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Domesticating Empire
Enlightenment in Spanish America

Author(s): Karen Stolley

Why has the work of writers in eighteenth-century Latin America been forgotten? During the eighteenth century, enlightened thinkers in Spanish territories in the Americas engaged in lively exchanges with their counterparts in Europe and Anglo-America about a wide range of topics of mutual interest, responding in the context of increasing racial and economic diversification. Yet despite recent efforts to broaden our understanding of the global Enlightenment, the Ibero-American eighteenth century has often been overlooked.

Through the work of five authors--Jose de Oviedo y Banos, Juan Ignacio Molina, Felix de Azara, Catalina de Jesus Herrera, and Jose Martin Felix de Arrate--Domesticating Empire explores the Ibero-American Enlightenment as a project that reflects both key Enlightenment concerns and the particular preoccupations of Bourbon Spain and its territories in the Americas. At a crucial moment in Spain's imperial trajectory, these authors domesticate topics central to empire--conquest, Indians, nature, God, and gold--by making them familiar and utilitarian. As a result, their works later proved resistant to overarching schemes of Latin American literary history and have been largely forgotten. Nevertheless, eighteenth-century Ibero-American writing complicates narratives about both the Enlightenment and Latin American cultural identity.

Biography of Author(s)

Karen Stolley is Professor of Spanish at Emory University and author of El lazarillo de ciegos caminantes.


  • "The author's thoughtful analyses and exhaustive documentation make this a required resource on the Spanish American and global Enlightenment. [...] Highly recommended."
  • "Domesticating Empire is a singular effort to unwind the stereotypes, myths, and misgivings about the Hispanic Enlightenment which have circulated since the Franco era. This ambitious volume is a bracing corrective for those scholars, students, and lay persons who have assumed that nothing of interest or importance happened in Latin America during the 18th century."
    --Ruth Hill, Vanderbilt University, author of Hierarchy, Commerce, and Fraud in Bourbon Spanish America
  • "A wide-ranging treatment of eighteenth-century Spanish American writing that recovers the literary-historical significance of the Spanish American Enlightenment."
    --Ralph Bauer, University of Maryland, author of The Cultural Geography of Colonial American Literatures