Martin Bowen-Silva

Program Head, History; Associate Professor of History and Arab Crossroads Studies; Global Network Associate Professor of History Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi
Education: MA, PhD École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales

Research Areas: Atlantic World; Latin America; Communication and Politics; Emotions; Global Political History

Martín Bowen is a historian of Latin America and the Atlantic World. His research focuses on the intersection between politics and communications during the Age of Revolutions, and the global history of revolutionary ideals.

Dr. Bowen's most recent book, The Age of Dissent: Revolution and the Power of Communication in Chile, 1780–1833 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2023) examines the profound political changes that accompanied the collapse of the Spanish empire in Chile. The book argues that the defining feature of this era was the emergence of a profaned and pluralistic political landscape. This represented a fundamental departure from the paradigms of unity and transcendence that structured political action during the colonial era. This profound political mutation was caused by how people practiced communication and framed its power. Social actors during this period, the book shows, had a particular view of communication: instead of seeing it as an exchange of messages or information, they saw it as the ability to affect others. The Age of Dissent analyzes how, by reframing the power of communication and engaging in new and dissenting communicative practices, men and women of multiple political affiliations and social backgrounds revolutionized not only political institutions and ideas, but the very nature of politics.

Dr. Bowen's current research delves onto the global history of the Age of Revolutions, with a focus on the emergence of radical political ideas in the revolutionary Atlantic. His next book project, The Republic of Equals: Indigenous Sovereignty and Black Republicanism in the South Atlantic centers on the 1780 anticolonial conspiracy in Chile and the larger social and cultural context that made it possible. Scholars have dismissed this conspiracy as the feverish dream of two men influenced by utopian but impractical ideas imported from Europe. This book argues otherwise, showing that this was one of the most original and ambitious revolutionary programs ever conceived in the Atlantic world. The conspirators' goals included the abolition of slavery, the redistribution of land, and the establishment of a co-government structure with the sovereign Mapuche people. This radical project of social and political transformation, the book demonstrates, owed more to the political activities of Indigenous and African and African-descended peoples in the South Atlantic (Chile, Río de la Plata, and Peru) than to revolutionary tracts imported from Europe. By emphasizing the agency of Black and Indigenous peoples and situating the conspiracy within a broader context of resistance against colonialism, The Republic of Equals offers a novel framework for understanding the global history of the Enlightenment and radical republicanism.

Dr. Bowen's second work-in-progress is a book provisionally titled Staging the Revolution: Luis Ambrosio Morante and the Construction of a Radical Theater Repertoire in the South Atlantic (1780–1835). The book studies the life and work of African-descended playwright and performer Luis Ambrosio Morante. Born in Buenos Aires in 1780, Morante had a successful theatrical career in what is today Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile. Morante is an exceptional historical figure, not only because of his talent, but because he left us several works detailing his political commitments, his complex views on gender, race, and social hierarchies, and his understanding of the revolutionary era and of his own place in it. This project seeks to explain how he became a successful artist as well as the wider political and intellectual implications of his work. The book examines the global networks that shaped Morante's career, how he profited from the new aesthetic conventions that associated theater with the communication of truth, and how he promoted new and revolutionary emotional regimes from the stage.

Dr. Bowen is also the author of Experimentar el cuerpo y escribir los pecados: la confesión general de José Ignacio Eyzaguirre (1799-1804) (Lima: Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos/Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2014). The book analyzes and transcribes the documents that an elite man from Chile wrote to prepare himself to confess his sins. Through a careful analysis of the manuscripts, Bowen examines how Eyzaguirre experienced his sexual desires, how he was puzzled by his and other people’s bodies, and how writing mediated how he remembered, categorized, and made sense of his sinful actions. Dr. Bowen has also written articles and book chapters on the economies of attention in Chile's theater, the history of the body in colonial Latin America, the cultural project of Chile’s Unidad Popular government (1970-1973), and the relationship between social prejudices and laughter in Chile’s postcolonial theater plays.

Courses Taught