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Natural spaces, utopian places : natural history and the elite project in early independent Mexico Westgard, Clint

Abstract

One of the fundamental problems facing the creole elite following independence from Spain was how to construct an identity for themselves as elite citizens and leaders of a republic, rather than elite subjects of a monarch. Mexican intellectuals constituted their authority by establishing specific modes of seeing, derived from the practice of natural history, which allowed them to articulate particular notions about individuals and the nation as naturally ordered. The mode of seeing adopted by the elite required the formation of ideal spaces, spaces outside space, that could act as a position from which they could view the nation as a whole. It is through an investigation of space, specifically conceptualizations of space like the city, the museum and the garden, that allow an exploration of the Mexican elite's notions of the nation, family, the individual and nature. With the authority they claimed from occupying their unique viewing position, the elite justified their reform projects and their attempts to craft a nation and a populace that matched the Utopian imaginings they sought to make apparent in such spaces as the museum, the garden and the city.

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