Such as global and local modernity and tradition are

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such as global and local, modernity and tradition, are ways of readingand construing processes of change rather than objective realities inthemselves, in practice it is not always easy to keep this in sight.Historian Guy Thomson starts chapter 4, “Mid-Nineteenth-Century Modernities in the Hispanic World,” by discussing a historicalexample of precisely what Wade was talking about: the construction ofcategories by anthropologists to suit their own ends. In rural Mexicoduring the 1920s, U.S. anthropologists built models of culturalchange based on a conception of modernization as inevitable, but inthe process they gathered much empirical evidence about the presenceof “modern” practices and goods. Drawing not on their analyticalmodel but on the kind of evidence about subjective and cultural expe-rience that lay behind it, Thomson adopts a similarly local-level per-spective to compare two regions in Mexico and Spain where, heargues, a consciously experienced modernity was felt in the mid-nineteenth century. Thomson goes on to discuss the potentialstrengths and weaknesses of comparative history as a methodologicalapproach, taking as a case in point C. A. Bayly’s The Birth of theModern World 1780–1914(2003). Bayly’s premise was that beingmodern was at least partly a process of self-definition; therefore, evi-dence about subjective experience had to be taken into account—anapproach that Thomson found inspiring. Yet supposedly “global” his-tories are necessarily selective. The Hispanic world is largely omittedfrom Bayly’s book, and when it is mentioned it is invariably in stereo-typical terms that are bound to strike any Latin Americanist asastounding, especially given the author’s sensitivity to comparable sit-uations in Asia. In this respect, Bayly’s approach illustrates the force ofWade’s points about the dangers of retaining perspectives of teleologyand scaling, even when it is resistance to the dominant model that isbeing privileged in the discussion. Thomson then goes on to demon-strate, in his own carefully documented reconstruction of everyday lifein Puebla Sierra and the Málaga-Granada highlands from the 1850s tothe 1870s, how comparative history can give very precise content to aconcept of modernity. For Thomson, whose approach integrates eco-nomic, political, social, and cultural factors, modernity entails a cul-ture of consumption, secular associational life, and the politicizationof traditional solidarities around democratic ideals. His evidenceNICOLA MILLER6
about the presence of civic associations and democratic practices inpublic everyday life is supported by Carlos Forment for Mexico andPeru, and prospectively for Argentina and Cuba too (Forment 2003).Thomson’s chapter, which has the advantage of comparing a LatinAmerican and a non-Latin American example, provides ample evidenceof the limitations of any teleological model—movements towardmodernity can go back as well as forward, as was shown by events inMexico after the restoration of the Republic in 1867, when the previ-

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