Cultural productions of this period, such as Sarmiento’s (1868) Civilization and Barbarism were put into dialogue with international debates over the nature and place of ‘primitivism’ in a country undergoing transformation as a bourgeois and modern state.ii For Sarmiento and like minded intellectuals, progressive thought was sanctioned with moral concepts related to social intervention and ultimately, domination. Mastery of all things ‘natural’ and untamed included everything from domesticating the frontiers of the pampas; to the monitoring of an ever increasing and potentially dangerous underclass; and finally, universal management of hysterical behaviors by children, women, the infirm and insane.iii
Modernity in Argentina was not, and has never been, just a narrative about the progressive enlightenment of self-disciplined ‘citizens;’ it has always depended on the coercive re-ordering and management of ‘nature.’ Women, children and indigenous people were all classified within a hierarchical arrangement in varying distances from what it meant to be a fully realized human and individual citizen. The flexibility of ‘civilization’ narratives allowed for a knitting together of otherwise incompatible models of thought. Working toward the Arcadian arrival of a progressive, pacified, and rational social order, ‘civilization’ provided a powerful rallying point for Argentines. The convergence of territory and citizenry into a utopian patriotics of ‘Argentinidad’ was a specifically Argentine amalgamation of national cultural perspectives.
Integral to Argentina’s modernity was the authority of the Catholic Church.iv Perhaps the singularly most powerful institution dedicated to the inherency of colonial Argentina, the Church’s participation in the mission of modernity in the post-independence era, while not circumscribed as Modernist,