HIST 387 004: Inventing the Nation in Latin America

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Course Offerings, History, Media Archive, United States on 2012-07-25 02:15Z by Steven

HIST 387 004: Inventing the Nation in Latin America

George Mason University
Spring 2012

Matt Karush, Associate Professor of History

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Latin Americans have struggled to define themselves and their nations. This quest for identity has involved governments, intellectuals, and artists, but also ordinary men and women. And the results have been extremely varied: whereas many nineteenth-century liberals dreamed of whitening or Europeanizing their populations, some revolutionaries and nationalists argued that the future lay in a glorious mixing of the European and indigenous or African races. This course will trace this history of identity formation and ask a series of key questions: Why did some formulations of race and nation gain acceptance in some places but not in others? What impact did these identities have on people’s lives? How have ideas about race and nation been expressed in popular culture? In addition to work by historians, we will be examining many primary sources: novels, essays, films, and music. We will focus particular attention on the cases of Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, and Brazil.

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Blackness in Argentina: Jazz, Tango and Race Before Perón*

Posted in Articles, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2012-07-25 02:05Z by Steven

Blackness in Argentina: Jazz, Tango and Race Before Perón*

Past and Present
Volume 216, Issue 1 (August 2012)
pages 215-245
DOI: 10.1093/pastj/gts008

Matthew B. Karush, Associate Professor of History
George Mason University

On the question of race and nation, the dominant Latin American paradigm has never applied to Argentina. In Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere, twentieth-century nationalists crafted ideologies of mestizaje that broke with European and North American models by celebrating the indigenous or African as crucial elements in a new racial mixture. Yet most Argentine intellectuals rejected this sort of hybridity and instead constructed national identities that were at least as exclusionary as those produced by their North American counterparts. The only mixtures they countenanced were those that followed from European immigration. Just as the United States was a ‘melting pot’, Argentina was a crisol de razas (crucible of races), in which Spaniards, Italians and other immigrant groups were fused into a new nation. This ideology, visible in the well-known aphorism that ‘Argentines descend from ships’, marginalized Argentines of indigenous and African descent and eventually erased them from national consciousness. As George Reid Andrews showed over thirty years ago, the alleged disappearance of the once-substantial Afro-Argentine population of Buenos Aires was at least as much the product of this ideological manoeuvre as it was the result of miscegenation, war and disease. Only recently has Argentina’s status as a white nation begun to be openly contested.

Nevertheless, even if non-whites have been pushed off the historical stage, race remains a pervasive category in Argentine society. The word ‘negro’ is a commonplace in everyday speech, functioning both as a hateful insult and, paradoxically, as a term of endearment. Equally mysteriously, the insult usually alludes to indigenous rather than African ancestry. Typically, these usages are traced to the Peronist era. During his first two terms in office (1946–55), Juan Perón built a powerful working-class movement that challenged the nation’s hierarchies. Perón’s opponents attacked his followers in racial terms, labelling them cabecitas negras (little blackheads)…

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