In modern Latin America, profound social inequalities have persisted despite the promise of equality.  1999 IDRF Fellow Nara B. Milanich argues that social and legal practices surrounding family and kinship have helped produce and sustain these inequalities. Tracing families both elite and plebeian in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Chile, she focuses on a group largely invisible in Latin American historiography: children. Milanich pays particular attention to family law, arguing that liberal legal reforms wrought in the 1850s, which left the paternity of illegitimate children purposely unrecorded, reinforced not only patriarchal power but also hierarchies of class. Through vivid stories culled from judicial and notarial sources and from a cache of documents found in the closet of a Santiago orphanage, she reveals how law and bureaucracy helped create an anonymous underclass bereft of kin entitlements, dependent on the charity of others, and marginalized from public bureaucracies. Children of Fate explores such themes as paternity, illegitimacy, kinship, and child circulation over the course of eighty years of Chile’s modern history and demonstrates how the study of children can illuminate the social organization of gender and class, liberalism, law, and state power in modern Latin America.  Buy it at Amazon.

Publication Details

The Children of Fate: Families, Class, and the State in Chile, 1800-1930
Milanich, Nara
Duke University / Duke University Press
Publish Date
Milanich, Nara, The Children of Fate: Families, Class, and the State in Chile, 1800-1930 (Duke University / Duke University Press, 2009).