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Adriana  Novoa

Adriana Novoa

Adriana Novoa
Associate Professor


Office: SOC 288
Phone: 813/974-2807
Fax: 974-6228



Adriana Novoa received her BA in History from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She did graduate work at the Instituto Di Tella under the supervision of Torcuato di Tella before going to the University of California, San Diego, where she completed her MA and PhD in Latin American History. She is a cultural historian whose specialty is science in Latin America, and with Alex Levine she has written a book about Darwinism in Argentina (From Man to Monkey, forthcoming from The University of Chicago Press). She is currently completing another manuscript on this topic, which treats the politics of evolutionism and its relationship to gender and race: Unclaimed Fright: Race, Masculinity and National Identity in Argentina, 1850-1910, and is also in the process of researching a new project about the cultural history of the idea of disappearance in Argentina. Dr. Novoa’s articles have been published in Journal of Latin American Studies, Science in Context, The Latinoamericanist, and Revista Hispánica Moderna, among others. Her classes deal with cultural conflict and identity formation in post-independence Latin America.


Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 1998


My courses cover a wide variety of historical subjects, ranging from national formation to present globalization, as well as such thematic complexes as gender, sports, science, film, and revolutionary politics. I am trained as a cultural historian, but my work is interdisciplinary in nature.

I created several courses that concentrated on the two crucial historical periods that offered students the clearest opportunity to establish connections with the more familiar paths of European and US historical development. One set of courses deals with the period of nation formation in the nineteenth century, the other with the culture of the 1960s, when revolutionary anti-imperialism produced an extraordinary number of artistic and literary works addressing such issues as cultural agency and nationalism. Tracing the legacy of the sixties, the latter courses examine events leading to the present, following the trajectories of such ideological forces as populism. By studying the process of identity formation, modernism, or the different conceptions of national culture, students are able to conceptually absorb the study of a new area at an appropriate upper division level, in spite of their diverse disciplinary interests and lack of background in Latin America. Approaching the understanding of Latin America through concepts with which most students were familiar (identity, revolution, modernism, modernization, globalization, etc.), helped them to transcend their perceived distance from the subject.

My goals in undergraduate teaching are: (first) to provide students with a conceptual approach that helps them to view Latin American history and culture in a wider perspective favoring comparisons with other areas, such as Europe and the United States, and (second) to provide students with analytical and writing skills that will serve them beyond their college years. My courses encourage and facilitate discussion through daily opportunities to exchange ideas as well as designated exchanges over historiographical debates.

In teaching graduate students, I emphasize the study of historiography as the result of different cultural perspectives. Within the seminars, I expect every student to be an active part of the discussion according to the different interests that each person might have. Students are expected to discussing arguments, evaluate their effectiveness, as well incorporating the weekly readings into their own work in order to develop a relevant research topic. My interaction with students has allowed some of them to turn their research into published articles.


My research is organized around these areas:

• Science and culture in late nineteenth-century Argentina and Latin America.
• Gender / Literature and Film.

Science and Culture in the Late Nineteenth Century

I have been researching the history and culture of late nineteenth century Argentina for quite a long time, a fact that it is not surprising since this is arguably the most studied period in the historiography of the country. My early purpose was focused on the need to clarify the interaction between science and culture, and the actual meaning of Positivism, the dominant ideology that articulated social and cultural views not only in Argentina, but throughout Latin America. My concern was that under the umbrella of Positivism there were hidden important relationships that explained the particular turn that European ideas took in this region. As a result of my research I started my collaboration with Alex Levine, a philosopher of science. Our research ended in the publication of two books, and one article together. Their main contribution is that they provide a new understanding of the culture of Argentina in the second half of the nineteenth century, drawing on the spread and adaptation of evolutionism and its reliance on analogies, showing the full extent of Darwin’s influence. In this way, Positivism, particularly in its Spencerian vein, may be seen as a way to incorporate Darwinian ideas into a political and social plan that restored the centrality of progress and the continuity of an intellectual tradition threatened by this new conception of evolution. We also gathered sources from different countries, and in different languages, in order to show the complexity of the influences that were important in Argentina, in an effort to integrate scholarship from different areas into a dialogue with each other. We intended this collaboration as a way to show the relevance that Latin American ideas have to understanding scientific thought in general, and the way in which science interacts with culture.

Gender / Literature and Film

Another area of my research has uncovered cultural discourses of gender, a topic that has enriched, and been enriched by my recent forays into nineteenth century science. Since the naturalist literature of the late nineteenth century introduced and used many of scientific analogies related to mating and sexuality I tried to demonstrate how the meanings of the central terms of these analogies changed over time. In my work I have also tried to show how the analogies that were important in the spreading of Darwinism help us to understand the naturalization of racial and gender ideas in the texts of writers inspired by science.

Women’s writing was an early interest of mine, and my concentration in this area led me to do research on film. I have tried to contribute on the intersection of gender- and film studies, offering a feminist perspective that dissects the important, and often confusing role hybridity plays in contemporary narratives.

Current Research

I am now in the process of finishing a book manuscript on masculinity and Darwinism in Argentina. I expect my next project to be on the culture of disappearance in this same country. This will be an attempt to analyze how an aesthetic of invisibility was related to modernity from the 1870’s to the 1970’s.

In addition, I have been working on two articles on contemporary film, one on the remarkable absence of the father figure in contemporary filmmaking, and another about the role of the father and obedience in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). I am also researching material for two articles on the influence of the work of Ernst Hackel and Henri Bergson in Latin America.

Specialty Area

Modern Argentina, Science in Latin America, Race and Gender in Latin America.