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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Post-partum nation: The Amazon myth and ideologies of reproduction in the conquest of the New World
by Habershon, Alexandra M., Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2006, 243; 3339907
Abstract (Summary)

This is a study in search of the meaning of the American Amazons. For over two thousand years, from Ancient Athens to the discovery of the New World, the ancient myth of a separatist nation of female warriors formed part of the discourses of alterity in the West. Amazons served as constant companions of imperial conquest, and as avatars of otherness according to an ontological matrix of difference that was both sexed and ethnological. Amazons resisted ideological accommodation because of this double alterity and because they existed beyond a line of separation that was both spatial (geographical isolation) and temporal (archaic origins).

The transposition of the myth to the New World has received scant critical attention. Amazons - who had appeared at the margins of so many territorial conflicts - have been relegated to the margins of Latin American scholarship. This study seeks to redress that gap. It examines the myth's incommensurability to the discourses that have been canonized as the intellectual genealogy of Europe's encounter with the New World. These canonical models of interpretation include "the cataloguing of the monstrous," the "rhetoric of wonder," and the discourse of savagery." This study focuses on continuities with classical and medieval representations of Amazons (Herodotus, Lysias, Marco Polo and Mandeville), and concludes that in the context of territorial conflict, the myth served as a procreative allegory for the reproduction of a social order and a body politic based on self-replication rather than as a parable for the 'war between the sexes' as is so frequently concluded by studies of the myth. Columbus's strange coupling of Cannibals and Amazons in the Antilles introduced sex as a fleetingly productive category of differentiation in the representation of the unknown. The reproductive practices of the Amazons of Matinino enabled Columbus to substitute the missing gold in his Journal with the procreative potential of Amazon and Cannibal bodies. And Gaspar de Carvajal's chronicle of Francisco de Orellana's discovery of a vast river passage of tremendous political and economic consequence brought the ancient myth to the forefront of contemporary political debates about territorial rights and personal gain.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Salles-Reese, Veronica
School: Georgetown University
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Latin American literature, Latin American history
Keywords: Alterity, Amazons, Carvajal, Gaspar de, Columbus, Christopher, New World, Orellana, Francisco de, Reproduction
Publication Number: 3339907
ISBN: 978-0-549-93955-9
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