Gabriel Lesser is a Ph.D. student in Hispanic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. His interests include 19th and 20th century humor, visual studies, caricatures, and cartoons in Mexico and Brazil.
He is the recipient of the 2021 IIS Pre-Disseration Research Grant.
Why do caricatures appear in 19th century scientific publications on race and gender? Why did social scientists write comical texts to share their findings? My project analyzes the relationship between humor, caricatures, social sciences, and nation building in 19th century Brazil and Mexico. My research focuses on a genre of humorous newspaper and penny press chronicles that describe the unique habits and features of the rural and urban poor by categorizing them into “types.” The authors of these satirical chronicles viewed themselves as pioneers in the emerging social sciences. I hope to show that caricatures and jokes about race were thus more than silly banter or mindless stereotyping. Instead, they functioned as part of a broader elite project to educate the countries’ populations on emerging racial scientific discourses.