IAS Thesis Award 2016

The International Association of Inter-American Studies is proud to announce the winner of the 2014-2016 IAS Thesis Award: Astrid Haas, “Lone Star Vistas: Constructions of Texas in U.S. American, Mexican, and German Travel Narratives, 1821-1861″ Post-Doctoral Thesis (Habilitationsschrift) in North American Literary and Cultural Studies, Department of Linguistics and               Literature, Bielefeld University, Germany.

The study analyzes narrative constructions of Texas as a geographic and social space from the de-facto independence of Mexico in 1821 to the beginning of the U.S. American Civil War in 1861 in selected works of Mexican, Anglo U.S. American, and German travel writing. Based on the premise that journey narratives about a given space actively contribute to the discursive construction of its landscapes and cultures, the examined case studies represent travelogues authored by members of the three major ethnic groups that journeyed to / through Texas and recorded their observations for posterity. Seen through the lens of the journey account, the thesis analyzes the contributions of a host of social actors—military and civilian scientists, colonization agents and emigrants, missionaries, officers’ wives, and journalists—to the public discourse about a region undergoing profound political, economic, and social changes. Discussing different types of travelogues, the study further formulates a poetics of the travel genre and renders hitherto little-discussed texts and text types more readily amenable for literary analysis.

The examined texts vary fundamentally in quantity, thematic scope, and purposes, de-pend¬ing on ethno-national background of their authors, sponsors, and target readers, on the one hand, and the purposes of the journeys depicted in the texts, on the other: The few exist-ing Mexican works are either official reports or private journals written by members of two military-scientific expeditions deployed to Mexican Texas. The larger body of German-authored accounts closely interacted with, and thereby played an active role in, the period’s German emigration wave to the region as well as the national debate about German overseas colonization efforts. The Anglo U.S. American narratives stand out for their greater variety of text types, subject matters, and socio-political agendas, even though they are largely united by their support for the Anglo Americanization of Texas and for U.S. territorial expansion. This body of texts in particular offered women a forum for contributing to national social, political, and economic discourses.
The thesis is situated at the intersection of transnational U.S. American and Inter-Ameri-can Studies and takes a literary critical approach to the study of (post-)colonialism, adapting the insights of postcolonial theory to the study of nineteenth-century North America. Arguing for the active role of narrative texts in acts of social and cultural meaning-making, the study examines how selected works of travel writing constructed Texas as a postcolonial colonial space and contributed to colonial discourses and practices through their labor of documenting the Anglo U.S. American, Mexican, and German involvement in colonization efforts in the Lone Star State and beyond. The texts illuminate individual and collective national views of scientific exploration, white migration and settlement, military engagement, the spreading of religious faith, and the circulation of information. In hinting at the consequence of these endeavors—the violent subjugation and removal of native nations and the marginalization of Blacks and Mexicans—the travelogues provide a springboard for a critical reflection on colonial discour¬ses and policies in general and on current tendencies in particular.
The thesis is currently being prepared for publication as a monograph. For the time being, it cannot be publicly accessed.

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