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Greenleaf Scholar Explores Sex, Beauty, and Success in 19th Century Venezuela

The Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII) and University Libraries announce a presentation with Dr. Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols, Chair of the Department of Languages and Professor of Spanish at Drury University. Nichols will present on "Sex, Beauty and Success: Productive Heterosexuality, Good Hair and Learning to be Decente in 19th Century Venezuela" on Thursday, January 15, 2015, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. in the Zimmerman Library Waters Room. For reference, please see the event flyer.

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Nichols is one of this year's LAII Greenleaf Visiting Library Scholars, a designation supported by a generous gift to the LAII from Dr. Richard E. Greenleaf. The gift provides faculty and graduate students the opportunity to visit the University of New Mexico (UNM) to work with one of the largest and most complete Latin American library collections in the United States.

While at UNM, Nichols is focusing on the Ibarra collection, a unique resource which makes available to the scholarly community a rare and unusual collection of documents from one of Caracas' leading families, thereby offering a novel glimpse into 18th, 19th, and 20th century Venezuelan history and politics.

The Ibarra collection, particularly the personal papers and poetry of Sra. Mercedes Mutiz de Ibarra, will be used to aid Nichols as she identifies new evidence of both forces of enculturation that helped shape societal understanding of the link between social class, race, and productive sexuality as well as the expression of those women who understood and lived those lessons.

Nichols has been working in the field of Venezuelan literature and women's studies for fifteen years. Her current research investigates the construction of social norms of physical beauty in Venezuela and Latin America generally, with particular attention to visual and written representations of the forces of enculturation that define and set the boundaries for those norms. She is the co-author of an introduction to Venezuela titled Venezuela, and numerous book chapters and articles, including: "Decent Girls with Good Hair: Beauty, Morality and Race in Venezuela" in Feminist Theory, "Taking Possession of Public Discourse: Women and the Practice of Political Poetry in Venezuela" in Bottom Up or Top Down? Participation and Clientelism in Venezuela's Bolivarian Democracy and "Virgin Venuses: Beauty and Purity for 'Public' Women in Venezuela" and "Ultra Feminine Women of Power: Beauty and the State in Argentina" in Women, Politics and Media in Emerging Democracies.

Image: Photograph of Sra. Mercedes Mutis de Ibarra, ca. 1800, reprinted from the Ibarra collection. Underlying map provided by Agustín Codazzi, taken from "Atlas físico y político de la República de Venezuela", 1840.

--Posted Friday, January 9, 2015.