The New Cultural History of Peronism


The New Cultural History of Peronism: Power and Identity in Mid-Twentieth-Century Argentina
Edited by Matthew B. Karush and Oscar Chamosa
2010, Duke University Press
320 pages

AT LAST a collection that begins to get to grips with one of the most enduring but perhaps least well explained phenomena in Latin American – and not just Argentine – political culture: peronism. For the protean populism forged in the name of Juan Perón during his first regime was a critical point in regional history at which mass politics met identity politics. The resulting fusion generated such heat and light that it was of compelling attraction well beyond the pink palace and continues to fascinate across a broad spectrum globally. If historians have always accepted that the Perón moment represented a critical juncture, they have been bad at explaining – or perhaps understanding why. Is this because scholarship on Peronism has been limited by a narrow, elite perspective? Is this because peronism, and populism of this kind, are as cultural as they are political? Matthew Karush and Oscar Chamosa address these questions by turning to new approaches to Latin American cultural history inspired by the pioneering work of the historian Daniel James, whose Resistance and Integration (1988) was a landmark in the study of Peronism and ensured him great popularity in Argentina. James is important for placing the working class has the heart of his analysis of Peronsim, while arguing that in large part it was constituted by Peronist political discourse. In the James vein, scholars have begun to rewrite the history of mid-twentieth-century Argentina and The New Cultural History of Peronism brings together the best of this new work. The contributors focus on the interplay among cultural traditions, official policies, commercial imperatives, and popular perceptions. They describe how the Perón regime’s rhetoric and representations helped to produce new ideas of national and collective identity. In so doing, they place the connections between the state and popular consciousness at the heart of their research, an instinct that returns us to a more materialist understanding of power and popular discourse. – GO’T

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