Inventing Indigenism
232 pages, 7 x 10
Release Date:21 Dec 2021

Inventing Indigenism

Francisco Laso's Image of Modern Peru

University of Texas Press

One of the outstanding painters of the nineteenth century, Francisco Laso (1823–1869) set out to give visual form to modern Peru. His solemn and still paintings of indigenous subjects were part of a larger project, spurred by writers and intellectuals actively crafting a nation in the aftermath of independence from Spain. In this book, at once an innovative account of modern indigenism and the first major monograph on Laso, Natalia Majluf explores the rise of the image of the Indian in literature and visual culture. Reading Laso’s works through a broad range of sources, Majluf traces a decisive break in a long history of representations of indigenous peoples that began with the Spanish conquest. She ties this transformation to the modern concept of culture, which redefined both the artistic field and the notion of indigeneity. As an abstraction produced through indigenist discourse, an icon of authenticity, and a densely racialized cultural construct, the Indian would emerge as a central symbol of modern Andean nationalisms.

Beautifully illustrated, Inventing Indigenism brings the work and influence of this extraordinary painter to the forefront as it offers a broad perspective on the dynamics of art and visual culture in nineteenth-century Latin America.

As an examination of race, identity, visual culture, literature, and politics in nineteenth-century Peru, Inventing Indigenism is an important addition to the literature on Latin American art, and will be a pioneering text in the field, setting the stage for future scholarship on the region. Michele Greet, George Mason University, author of Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris between the Wars, 1918–1939
Natalia Majluf has gifted us with a brilliant and innovative study of one of the nineteenth century’s most original artists: Francisco Laso. As the peasant and worker were key subjects for Courbet and Millet in France, the Indian and race were Laso’s primary focus in Peru. Majluf carefully combines analysis of Laso’s hauntingly beautiful paintings, such as the Inhabitant of the Cordilleras of Peru, with the formation of Peru’s national identity and the concept of the 'Indian'--later to become ‘Indigenism.’ Thomas B.F. Cummins, Harvard University, director of Dumbarton Oaks, coeditor of Sacred Matters: Animacy and Authority in the Americas
Inventing Indigenism adeptly explores the evolving discourse of modern indigenism in nineteenth-century Peru and intelligently asserts that Francisco Laso’s majestic Inhabitant of the Cordilleras of Peru emerges out of cultural discourses of modernity. Majluf argues that Laso’s Inhabitant is the result of an intellectual project that constructs the first representation of a modern Indian, an idealized symbol of the Indian as nation. As a Creole elite with an upbringing in political and intellectual circles, Laso was invested in building a collective national imaginary through his paintings of indigenous people and traditions. For students and scholars alike, this book markedly advances the scholarship on nineteenth-century Latin American art. Mey-Yen Moriuchi, La Salle University, author of Mexican Costumbrismo: Race, Society, and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Art
Natalia Majluf is an art historian and curator based in Lima, Peru. She is the Tinker visiting professor at the University of Chicago Fall 2021.
  • A Note on the Text
  • Preface
  • Introduction
    • Francisco Laso: A Republican Biography
    • Indigenism’s National Imaginaries
    • From Society, into Painting, and Back
    • Precedents: A Short History of the Indian—Concept and Image
  • 1. The Indian: Image of the Nation
    • A Local Antiquity
    • Idealization
    • Painting’s Critical Function
    • Gonzalo Pizarro: The Scene of Conquest and the Spanish Legacy
    • The Indian as Cultural Concept
    • Creole Failures
    • The Indian as Allegory and Symbol
  • 2. The Scene of Approximation
    • The Country of Melancholy: The Creole Invention of the Andean World
    • Melancholy’s Modern Transformations
    • An Andean Legend: The Burial of the Priest
    • The Inscrutable Indian
    • The Rhetoric of Approximation: The Pascana Series
    • A Critical Fortune of Racial Readings
    • Reading Race: The Role of the Viewer
    • The Construction of the Indian Image
  • 3. Picturing Race
    • Impossible Images
    • The Elusive Indian
  • Epilogue: Personal Narratives, Public Images
  • Chronology
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
Find what you’re looking for...

Free shipping on Canadian orders over $40

Stay Informed

Receive the latest UBC Press news, including events, catalogues, and announcements.

Read past newsletters
Current Catalogue
Fall 2021 catalogue cover with a gradient background
Publishers Represented
UBC Press is the Canadian agent for several international publishers. Visit our Publishers Represented page to learn more.