Pierre Gautreau and Juan Carlos Garavaglia, The Weak-State Cadastre: Administrative Strategies to Build Territorial Knowledge in Post-colonial Argentina (1824 to 1864)
Studying the creation of administrations charged with devising land registers in the newly independent countries of Spanish-speaking America allows one to take an original view of state-building in these territories throughout the nineteenth century through models of ‘‘territorial knowledge’’-building. The case of the ‘‘Topographic Department’’ of the Buenos Aires province between 1824 and 1864 is a textbook example of the successful strategies implemented by a very poor State to collect spatial information on a large scale over a huge territory – namely, by creating archives holding land survey maps. This study shows that the determining factor in the construction of state territorial knowledge was not so much the improvement of technical accuracy as the archival function and the definition of relationships between the administration and its agents. The building of administrations dedicated to collecting territorial data must therefore be understood as a complex process of devising norms relative to field techniques and practices, agents’ behaviours in the field, and patterns of hierarchical relationships within these organizations.