Urban Space and National Identity in Early Twentieth Century São Paulo, Brazil: Crafting Modernity

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Urban Space and National Identity in Early Twentieth Century São Paulo, Brazil focuses on how the political, cultural, and technical networks within the field of engineering provided the space within which an important professional middle class prospered in the city of São Paulo and made lasting contributions to the development of modern Brazil. It centers on the influence of middle-class aspirations, morals, and manners in setting the tone of political discourse and competition during the critical years of 1930-45.  The book examines the development of local institutions and the history of urban planning and design in the city of São Paulo to explore socio-cultural ideas and practices reflected in these middle-class professionals' work.

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About the Author:

Cristina Peixoto-Mehrtens is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She was Professor of Architecture at the Catholic University in Campinas and served as an architect for the State Housing Agency (CDHU) in São Paulo. Her research interests extend from the construction of a mostly male technical apparatus in 20th-century Brazil to the current history of mostly female Brazilian immigrants in the United States. She is the author of several journal articles, and contributed to The Unedited Diaries of Carolina Maria de Jesus (1999), The Brazil Reader (1999), and Municipal Services and Employees in the Modern City (2003).

Review:

“In Urban Space and National Identity in Early Twentieth Century São Paulo, Brazil, Cristina Peixoto-Mehrtens--historian, architect, and former urban planner--has written a vital book. She details the complex interactions among policy makers, bureaucrats, politicians, and scholars who defined the economic, cultural, social, and political ‘spaces’ of urban São Paulo, Brazil’s twentieth-century economic power house. Deftly exploring the labyrinths of state and private development agencies and drawing on an eclectic array of sources, Peixoto-Mehrtens offers fresh insight into Brazil’s economic and social modernization in the twentieth century. Her tale of the construction of the Pacaembu Stadium during the late 1930s is a model microhistory of tangled social and political agendas. At the same time, she offers a new chapter in the deepening account of the role Brazil’s middle class played in articulating modernity to a nation that in the early twenty-first century has become a rising global power. Recognizing that there was no unified middle-class political initiative, she penetratingly shows how bureaucrats and policy makers, acting from local conditions, interpreted and transformed the transnational traffic in theories of development and urban planning.”--Brian P. Owensby, Professor and Chair, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia

 

“How did middle-class architects and city planners, municipal employees and foreign-owned companies, politicians and intellectuals all contribute to reshaping the urban spaces in São Paulo, South America’s largest city, in the 1930s and 40s? Urban Space and National Identity in Early Twentieth Century São Paulo, Brazil offers a fresh interpretation of the crucial role that middle sectors played in influencing urban life in a vital center of modernizing Brazil. Through the creative use of a wide array of archives, oral histories, and varied sources, this social and cultural history artfully analyzes the complex interlocking networks of business interests, aspiring professionals, and middle-class technicians that planned and implemented the transformation of the city into Brazil’s largest metropolis.”--James N. Green, Professor of Brazilian History and Culture, Brown University

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