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A rich history of Buenos Aires during the inter-Perónist years, and a history-in-miniature of the modernization of Latin America

Specular City

Transforming Culture, Consumption, and Space in Buenos Aires, 1955-1973

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Laura Podalsky

"Podalsky's book is a worthy entry in the renewed interest in the Argentine decade of the 1960s... [She] examines in excellent detail her own selective inventory of major cultural productions that interact with the enormous social and physical changes going on in the city during the period in question.... What she [covers] is done admirably and intelligently and transmits well the enormous vibrancy of one of the continent's greatest cities."
The Americas

A sweeping account of one of the cultural centers of Latin America, Specular City tells the history of Buenos Aires during the interregnum after Juan Perón's fall from power and before his restoration. During those two decades, the city experienced a rapid metamorphosis at the behest of its middle class citizens, who were eager to cast off the working-class imprint left by the Perónists. Laura Podalsky discusses the ways in which the proliferation of skyscrapers, the emergence of car culture, and the diffusion of an emerging revolution in the arts helped transform Buenos Aires, and, in so doing, redefine Argentine collective history.

More than a cultural and material history of this city, this book also presents Buenos Aires as a crucible for urban life. Examining its structures through films, literatures, new magazines, advertising and architecture, Specular City reveals the prominent place of Buenos Aires in the massive changes that Latin America underwent for a new, modern definition of itself.

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Excerpt

Read the Preface and an excerpt from the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"This is a spectacular book about the imagination of matter and matters of the imagination in contemporary Buenos Aires. Laura Podalsky has presented us with a work of metamorphosis on two levels. First, on the methodological level, this book is a hope fulfilled. She has combined the best of cultural studies with astute applications of social geography and revealed for us the ways that high-rise apartments, sex in this city, movies and marketplaces animate this heart of Argentina. More than that, we learn the secrets, promises and lived urban practices in the minds and hands of an energetic Latin American middle class that revitalized the symbolic languages, built environments and consumptive practices in the years after Peron. Don't cry for Argentina! Read this book instead."
David Carrasco, Harvard Divinity School and Department of Anthropology

"I enjoyed this book immensely, not just because Podalsky leads the reader on an intriguing and well-structured journey through two turbulent decades of crisis and change. She weaves together literary narratives, films, music, ideology and architecture in a way that teases out crucial changes in the material landscape and highlights their ideological and practical significance.... Specular City achieves its goal of highlighting the cultural trends in Buenos Aires that provided a bridge between the 1960s and 1990s."
Urban Studies

"Podalsky's study is an original contribution to the social and cultural history of the city [Buenos Aires], centering on the years that separate the fall of the first Peronist government (1955) and the triumph of the second (1973)."
The Journal of Latin American Anthropology

"This wonderful book presents a comprehensive and innovative view of Argentine culture between 1955 and 1973.... [It] is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the cultural history of Argentina."
Latin American Studies

"This wonderful book presents a comprehensive and innovative view of Argentine culture between 1955 and 1973....A valiant and bold attempt to understand the transformation of culture in Argentina in the 18 years after the fall of Perón, Specular City is a book that should be read by anyone interested in the cultural history of Argentina."
Journal of Latin American Studies

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Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Urban Formations and Critical Scaffolding
INTERRUPTION: The Spectacular City
1. Residual Voices and Emergent Practices: Reformulating Buenos Aires after Perón
INTERSTICES: The Politics of Bricolage in Villas Miserias and Berni's Collages
2. High-Rise Apartments, Arcades, Cars, Hoteles de Cita, and the Public-Private Divide
INTERLUDE: The Di Tella and the Manzana Loca
3. Circulating Desires: The Culture Industry and the Promotion of New Urban Subjectivities
INTERSPERSION: Architecture on the Up and Out
4. Consuming Sex in the City: Censorship and the Dangers of Promiscuous Texts
INTERVENTION: La hora de los hornos in the Advertising Age
Epilogue
Notes
Selected Filmography
Selected Bibliography
Index

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About the Author(s)

Laura Podalsky is Assistant Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Ohio State University.

Subject Categories

Latin American/Caribbean Studies
Mass Media and Communications

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