• The Reappropriation of Poverty and the Art of “Making Do” in Contemporary Argentine Cultural Productions

    Victor Goldgel-Carballo (see profile)
    LLC 20th- and 21st-Century Latin American
    Culture--Study and teaching, Latin America, History, Latin American literature
    Item Type:
    argentina, film, global south, postcolonial exotic, Cultural studies, Latin American history
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    Through an analysis of two post-crisis films (Estrellas, Federico León and Marcos Martínez, 2007; El nexo, Sebastián Antico, 2005) shot in the largest slum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this essay sketches the terms for conceptualizing a cultural dimension of the Global South marked by the aesthetic reappropriation of poverty. Working against what has been called Latin America’s persistent “melodrama of poverty,” and avoiding the type of cinematic representation that depicts the slum in terms of violence and uncertainty, the directors of these films highlight the fact that the reappropriation of poverty is often at the base of alternative forms of social and artistic agency. While the ability to work under conditions of material lack has long been an important dimension of Argentine artistic production, their films flaunt deprivation in order to transform precarity into an ideological and aesthetic weapon, re-staging social inequality in a spectacular fashion and advancing inventive modes of action. In this way, they argue that “making do” can also become the basis for an alternative creative paradigm. In their exploration of this paradigm, which allows slum inhabitants to build a house in two minutes and create a spaceship out of junk, both films pose far-reaching questions: who has a right to perform? What roles are available for the people of the slum? And, what are the conditions for having artistic and social agency in economically deprived areas?
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