Eliot Spencer

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PhD Candidate

Major Field: Latin American History
Other Fields: 
Global History; the Atlantic World
John C. Chasteen

BA Grinnell College
MA University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2008
MA Thesis: “Reflecting the Outside World in Everyday Consumption: Material Culture and Identity in Late Nineteenth-century Urban Latin America”

Research Interests

My research focuses on Latin American material culture; more specifically, the political, economic, and sociocultural ramifications of imported material goods from the imperialist hegemons—particularly Europe and the United States—to Latin America from the end of the colonial period through the early twentieth century. These implications center on transnational flows of culture, what cultural theorists Fernando Ortíz and Mary Louise Pratt describe as “transculturation.”* The topic of material culture in Latin American history has attracted interest from the scholarly community. A survey of the literature indicates that anthropologists, economists, political scientists, sociologists, and cultural theorists have examined the impact of material culture in the region. Most of these scholars describe the impact of material goods on a society as real and intrinsic values of the items that one possesses or seeks to posses. The values that people, families, and communities attribute to specific material goods can have many different forms.

* Fernando Ortiz, “On the Social Phenomenon of ‘Transculturation’ and Its Importance in Cuba,” Cuban Counterpoint (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1995), 97–98; Mary Louise Pratt, “Criticism in the Contact Zone,” Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation (London & New York: Routledge, 1992), 6. Read more…

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