In The Age of Dissent, historian Martín Bowen examines the material determinants and symbols of social and political differentiation—things like clothes, flags, pins, coins, and portraits—in late colonial and early republican Chile. He views these objects as forms of communication because of the ways they were intentionally displayed and made visible to the public. As such, they can be seen as evidence of the communication of social and political meaning by historical actors. It is a novel approach that allows him to dig down into the micro-level social interactions of a wide variety of Chileans at a time of macro-level political transition in the country.

Bowen argues that when we focus on these forms of communication, what we see, beginning in 1780, is “the emergence of a profaned and pluralistic political landscape” (p. 5). Not surprisingly, that process of emergence “accelerated dramatically after 1808” and the outbreak of Chile's...

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