Various institutions and many people contributed to make this
book possible. I started this project back in 1988–1989, during a
year’s residence fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Prince-
ton. The Institute’s seminars made me aware of the complexities of the
interpretation of ‘‘social texts.’’ There, I began to read estancia and criminal
records from a new perspective, focusing on power relationships, the
positionality of subjects, and the meaning of messages. During this time, I
benefited enormously from conversations with Albert Hirschmann, Lynn
Hunt, Cli√ord Geertz, Greg Denning, Joan W. Scott, Gavin Wright, Mary
Steedly, and Margaret Weir. New intersections between anthropology and
history, together with poststructuralist modes of interpretation, greatly
influenced the formulation of the questions I wanted to pose concerning
the history of postindependence Buenos Aires province.
In 1992–1993, thanks to an Advanced Research Grant from the Social
Science Research Council, I was able to spend two years investigating
archives in Buenos Aires and La Plata. Librarians and archivists at the
Archivo General de la Nación, the Academia Nacional de Historia, the
Archivo Histórico de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, the Instituto Ravignani,
and the Instituto Di Tella helped me find my way through a maze of
materials that would later constitute the textual corpus of my investiga-
tion. Later, while trying to translate the first ideas onto paper, a grant from
the University of Buenos Aires allowed me to spend a year of productive
interaction with Argentine colleagues. I recall with pleasure the discus-
sions that ensued after seminars at the Instituto Ravignani and at the
universities of Tandil, Luján, Mar del Plata, and Córdoba. I thank all those
who made comments and suggestions, too many to mention by name.
In 1993–1994 a year’s residence at the Agrarian Studies Program at Yale
University gave me the opportunity to draft a substantial part of the manu-
script. The reader will easily recognize the influence of James C. Scott’s
works in this book. Jim’s seminars were filled with a warm, convivial, and
intellectually exciting atmosphere. This was a place where, despite unend-
ing winter storms, I felt at home. The commentaries of my colleagues and
friends Akhil Gupta, Prabhu Mohapatra, Stacy Pigg, Catherine LeGrand,
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