Reproducing Empire and the Making of a Database on Textile Factories in Mexico from 1843 to 1857

Hunter Moskowitz, Northeastern University

During the early and mid-nineteenth century, American and British travelers journeyed to Latin America and produced travel narratives. Travel stories included depictions of textile factories in Latin America as technologically inferior and degraded Latin American textile workers through various racist and patriarchal discourses. These images of textile factories and workers were utilized to uphold textile imperialism and support the dominance of Anglo textile industries. In constructing a database of textile factories in Mexico with data from 1843 to 1857, this paper considers the ways in which the use of economic databases can both reproduce and resist imperial discourses. The database of textile production in Mexico offers considerable ability to compare economic data from the United States with Mexico and dispel perceptions about the technological superiority of American factories and the capability of the Mexican working-class. Yet databases can also recreate data categories that inherently bolster Anglo textile production and reinscribe imperialist frameworks onto Latin American workers. The archival silences of factory data, which often neglect workers’ lives, can contribute to racist and gendered depictions in comparison to social history narratives of labor in Mexican textile communities. Scholars must consider the long histories of economic imperialism in constructing databases, especially in data collection and categorization, which has important implications for challenging narratives of Anglo imperial and economic dominance.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 154. Innovations in Data Infrastructure