Gabriel Lesser

Caricaturing the Nation: Race, Gender, Social Sciences, and Nation Building in Nineteenth-century Mexico and Brazil

Why do caricatures appear in 19th century scientific publications on race and gender? Why did social scientists write comical texts to share their findings? My research focuses on a genre of often-humorous newspaper chronicles, called costumbrista sketches, that describe the unique habits and features of the rural and urban poor in each country by categorizing them into “types.” The authors of these racially charged and highly gendered satirical sketches viewed themselves as pioneers in the emerging field of social sciences. I hope to show that caricatures and jokes about race and gender were thus more than silly banter, functioning as part of a broader elite project to educate the countries’ populations on emerging scientific discourses. My project will analyze the relationship between humor, caricatures, social sciences, and nation building in 19th century Brazil and Mexico.