Desire and Degeneration in Nineteenth-Century Argentine Anthropology University of Idaho Seed Grant uri icon



  • Nineteenth-century Argentine scientists used evolutionary theory and anthropometrics to evaluate native peoples' ability to be civilized and to make prescriptions for their extermination or forced integration. These activities were part of a larger project of "proving" Argentina was both modem and ethnically European. Gender influenced this project at every level: scientists used European gender norms to judge indigenous groups, male and female bodies were displayed differently in museums, and defenders of women's rights used evolutionary theory to argue for their own place in the nation. My project proposes using careful textual readings and archival research in Buenos Aires and Bariloche, Argentina to examine how sexual desire and personal relationships influenced how Argentine anthropologists described indigenous peoples. Among other questions, I will explore how one scientist, Ramon Lista, reconciles his attraction towards indigenous women with anthropological theories insisting on their savage state. This research will lead to a chapter in my book project, National Bodies: Women, Indians, and Anthropology in Argentina, 1860-1910. This manuscript will be one of the first to bring the history of Argentine anthropology to an English-speaking audience, while also addressing an unexplored axis of analysis - gender - and complicating hegemonic narratives of the development of anthropology.