Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Ann Farnsworth-Alvear


This dissertation explores the ways in which emotions shaped people’s understandings of the troubled times they were living in. It focuses on northern South America – present-day Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela – between 1808 and 1830. These years saw both the collapse of the Spanish Monarchy’s rule over the region and the rise of new republican nations. Such an outcome was far from being inevitable or from being one desired by all. The dissertation is both a history of emotions that focuses on early nineteenth-century northern South America and a history of the region’s independence process studied from the perspective of emotions. Throughout the dissertation, I reflect on how emotions shaped people’s notions of reality and their conceptions of the past and the future. The dissertation poses two main arguments. First, I argue that emotions are a constitutive part of cognition. Emotions shaped the meanings people gave to the world around them at the same time that emotions helped express and impute meaning to people’s actions. Second, the dissertation demonstrates that the emotions that circulated during these years, particularly intense fear and confusion, gave form to the republican and national projects that emerged at the time. It claims that independence and the onset of republicanism did not bring about a critical break from the monarchical and colonial past. Widespread feelings of dread and uncertainty led many of the region’s residents to seek stability and safety at the expense of their aspirations for social and political reform. The dissertation carries out a microscopic analysis of a series of events, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, panic attacks, and funeral rites, in order to grasp the prevailing emotions of the time as well as to get a sense of the different ways in which people understood, experienced, and expressed emotions.