Conference on Latin American History 49
This panel brings together a diverse set of scholars working on twentieth century Latin America in order to rethink the history of urban restructuring during the Cold War and beyond. It shifts attention to the ways in which authoritarian regimes and their legacies impacted urban space, city planning, and popular mobilizations. Thus, we focus on the spatial dimensions of social resistance and on the ways in which they negotiate or subvert entrenched geographies of power. While primarily concerned with the urbanization boom and its intended/unintended consequences, we point to the socio-spatial legacies of colonial power relations, etched as they are into the material landscape of Latin America. We rethink urban restructuring from a variety of local contexts and thematic standpoints, including the intersections between the natural environment and the built city, authoritarian attempts to impose order and economic efficiency, and the spatial manifestations of political polarization.
Adrián Lerner explores the politics of urban authoritarianism through a comparative study of Amazonia's two largest cities: Iquitos (Perú) and Manaus (Brazil) during two different military dictatorships. He shows that environmental aspects, Cold War alignments, and local political cultures were crucial in shaping popular urbanization. Jennifer Hoyt highlights the attempts of an understudied group of actors—architects and engineers—to challenge the Argentine military’s control over urban planning during the Proceso period. Similarly, Denisa Jashari focuses on neoliberal transformations of urban and political landscapes during the Chilean dictatorship and transition period. Neoliberal democracy became more punitive, she shows, a codified practice that targeted shantytowns by policing crime. Alejandro Velasco examines the spatial manifestations of political polarization during the “left turn” in contemporary Venezuela. He traces how the development of segregation in the 1990s led to the emergence under Chavez of a distinct and overlooked phenomenon: parallel cities. Together, these papers offer novel perspectives on Latin American spatial relations and urban transformations during the region’s convulsive late twentieth century.
Presenters and the Chair will keep comments to 12 minutes, allowing 30 minutes for discussion.