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Ph.D. Candidate Francis Goicovich publishes book on history of Chile's Mocha Island, studies indigenous Mapuche in Chile

Posted: August 13, 2013
Mr. Goicovich, and the cover of his book

Mr. Goicovich, and the cover of his book "De Insulares a continentales: La historia de los mochanos desde los origenes hasta su desintegracion social en la misión de San Jose de la Mocha"

Francis Goicovich is among the History department's most promising graduate students. His research interest focuses on issues relating to the indigenous Mapuche culture, the most important ethnic group in Chile. Consolidating and improving on his previous works, Francis’s dissertation positions the Mapuche issue in an interregional dialogue that incorporates other historical contexts whose experiences influenced each other in the colonial days. He studies the role played by the Spanish-Indian diplomacy in Chichimeca, Guaraní, and Mapuche, as a means of indigenous resistance and intercultural coexistence through the 16th and 18th centuries.

According to Francis’s adviser, Dr. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, the project is an effort to reshape the historiography of “frontiers” in the Americas. Dr. Cañizares-Esguerra explains that traditional scholarship has cast the “borderlands” as a space in which neither Native Americans nor Europeans held monopoly over violence, and thus, state power. The literature says that Native Americans pitted various competing European powers against each other to advance their agendas vis-à-vis other hostile neighboring Indian nations. Europeans, in turn, stimulated interethnic indigenous conflict to gain allies in their ongoing inter-imperial scuffles in the Americas. Thus, the borderlands became chronically violent spaces characterized by both ongoing conflict and cross-cultural alliances. The historiography claims that the Spanish borderlands witnessed a transformation in the eighteenth century as the Bourbon enacted reforms inspired by Enlightenment thought. In the wake of the reforms, army officials replaced missionaries as the preferred brokers, using trade, gifting, and warfare to deal with Native Americans who, in turn, came to be treated as sovereign polities. In short, Spaniards, sought to imitate the frontier practices of the more "advanced" French and British empires: friars and missions gave way to armies and trade as Spaniards belatedly recognized frontier Amerindians as sovereign nations, not potential converts and subordinates.

Dr Cañizares-Esguerra emphasizes that Francis’s dissertation questions this model on various levels by suggesting that the alleged new practices of the Spanish Enlightenment and the Bourbon Reforms in the borderlands were, in fact, first introduced in the late 16th and early 17th centuries by frustrated Spanish officials, incapable of imposing their will on the Amerindians everywhere. According to Francis, the notion of borderland negotiation between two sovereign policies, European and indigenous, was a hallmark of the Spanish American Baroque, not the British and the French Enlightenment. He argues that Baroque rituals of negotiation were first introduced by Spanish armies and bureaucrats in the Mexican north and the Chilean south as well as by the Jesuits in Paraguay. The New-Spanish model of convivencia, in turn, was exported to other regions of the hemisphere, including the Araucania in Chile, where Spanish forces repeatedly failed to defeat the Mapuches.  These practices were later adopted by the French and British imperial administrators, not the other way around. “Francis, therefore, stands the history of the borderlands on its head,” Dr. Cañizares-Esguerra says.

Francis was born in Chile and completed a bachelor degree in History and Archaeology at the University of Chile. After realizing that only an interdisciplinary training would allow him to fully understand the complex dimensions of history and culture, he proceeded to obtain a masters degree in Ethnohistory at the same university. He has published more over 20 papers in Chile, Argentina, and the United States, as well as an interdisciplinary book, De Insulares a continentales: La historia de los mochanos desde los origenes hasta su desintegracion social en la misión de San Jose de la Mocha, which came out in 2008. The book, which Francis coauthored with Daniel Quiroz traces the history of an indigenous Mapuche community on an island off the coast of central Chile that was persuaded to move to the continent to be converted in missions in the mid-17th century. Tragically, once in missions, the Mocha eventually disappeared. According to Dr. Cañizares-Esguerra, “this is a book that shows Francis’s many talents: he deftly reconstructs the millenarian history of the Mocha islanders using archeological evidence; in the last chapters he offers a sharp ethno historical study of the Mocha under Catholic missionary rule.” Adding to his impressive scholarly pursuits, Francis has also built a successful teaching career since he won an Assistant Professor position at the University of Chile’s History Department in 2001.

Francis continued his graduate studies at UT Austin after he was awarded a Fulbright fellowship. He says that even though he was able to choose between a number of prestigious universities’ offers, he was attracted to UT because of the excellent reputation of its Latin American history program and the Benson Library, which he calls “a gold mine for scholars of the Americas, where I have had access to books untraceable in my own country.” “Here I have lived one of the most enriching experiences in my professional training, both for the quality of professors, the excellent level of my classmates, and the infrastructure and resources that supports the daily work of scholars and students,” Francis shares.

His successful development as a scholar continued in Texas. He has been the recipient of the History Department Research Travel Grant, the College of Liberal Arts Graduate Research Fellowship, the Fulbright-Laspau Summer Field Research Grant, the Tinker Field Research Grant, the Departmental Dissertation Fellowship, and the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship (SSRC-IDRF). The SSRC-IDRF, in particular, gave him the opportunity to visit libraries, archives and museums in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Mexico and Spain during the 2011-2012 academic year. An outstanding young scholar, Francis has accomplished a lot thanks to his hard work and dedication, or as he puts it, “With effort everything is possible, because as the ancients said, labor omnia vincit (Labor conquers all).”

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Related:

Follow Francis Goicovich and his work at Academia.edu:
http://utexas.academia.edu/FrancisGoicovich

Francis Goicovich's Assistant Professor home page and CV, The University of Chile
http://www.filosofia.uchile.cl/departamento-de-ciencias-historicas/51371/profesor-francis-goicovic-videla

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