Acting White: Dramatic Representations of Race in Nineteenth-Century Peru

Smith, Andrea Meador, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia
Hill, Ruth, Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

Even before theories of ―scientific racism‖ gained prominence in Spanish America, social and racial distinctions greatly preoccupied the Peruvian intellectuals considered in this study, who portrayed whiteness as an essential element of national identity, and who felt an urgency to increase European immigration to Peru. By reviewing the dramatic production of the period between the wars of independence and the War of the Pacific (roughly, 1830-1884), I suggest that the playwrights in question were instrumental in negotiating racial identity at a time when the meanings of race and whiteness were continuously subject to revision. In this dissertation, I utilize various concepts from critical race theory to approach the dramatic production of seven criollo authors in hopes of demonstrating the profound effects they had in creating a national racial imaginary and a shared sense of whiteness. In particular, I examine the dramatic production of Felipe Pardo y Aliaga, Manuel Ascensio Segura, Carlos Augusto Salaverry, Constantino Carrasco, Nicanor Della Rocca de Vergalo, Juan de Arona, and Clorinda Matto de Turner. These criollo playwrights appropriated the power of White hegemony to determine what was transmitted as history, that is, a history free of Blacks and Indians. The works of these dramatists, who were caught between colonial and modern ways of classifying human bodies, speak to the sheer power of whiteness even before the parameters of whiteness had been clearly and consensually defined. Peru's urban criollos emphasized time and again that they were not African, Indian, Chinese, or Jewish, but rather a racially homogenous group in possession of the virtues of whiteness: physical beauty, mental acuity, Christian morality, and the capacity to bring about progress.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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