September 8, 2016

Book Review, "Mystifying the Brazilian Northeast" by Ronald H. Chilcote

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Mystifying the Brazilian Northeast 
by Ronald H. Chilcote

Durval Muniz de Albuquerque Jr. "The Invention of the Brazilian Northeast."
Foreword by James N Green.
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2014.
In his controversial polemic The Invention of the Brazilian Northeast, Albuquerque argues that the idea of the Brazilian Northeast was formulated during the twentieth century around questions about Brazil’s evolution as a nation. He makes a case that politicians, intellectuals, writers, and artists “invented” the Northeast as a region and calls upon historians to abandon the static categories of regionalism in favor of national unity. His thesis of the Northeast as an “imaginary landscape” early in the twentieth century appeared a decade ago in Latin American Perspectives (Albuquerque, 2004). Without serious consideration of the region as a space defined by power relations, his concern then as now was largely with the carving out of a region from the colonial designation of a Brazil divided geographically into North and South, partially an outcome of public policies aimed at alleviating the dire conditions emanating from droughts dating to the late nineteenth century but also attributable to a pervasive vision and discourse “provided by others who considered it only natural to live always in the same way.” His piece ended with a plea for “people to take command of their own history” and not to abide by the routine and submissiveness, the injustices, and miseries reflected in the region’s literature, art, and music. In his book he elaborates upon this obsession with the past with a strong indictment of intellectuals who celebrated traditional life and cultural influences in their defense against industrial capitalism and the modernist trends that appeared in the South of Brazil, trends that were also evident in the Northeast but that he largely ignores.

What seems to have motivated this obsession with the past? At the outset Albuquerque disparages the stereotyping of the Northeast and Northeasterners as marginalized in national cultural production and attributes a negative character to self-deprecation: …


Latin American Perspectives
March 2016 vol. 43 no. 2 Abstract 238-242

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