Cover of Primitive Modernities  by Florencia Garramuño Translated by Anna Kazumi Stahl
Primitive Modernities
Tango, Samba, and Nation
Florencia Garramuño Translated by Anna Kazumi Stahl

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2011
216 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804762496
Paper ISBN: 9780804762502

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Primitive Modernities invites us to reconsider the boundaries that usually separate popular culture from the culture of the elite. It focuses on the cultural network that enabled popular music—tango and samba—to transform into national and modern forms. The origin of tango and samba is considered primitive, marginal. Yet in the early decades of the twentieth century, they each came to symbolize a nation: Argentina and Brazil, respectively. Garramuño analyzes the aesthetic and ideological processes that enabled this transformation.

Starting with the late nineteenth century, the author traces the changing meanings of the "primitive" in art, from savage and exotic to being linked to the modern. She considers not only music, but also painting, poetry, novels, essays, and films. Indeed, Garramuño understands culture as fundamentally a space of differences. In this sense, the book is also a reconsideration of the field of comparativism and of Brazil's place in Latin American Studies.

About the author

Florencia Garramuño is Associate Professor and Founding Director of the Program in Brazilian Culture at the University of San Andrés in Buenos Aires.

"Primitive Modernities: Tango, Samba, and Nation is a welcome tool for students without access to those languages in such fields as Brazilian and Latin American cultural studies, ethnomusicology, and literature; it is also an intriguing read for scholars of nationalisms more generally. The interdisciplinary nature of Garramuño's work is unusual in the context of regional or national studies, and provides a good example of why we should examine any cultural object as part of an intense interactive process. Primitive Modernities is all the more rare for its focus on two types of music from two national traditions that share many features, though not a common language. One of the strongest features of this study, then, is its revelation of how modernizing efforts in Latin America involving popular music superseded geographic, linguistic, disciplinary, and even sonic boundaries."

—Marilyn Miller, H-Net

"One of the strong points of Garramuño's book is its positing of an alternative to binary formulations of nationalism and cosmopolitanism . . . [T]his work remains an important study for Latin American specialists, among whom it will foster a lively dialogue across disciplines."

—Deborah Schwartz-Kates, The Americas

"Primitive Modernities is a wonderfully ambitious effort to understand the modern aesthetic, literary, and political production in Brazil and the differences and commonalities with Spanish-America. In this illuminating book, Garramuño brings together two powerful literary and intellectual traditions that have for too long been examined separately. Combining her literary and cultural scholarship with keen observations of the links between avant-garde artists and the national pasts, she offers a better understanding of the ways in which popular music, film and performers contributed to redefine nationhood in two key Latin American countries."

—Arcadio Diaz-Quiñones, Princeton University

"This intelligent and richly argued book traces how Argentina and Brazil's national music became national in the early decades of the twentieth century. It studies the nationalization of tango and samba in the context of peripheral modernities that grapple with the tensions between the longing for modernity and the need for differentiation, construed as either primitivism or exoticism."

—Diana Sorensen, Harvard University