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Power, Place and Representation

Contested Sites of Dependence and Independence in Latin America

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Bill Richardson and Lorraine Kelly

Questions about dependence and independence are of crucial importance in relation to Latin America, given the region’s history and its current situation. They are particularly relevant at this time, with the bicentenary of independence being celebrated throughout the region. This book examines central issues relating to these two notions in the Latin American context, offering twelve different studies of the themes in question, six of which cover sociology and politics and six of which examine topics in literary and cultural studies. The breadth of the subject matter considered in the volume reflects the wide range of issues that the ideas of dependence and independence raise in this political and geographical context, including, among others: identity, hegemony, wealth and poverty, discursive power, the role of civil society, language and gender. The contributors offer new insights into the fields examined, from discussions of the significance of cultural products such as literary works and films to a consideration of the validity of the concept of independence to ongoing efforts to alleviate poverty and assert national autonomy. As a uniquely interdisciplinary and multi-focused collection of essays, the book offers readers an excellent overview of these issues as they relate to Latin America today.

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Bill Richardson and Lorraine Kelly Introduction

Extract

Two hundred years ago, within the context of widespread regime changes taking place in Europe and North America, the movement to liberate Latin America became more intense, and, by the mid-1820s, the region had largely freed itself from its colonial masters, Spain and Portugal. But, both at that time and ever since, the nature and quality of the ‘independence’ achieved was and has been open to question. The male criollos who were the leading figures in the independence movement – San Martín, Bolívar, O’Higgins – behaved heroically in pursuit of their cause, but were limited in their vision of what independence and freedom should mean. The ideals of the independence movement may have encompassed notions of Latin American unity, universal suf frage, the improvement of the lot of all the peoples of the region and a commitment to equality, but neither at the time of the ‘liberation’ nor since have those ideals been translated into practice, except patchily. Injustice, deprivation, social inequality, discrimination against women and indigenous people, and racist attitudes towards those who are non-white generally, have been hallmarks of the social order established in the various countries of the region during much of the intervening period. Despite significant advances made, economic dependence – especially on Britain and the USA – combined with corrupt governance and chronic militarism have meant that a pattern of exploitation and neglect has been evident during most of the last two centuries. This has ensured that con- cepts such as independence and freedom have been constantly...

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