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  • Children of Fate: Childhood, Class, and the State in Chile, 1850–1930

    Author(s): Nara Milanich, Nara B. Milanich
    Published: 2009
    Pages: 376
    Illustrations: 16 illustrations, 1 map
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    978-0-8223-4574-9
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    978-0-8223-4557-2
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  • Illustrations and Tables  ix
    Acknowledgments  xi
    Introduction: State, Class Society, and Children in Chile  1
    I. Children and Strangers: Filiation in Law and Practice  
    1. The Civil Code and the Liberalization of Kinship  41
    2. Paternity, Childhood, and the Making of Class  70
    II. Children of Don Nobody: Kinship and Social Hierarchy  
    3. Kindred and Kinless: The People without History  103
    4. Birthrights: Natal Dispossession and the State  128
    III. Other Peoples' Children: The Politics of Child Circulation  
    5. Vernacular Kinships in the Shadow of the State  157
    6. Child Bondage in the Liberal Republic  183
    Epilogue: Young Marginals at the Centenary: One Hundred Years of Huachos  216
    Appendix  239
    Abbreviations  245
    Glossary  247
    Notes  249
    Bibliography  309
    Index  333
  • Winner, Society for the History of Children and Youth’s Best Book Prize

  • Children of Fate will be a point of reference in the history of childhood in Latin America and beyond, not only because of its skillful interweaving of laws and forgotten lives, but also because of the eloquent balance struck between social and legal histories and private and public relations. It is accessible without being simplistic, adventuresome without leading the reader somewhere very obscure. While the historiography is specific to Chile, the book has something for most scholars of Latin American history. It can also be read alongside the most debated writings on the history of European childhood.” — Tobias Hecht, Journal of Social History

    “Nara Milanich’s Children of Fate is a fascinating study of the central role that family relations and kinship have played in Chilean society. Through a very extensive analysis of judicial cases, notarial records, and archival materials from the Casa de Huerfanos, she shows how illegitimate children and their mothers navigated a changing and complex legal world, looking for a place in a society formally and informally defined by family and class hierarchies.... Children of Fateprovides a very engaging analysis of Chilean history through the lens of children and family, redefining our understanding of this critical historical period.” — Angela Vergara, Canadian Journal of History

    "Through a study of deeply rooted sociocultural structures . . . , Children of Fate seeks to understand how inequality has been produced, reproduced and perpetuated over time, resisting the cycles of economic growth and public policies that would supposedly end it. . . . Children of Fate stands out . . . for the importance of its subject and for contributing to a necessary and urgent discussion in Chilean society, reminding us that reducing social inequality cannot be left to economic growth but requires a cultural change that . . . even today has yet to materialize."
    Pablo Whipple, A Contracorriente

    “In this beautifully written and well-crafted book, Nara B. Milanich convincingly argues that the family served as the nexus for class formation in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Chile. . . . [T]his study makes a major contribution to the burgeoning historiography of children in Latin America. In addition, Children of Fate should become required reading for students of class and state formation beyond Latin America.” — Robert Alegre, Labour/Le Travail

    “In Children of Fate, Milanich provides a richly textured study of childhood
    and filiation in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chile that culls important stories from new archives and analyzes the liberal state’s role in ‘generating kinlessness.’. . . The resulting study provides an insightful and often heart-rending account of the vicissitudes of children without parents—and adults without kin—in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chile.”
    Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

    Children of Fate is a remarkable historical account of the intertwining of family law, vernacular kinship practices, and class in late-19th-century Chile.” — Clara Han, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

    "Children of Fate is a social history of childhood . . . but this is not its only object of study . . . Milanich contributes to an understanding of Chilean state formation and the organization of civil society."
    Francisca Rengifo S., Revista de Historia Iberoamericana

    “With Children of Fate—a book that is thoroughly researched, insightfully argued, and beautifully written—Nara Milanich makes a compelling case for how attention to children can illuminate two issues central to the broader historiography of modern Latin America. . . . Children of Fate is a pathbreaking book that deserves a wide readership.” — Sarah C. Chambers, Journal of Family History

    “This richly researched and closely argued study by Nara Milanich examines the experiences of children from 1850 to 1930 to reveal how Chile’s liberal state, premised on individual equality before the law, produced inequality. . . . Most importantly, Milanich makes it clear that the history of childhood permeates metahistorical questions about social and cultural change and class and state formation and lies at the heart of the answers.” — Ann S. Blum, Hispanic American Historical Review

    “This book is a major contribution to the field of Latin American childhood studies that emerged in the 1990s, as well as to studies of family history, gender, and the state. Scholarly, well-researched, and provocative, it is also well-written, engaging, and easy to read. Milanich weaves together her themes of childhood, kinship, family, class, inequality, and the state spectacularly well. Her discussion of the way in which the Chilean state reflected and upheld graduations of class and how this shaped both the life experiences of being a child and expectations about children is truly commendable.” — Jean B. Grugel, Bulletin of Latin American Research

    “Nara Milanich has written a smart, innovative book about children in republican Chile that is sure to become a benchmark in several fields of Latin American history. Children of Fate will be of special interest to scholars of the modern period because it is among the first English-language books to identify itself with the ‘history of childhood’ genre. . . . It blazes through diverse sources such as lawsuits, wills, orphanage records, and genealogical albums to expose the gap in elite constructions between children defined as kin, who inherited status, and the rest — the kinless, rootless, and illegitimate. . . . By exploring how some children were counted as kin and some were not, Milanich makes it clear that historians’ neglect of children as a topic has impoverished our understanding of how class was made and remade in modern Latin America.” — Bianca Premo, Labor

    “[Children of Fate] proved to be a fascinating and well documented investigation on how civil law in Chile handled the problem of poor, marginalized, illegitimate children during an 80 year period of modern history.” — Nancy Thomas, Mil Gracias Blog

    “Milanich has written a fascinating and historically dramatic work that elegantly blends narrative and analysis. She places her study in a welcome comparative context that encompasses Latin America and the North Atlantic. . . . Children of Fate is an indispensable and original work that opens up a fundamental problem relating to the relationship between the family, class and the state in the liberal era. Its very originality drives forward a debate in which it will be an obligatory reference.” — Sol Serrano, Journal of Latin American Studies

    “Nara B. Milanich’s engaging study of filiation, class, and the state in republican Chile represents a significant contribution to this literature. Her
    detailed and well-researched study will be of value to scholars of family law and childhood as well as those interested in the relationships among liberalism, patriarchy, and the reproduction of class and social hierarchy
    in nineteenth-century Chile.” — Christine Ehrick, American Historical Review

    “Nara Milanch’s complex and engaging book, Children of Fate, analyzes the intersections between the history of childhood and the formation of the liberal state in Chile from the 1850s to 1930. . . . Milanich sets up an ambitious task for herself. . . . She accomplishes it beautifully. . . . Children of Fate is a model for future historical scholarship on childhood in Latin America.” — Eileen M. Ford, H-Childhood, H-Net Reviews

    “[A] groundbreaking study of the ways in which cultural, social, and legal constructs defining family and kinship produced and propagated social hierarchy and socioeconomic inequality. . . . This book makes an important contribution to a relatively scant body of historical work on family, class, and the state in pre-1930s Chile. . . . Milanich’s study is also commendable for its
    effective use of a difficult and fragmented source set spread over several cities and institutions.” — Alison J. Bruey, History

    Awards

  • Winner, Society for the History of Children and Youth’s Best Book Prize

  • Reviews

  • Children of Fate will be a point of reference in the history of childhood in Latin America and beyond, not only because of its skillful interweaving of laws and forgotten lives, but also because of the eloquent balance struck between social and legal histories and private and public relations. It is accessible without being simplistic, adventuresome without leading the reader somewhere very obscure. While the historiography is specific to Chile, the book has something for most scholars of Latin American history. It can also be read alongside the most debated writings on the history of European childhood.” — Tobias Hecht, Journal of Social History

    “Nara Milanich’s Children of Fate is a fascinating study of the central role that family relations and kinship have played in Chilean society. Through a very extensive analysis of judicial cases, notarial records, and archival materials from the Casa de Huerfanos, she shows how illegitimate children and their mothers navigated a changing and complex legal world, looking for a place in a society formally and informally defined by family and class hierarchies.... Children of Fateprovides a very engaging analysis of Chilean history through the lens of children and family, redefining our understanding of this critical historical period.” — Angela Vergara, Canadian Journal of History

    "Through a study of deeply rooted sociocultural structures . . . , Children of Fate seeks to understand how inequality has been produced, reproduced and perpetuated over time, resisting the cycles of economic growth and public policies that would supposedly end it. . . . Children of Fate stands out . . . for the importance of its subject and for contributing to a necessary and urgent discussion in Chilean society, reminding us that reducing social inequality cannot be left to economic growth but requires a cultural change that . . . even today has yet to materialize."
    Pablo Whipple, A Contracorriente

    “In this beautifully written and well-crafted book, Nara B. Milanich convincingly argues that the family served as the nexus for class formation in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Chile. . . . [T]his study makes a major contribution to the burgeoning historiography of children in Latin America. In addition, Children of Fate should become required reading for students of class and state formation beyond Latin America.” — Robert Alegre, Labour/Le Travail

    “In Children of Fate, Milanich provides a richly textured study of childhood
    and filiation in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chile that culls important stories from new archives and analyzes the liberal state’s role in ‘generating kinlessness.’. . . The resulting study provides an insightful and often heart-rending account of the vicissitudes of children without parents—and adults without kin—in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Chile.”
    Elizabeth Quay Hutchison, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

    Children of Fate is a remarkable historical account of the intertwining of family law, vernacular kinship practices, and class in late-19th-century Chile.” — Clara Han, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review

    "Children of Fate is a social history of childhood . . . but this is not its only object of study . . . Milanich contributes to an understanding of Chilean state formation and the organization of civil society."
    Francisca Rengifo S., Revista de Historia Iberoamericana

    “With Children of Fate—a book that is thoroughly researched, insightfully argued, and beautifully written—Nara Milanich makes a compelling case for how attention to children can illuminate two issues central to the broader historiography of modern Latin America. . . . Children of Fate is a pathbreaking book that deserves a wide readership.” — Sarah C. Chambers, Journal of Family History

    “This richly researched and closely argued study by Nara Milanich examines the experiences of children from 1850 to 1930 to reveal how Chile’s liberal state, premised on individual equality before the law, produced inequality. . . . Most importantly, Milanich makes it clear that the history of childhood permeates metahistorical questions about social and cultural change and class and state formation and lies at the heart of the answers.” — Ann S. Blum, Hispanic American Historical Review

    “This book is a major contribution to the field of Latin American childhood studies that emerged in the 1990s, as well as to studies of family history, gender, and the state. Scholarly, well-researched, and provocative, it is also well-written, engaging, and easy to read. Milanich weaves together her themes of childhood, kinship, family, class, inequality, and the state spectacularly well. Her discussion of the way in which the Chilean state reflected and upheld graduations of class and how this shaped both the life experiences of being a child and expectations about children is truly commendable.” — Jean B. Grugel, Bulletin of Latin American Research

    “Nara Milanich has written a smart, innovative book about children in republican Chile that is sure to become a benchmark in several fields of Latin American history. Children of Fate will be of special interest to scholars of the modern period because it is among the first English-language books to identify itself with the ‘history of childhood’ genre. . . . It blazes through diverse sources such as lawsuits, wills, orphanage records, and genealogical albums to expose the gap in elite constructions between children defined as kin, who inherited status, and the rest — the kinless, rootless, and illegitimate. . . . By exploring how some children were counted as kin and some were not, Milanich makes it clear that historians’ neglect of children as a topic has impoverished our understanding of how class was made and remade in modern Latin America.” — Bianca Premo, Labor

    “[Children of Fate] proved to be a fascinating and well documented investigation on how civil law in Chile handled the problem of poor, marginalized, illegitimate children during an 80 year period of modern history.” — Nancy Thomas, Mil Gracias Blog

    “Milanich has written a fascinating and historically dramatic work that elegantly blends narrative and analysis. She places her study in a welcome comparative context that encompasses Latin America and the North Atlantic. . . . Children of Fate is an indispensable and original work that opens up a fundamental problem relating to the relationship between the family, class and the state in the liberal era. Its very originality drives forward a debate in which it will be an obligatory reference.” — Sol Serrano, Journal of Latin American Studies

    “Nara B. Milanich’s engaging study of filiation, class, and the state in republican Chile represents a significant contribution to this literature. Her
    detailed and well-researched study will be of value to scholars of family law and childhood as well as those interested in the relationships among liberalism, patriarchy, and the reproduction of class and social hierarchy
    in nineteenth-century Chile.” — Christine Ehrick, American Historical Review

    “Nara Milanch’s complex and engaging book, Children of Fate, analyzes the intersections between the history of childhood and the formation of the liberal state in Chile from the 1850s to 1930. . . . Milanich sets up an ambitious task for herself. . . . She accomplishes it beautifully. . . . Children of Fate is a model for future historical scholarship on childhood in Latin America.” — Eileen M. Ford, H-Childhood, H-Net Reviews

    “[A] groundbreaking study of the ways in which cultural, social, and legal constructs defining family and kinship produced and propagated social hierarchy and socioeconomic inequality. . . . This book makes an important contribution to a relatively scant body of historical work on family, class, and the state in pre-1930s Chile. . . . Milanich’s study is also commendable for its
    effective use of a difficult and fragmented source set spread over several cities and institutions.” — Alison J. Bruey, History

  • Children of Fate is truly original, with an extraordinary level of insight and analysis. Nara B. Milanich shows how class identity was manipulated by the liberal state in a way that maintained hierarchies, and she illustrates her arguments with rich examples gleaned from extensive archival research. A brilliant, first-rate book.”—Elizabeth Kuznesof, author of Household Economy and Urban Development: Sao Paulo, 1765 to 1836

    Children of Fate tells a thoroughly engrossing, emotionally moving story about children in Latin American history. Nara B. Milanich’s extremely powerful and original arguments about family, law, class relations, and state formation in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Latin America have major ramifications for rethinking Latin American social and labor history and will undoubtedly help reshape the agenda of future social and political history in the field.”—Heidi Tinsman, author of Partners in Conflict: The Politics of Gender, Sexuality, and Labor in the Chilean Agrarian Reform, 1950-1973

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  • Description

    In modern Latin America, profound social inequalities have persisted despite the promise of equality. 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. The concept of family constituted a crucial dimension of an individual’s identity and status, but also denoted a privileged set of gendered and generational dependencies that not all people could claim. Children of Fate explores such themes as paternity, illegitimacy, kinship, and child circulation over the course of eighty years of Chile’s modern history to illuminate the ways family practices and ideologies powerfully shaped the lives of individuals as well as broader social structures.

    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. Milanich also challenges the recent scholarly emphasis on state formation by highlighting the enduring importance of private, informal, and extralegal relations of power within and across households. Children of Fate demonstrates how the study of children can illuminate the social organization of gender and class, liberalism, law, and state power in modern Latin America.

    About The Author(s)

    Nara B. Milanich is Assistant Professor of History at Barnard College.

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