Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, University of Tennessee / Chattanooga

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Cornell University
An Ecology of Exile: Earth and Elsewhere in Argentina's Ushuaia Penal Colony (1860-1960)

My dissertation constructs an ecological history of Patagonia, one that is attentive to both environmental and social systems and scales. Patagonia has piqued popular imaginations since the 1525 publication of The Voyage of Magellan, and for nearly five hundred years, travelers from Darwin to Chatwin have traversed this mythic region. While their biographies and missions vary significantly, these traveler accounts have been reduced to a shared lexicon, rendering the region as empty and windswept. Ushuaia, the region's southernmost city, is marketed to tourists today as the "the end of the world," while Patagonia has become the quintessential "landscape of the imagination," a boundless region frozen in time. To complicate these narratives and re-imagine Patagonia, I focus on the Ushuaia Penal Colony in Tierra del Fuego. The prison operated from 1902 to 1947, though my project focuses more broadly from 1868 when a Patagonian penal colony was proposed in the senate, to 1960 when a national park was constructed adjacent to the then defunct prison. By investigating the social world of the penal colony and the complex infrastructure that sustained its operation, my project analyzes how Patagonia's southern terminus has been historically linked to and co-productive of state institutions, modern technologies, international economies, and ecological transformation. I examine journalist accounts, prison personnel correspondence, and local businesses and newspapers, but most importantly, I engage the writings of prisoners exiled to Ushuaia. These sources provide alternative understandings of the region and reveal a complex history that continues to be a footnote in Argentine historiographies. Unlike travelers who sought and continue to seek a Patagonian landscape prefigured by preexisting narratives, prisoners were forcibly sent there and assumed that exile would be their death. My project constructs a social and environmental history of Patagonia through their "exiled eyes."