Latin America but were largely excluded from it. This necessitates an examination of how gender shaped the political discourses of Latin American independence. Some of the research questions are: What were the links between politics and sexual difference? How were women constructed as subjects and objects in contemporary political discourse? What was women’s political culture and associational life, where was it, how was it manifested? How did women respond to Republican discourses of individual rights? What were the contradictions in Latin American political discourse arising from its formulations of gender categories?

Methodology: The methodology is interdisciplinary and text-based involving archival retrieval and discourse analysis. The research scope is continental. The team will establish a principal corpus of texts by retrieving relevant published and unpublished material. They will identify and examine gendered political discourse. Women’s political culture will be investigated through enquiry into women’s family-based or community networks. A database will be set up to register women’s participation, writings and organizations.

Principal investigator
Professor Catherine Davies
Principal project staff
Professor Catherine Davies, Dr Hilary Owen, Dr Claire Brewster (RA).
Start date
Monday, October 1, 2001
Completion date
Sunday, October 1, 2006
Source material
Much of the source material was obtained from national and private libraries during research visits to Chile, Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador, and to libraries in the UK, notably the British Library and Cambridge University Libraries. The majority of the sources are books and newspapers, but there are also letters, pamphlets and documents. The age and fragility of the primary sources meant that digital photographs (without flash) were taken rather than scanning or photocopying most of the material. Permission to take these photographs was readily given at all of the institutions. Staff at the Sala Medina, in the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile stipulated that acknowledgement must be given on all sources taken from their collection. As the quality of the digital photographs is insufficiently high to obtain OCR, the texts then have to be typed into the database. It has been possible to scan some short texts and extracts from later editions of books found in UK university libraries and from photocopies (where allowed) obtained from Latin American and UK libraries. The primary institutions used are The British Library; The Centre of Latin American Studies Library, Mill Lane Cambridge University Library, Cambridge; Biblioteca Nacional de Chile, especially the collections in the Sala Medina and the Sala de Investigaciones; Instituto Riva-Agüero, Lima, the library of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú; Biblioteca de Banco Central de Ecuador, especially the private collection Fondo Jijón y Caamaño; the Archivo Nacional de Colombia, Bogota; the Biblioteca Nacional and Archivo Nacional de Argentina, Buenos Aires; the Biblioteca Nacional, Rio de Janiero.

For full listing see

Davies, Catherine, Brewster, Claire, Owen, Hilary, South American Independence: Gender, Politics, Text. Liverpool University Press, 2006.

Davies, Catherine "Colonial Dependence and Sexual Difference: Reading for Gender in the Writings of Simón Bolívar (1783-1830." Feminist Review 79 (2005): 5-19

Brewster, Claire "Women and the Spanish American Wars of Independence: an Overview." Feminist Review 79 (2005): 20-35