In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section From "National Culture" to the "National Popular" and the Andean Novel (1889-1950)

  • Introduction
  • Overview on “National Culture”
  • National Culture and the Andes
  • Overview of the National-Popular and the Andes
  • Other Venues of the National-Popular
  • The Other Venue of the National-Popular

Latin American Studies From "National Culture" to the "National Popular" and the Andean Novel (1889-1950)
Javier Sanjinés C.
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 October 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0229


Given the ideological relationship between literature—as practice and as discipline—and the organization of the Spanish-American nation states, it is surprising that—with notable exceptions—literary criticism dedicated to the study of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, did not place sufficient emphasis on the conflict around the construction of the “national culture” and the conflicts created by the “national-popular.” The concept of “national culture” is close to the idea of the “civic” nation, and the “national-popular,” a modernizing proposal, seeks to move beyond the national culture proposed by the criollo elites of the first two decades of the 20th century. Thus, the “national-popular” is of a different political-ideological cast: the drive to create a national democratic subject that was no longer able to continue circulating smoothly within the bourgeois liberal discourse that produced the “national culture.”

Overview on “National Culture”

Because this bibliographical article is concerned with the conflict the Andean novel posits in Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, between the liberal oligarchic national culture and the emergence in the first half of the 20th century of a middle class inclined to promote a revisionist “national-popular” project, the starting point should be the texts related to the nature of this disparity. National culture in the Andean cultural area (Rama 1974) looks to its post-independence origins to explore the consolidation of the modern state and the establishment of the liberal model. From this perspective, the project to organize the nation state can be identified among the hegemonic discourses. This is a “civic” project (Gellner 1983) because it derives from solidarity and the institutional uniqueness (legal and administrative) of the apparatus that presides over the organization of society. This magical-symbolic transplantation (of the state’s unifying quality to the homogenization of the nation) can be found in the dominant 19th-century projects—both liberal and conservative—as a key mechanism for controlling the state and establishing restricted democracies. A broader discussion of this argument can be found in Calhoun 2007, as well as in Anderson 1983.

  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflection on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1983.

    Hugely influential in the study of nationalism, Anderson’s often overlooked contribution is the idea of language as the nation’s most important cultural condition. His “imagined community” privileges language promoted by the “high culture” of local elites. Thus, and thanks to the printing press, high culture was able to permeate all the spaces of citizenship, and this is the secret to capitalism’s success.

  • Calhoun, Craig. Nations Matter: Culture, History, and the Cosmopolitan Dream. London: Routledge, 2007.

    DOI: 10.4324/9780203960899

    An excellent analysis of how the concepts of the civic nation and the ethnic nation should be considered critically if the aim is to transform and update the ideology of nationalism. This book is essential reading for undergraduate and postgraduate students looking for a clear explanation of nationalism, globalization, and cosmopolitanism.

  • Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Oxford: Blackwell, 1983.

    Gellner’s fundamental insight was that nationalism is not an effect of the nation but its essence. His approach places great emphasis on the civic nation, relating it to progress and development. His theory, which still influences developmentalist approaches, invariably pays greater attention to the factors of progress than to the “raw material” itself—that is to say, the rural masses undergoing change.

  • Rama, Ángel. “El área cultural andina” (Hispanismo, mesticismo e indigenismo). Cuadernos Americanos 97.6 (November–December 1974): 136–173.

    The late Uruguayan cultural critic calls the entire region of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador “the Andean cultural area,” attempting to find constant themes for the study of these cultures that are heavily influenced by indigenous culture.

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