Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

National Bodies in the Photographs of Edward Weston, Lola Álvarez Bravo, and Graciela Iturbide
by Castañeda, Virginia, M.A., California State University, Long Beach, 2020, 62; 27834235
Abstract (Summary)

Scholars across disciplines have widely discussed the state sponsored cultural program that surfaced after the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920). In particular, visual representations of indigenous women became widely popular as the state aimed to establish a language for a solid national identity that could be shared globally. The language of “Mexicanness” or “mexicanidad” spoke primarily of the tradition that derived from Mexico’s pre-Columbian indigenous lineages. Indigenous women served as an expressive emblem to this language. But as a result of these nationalistic constructions of identity, what harmful perceptions developed about indigenous women in Mexico?

I utilize the concept of “difference,” as Stuart Hall describes it, in “The Spectacle of the ‘Other.’” In it, Hall goes on to critique the representational practice of stereotyping, which reduces, essentializes, and naturalizes difference. I take his concepts into consideration in investigating how officials unified war-torn Mexico through the nationalist agendas of mexicanidad and indigenismo after the Mexican Revolution. Furthermore, I suggest that the Mexican state not only institutionalized muralism and folk art, as Ana Garduño argues, but also appropriated the image of the indigenous woman to differentiate Mexico from other nations. With such state efforts in mind the securing of Mexican national identity after the Mexican Revolution via promotion of “difference” and “otherness”—I undertake three case studies of photographic projects that span the mid 1920s-1980s: works by Edward Weston, Lola Álvarez Bravo, and Graciela Iturbide. I explore how these photographers, in responding to the evolving sociopolitical terrain of twentieth century Mexico, established, restructured, and reconfigured constructs of Mexican national identity through the image of the indigenous woman.

Weston’s photographs of US American Rosa Covarrubias and those of Mexican indigenous women titled Woman Seated on Petate and Luz Jimenez, Standing, Álvarez Bravo’s By The Fault of Others and Indifference, and Iturbide’s Rosa and Magnolia are significant visual responses that speak to problematic gender, racial, and cultural perceptions about indigenous women in the context of the rise and fall of the assimilationist project that was the indigenismo movement. Weston’s 1926 symbolic representations of indigenous women interpret, replicate, and depict them as a state product. The 1940s photographs of Álvarez Bravo articulate a growing consciousness about the sociopolitical disenfranchisement of indigenous women. Iturbide’s late 1970s and 1980s photographs reconstruct and challenge “difference” and “otherness” within Mexican nationalism.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Paquette, Catha M.
Commitee: Proctor-Tiffany, Mariah, Howell, Jayne
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Art, School of
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 82/3(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Art history, Latin American history
Keywords: Indigenismo, Mexicanness, Mexico, Photography, Popular arts
Publication Number: 27834235
ISBN: 9798664789942
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