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Deviant and Useful Citizens
The Cultural Production of the Female Body in Eighteenth-Century Peru

Author(s): Mariselle Melendez

Deviant and Useful Citizens explores the conditions of women and perceptions of the female body in the eighteenth century throughout the Viceroyalty of Peru, which until 1776 comprised modern-day Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. Mariselle Melendez introduces the reader to a female rebel, Micaela Bastidas, whose brutal punishment became a particularly harsh example of state response to women who challenged the system. She explores the cultural representation of women depicted as economically productive and vital to the health of the culture at large. The role of women in religious orders provides still another window into the vital need to sustain the image of women as loyal and devout -- and to deal with women who refused to comply.

The book focuses on the different ways male authorities, as well as female subjects, conceived the female body as deeply connected to notions of what constituted a useful or deviant citizen within the Viceroyalty. Using eighteenth-century legal documents, illustrated chronicles, religious texts, and newspapers, Mariselle Melendez explores in depth the representation of the female body in periods of political, economic, and religious crisis to determine how it was conceived within certain contexts.

Deviant and Useful Citizens presents a highly complex society that relied on representations of utility and productivity to understand the female body, as it reveals the surprisingly large stake that colonial authorities had in defining the status of women during a crucial time in South American history.

Biography of Author(s)

Mariselle Melendez is Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is co-editor of Mapping Colonial Spanish America.


  • Melendez's book is definitely interesting, creatively researched, and clearly written.
    --The Americas
  • "The writing is clear despite the complexity of the subject and should appeal to Andeanists, colonialists, and women and gender scholars."
    --Hispanic American Historical Review
  • "Melendez offers important information about and insight into issues about women and gender in eighteenth-century Peru"
    --Magali Carrera, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, author of Imagining Identity in New Spain