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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Engendering visions of modernity: photographing women, national iconographies and excluded identities in Ecuador, 1870-1912 Macfadden, Megan


As a contribution to ethnohistorical research concerning the social construction of gender and collective identities, I analyze how visual images of women were used within various attempts to construct images of a national identity in Ecuador at the turn of the century (approximately 1870- 1912). The purpose of this essay is to reconstruct a history of image making practices in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Ecuador as a way to investigate how women's identities were visually and discursively constructed by numerous (male) photographers, artists, intellectuals, politicians and writers, all of whom were members of the dominant society. I consider not only the images produced by Ecuadorians themselves, but also die longer history of European image-making in the Andes which had a significant impact on the Ecuadorian image makers whose work is analyzed in this essay. Throughout the essay I attempt to situate my reading of the visual materials discussed within specific historical and cultural contexts as a way to further examine the shifting construction of identities through visual representations. Whereas late nineteenth century Ecuadorian political elites embraced liberal ideologies and proclaimed universal rights for all citizens, the images of women incorporated into images of "the Nation" are suggestive of some of the ways in which "difference" was reproduced and hierarchies were maintained in spite of this shift in the dominant political discourse. In this paper I attempt to demonstrate how the visions of national identity as imagined by members of the dominant society were fraught with contradictions. These tensions are made visible when we consider the gender inequalities and "racial'/ethnic boundaries which were actively reproduced in images of Ecuador as a "unified nation" at the turn of the century.

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