In the 18th century, nations began acknowledging the presence of those who belonged to inferior classes and regarding them as the constitutive political subject of the modern state. Paradoxically, even as these marginal individuals were turned into central figures of the state’s political apparatus, they plunged the notion of sovereignty into crisis as they questioned the status quo and embodied an alternative to institutional power. In this light, the present essay explores the idea of crisis and modernity in the Spanish context from a historical, spatial, and gendered perspective. Women occupy a central space as a minority collective at the margins of the citizenry. But with their action and participation in mutinies, wars and revolutions—all landmarks of state crisis—they make themselves visible and open new spaces of agency from which to disrupt and renew traditional norms. By analyzing 18th- and 19th-century newspaper articles, literary works, and a number of visual representations by Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, this essay will examine the power of art to reveal how crises allow women to emerge as political subjects and to rewrite a narrative of modernity in which they take the leading role in propelling social change, influencing projects of political citizenship, and shaping a modern nation that needs to tend to all its members, making evident that crisis, while a break in the established order, is also a liberating step towards emancipation.
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