My talk will discuss ways in which the history of knowledge can help to illuminate histories of nation-state formation in Latin America over the course of the century after independence, as explored in the book of the same title (published by Princeton University Press in 2020). For this seminar I will focus on two themes: i) the idea of nations as knowledge communities; and ii) the recognition of knowledge.
On the first theme, my suggestion will be that thinking about nations as communities of shared knowledge makes it possible to bring into a common analytical framework a series of factors in nation-formation that are often treated separately, sometimes in different historiographies. Notable examples include state power and cultural community; international and local dynamics; or ideas and materiality. While many historians have been inspired by Benedict Anderson’s emphasis on processes of imagining in explaining ‘the origin and spread of nationalism’, the “imagined community” is less effective at explaining why nationalism has continued to matter to such a wide range of people in so many different societies across the world. Adapting Anderson’s idea to think of nations as knowledge communities may be a fruitful way forward here, drawing on all the insights of the emerging field of the history of knowledge over the last 25 years or so.
The second part of the talk will develop the argument that the recognition of knowledge matters as much as its production or distribution in analysing outcomes of struggles (both past and current) to improve knowledge equity. How is it that certain ways of knowing are deemed of being received as knowledge? Who decides what actually counts as knowledge, even before it becomes subject to processes of validation? The answers to these questions in relation to nineteenth-century Latin America are revealing about the construction of global hierarchies of knowledge still evident today.
Nicola Miller is Professor of Latin American History and Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) at University College London. She is interested in the intellectual, cultural, political and international history of the Americas, in comparative and transnational perspectives; and in nationalism and national identity, especially in the Americas. Currently Her research focuses on the history of knowledge in Latin America. Her latest book is Republics of Knowledge: Nations of the Future in Latin America, published by Princeton University Press in October 2020.
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