From Subjects to Citizens

Honor, Gender, and Politics in Arequipa, Peru, 17801854

By (author) Sarah C. Chambers

Hardback - £69.95

Publication date:

01 January 2000

Length of book:

296 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271019017

Offering a corrective to previous views of Spanish-American independence, this book shows how political culture in Peru was dramatically transformed in this period of transition and how the popular classes as well as elites played crucial roles in this process.

Honor, underpinning the legitimacy of Spanish rule and a social hierarchy based on race and class during the colonial era, came to be an important source of resistance by ordinary citizens to repressive action by republican authorities fearful of disorder. Claiming the protection of their civil liberties as guaranteed by the constitution, these "honorable" citizens cited their hard work and respectable conduct in justification of their rights, in this way contributing to the shaping of republican discourse. Prominent politicians from Arequipa, familiar with these arguments made in courtrooms where they served as jurists, promoted at the national level a form of liberalism that emphasized not only discipline but also individual liberties and praise for the honest working man.

But the protection of men's public reputations and their patriarchal authority, the author argues, came at the expense of women, who suffered further oppression from increasing public scrutiny of their sexual behavior through the definition of female virtue as private morality, which also justified their exclusion from politics. The advent of political liberalism was thus not associated with greater freedom, social or political, for women.

“Chambers sets new standards for the incorporation of gender into the examination of the debates and struggles over postcolonial Peru. Moreover, she has written a readable book that moves back and forth from the city to the countryside with enjoyable and worthwhile forays into festivals, legal trials, and the domestic sphere. She broadens the definition of ‘lo político’ while at the same time providing a solid regional history.”

—Charles F. Walker, Labor History