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¡Venezuela Progresa! Dictatorship, Spectacle and the Construction of Modernity. Abstract: PhD Thesis

Now that my PhD thesis is officially submitted and the process is finally over, I’m posting my abstract here.


¡Venezuela Progresa! Dictatorship, Spectacle and the Construction of Modernity

In 1950s Venezuela, the military state embarked on a quest to create an image of a modern nation under the banner of order and progress by sponsoring a boom in modernist architecture, art and urban developments that is today considered a vital part of the nation’s architectural and cultural heritage. However, the turbulent political events and police repression of the period labelled Venezuelan modernity call into question the way its cultural history is written and inform a critical review of nostalgic commemorations of the period. This dissertation addresses this central concern by examining the discursive construction of Venezuelan modernity, returning to its political context to situate it within theoretical discussions of statecraft, visual practices, urban space, heritage, ideology and historiography.

The study develops the specific definition of affirmative modernity by examining the military state’s ideological apparatus and revealing how its message of progress was designed to legitimize the dictatorship. It addresses spatial and visual practices to show how didactic national narratives were inscribed onto space and how the state’s synoptic gaze and the cult of personality toward dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez articulated modernity as a spectacle of power. The co-existence of censorship and the production of an official imaginary are identified as pre-emptive forms of historiography, whose archivization provides a controlled legacy for future writings of the history of the period.

Bringing the analysis up to date, modernity’s discursive construction and political context inform a critical review of its production as cultural heritage. Different commemorations of the period are examined to show the interface between modernity’s legacy and Venezuela’s contemporary political context. An analysis of ways different groups seek to appropriate significations of Venezuela’s modernity confirms its continued relevance today, where its position in cultural history is constantly produced and renewed according to contemporary needs.


8 comments for “¡Venezuela Progresa! Dictatorship, Spectacle and the Construction of Modernity. Abstract: PhD Thesis”

  1. Wow! Congratulations on turning it in.

    Posted by steven | February 15, 2011, 3:15 pm
  2. Thanks! Sometimes I thought it would never end 🙂

    Posted by lisa | February 15, 2011, 3:31 pm
  3. Felicitaciones. Que buen abstract, esperamos por más.

    Posted by María Elena Álvarez | February 17, 2011, 7:46 am
  4. Hi Lisa, would like to read your thesis you submitted. When will it be available in Senate House?

    Posted by Alek Boyd | March 12, 2011, 6:24 am
  5. Hi Alek. Thanks for your interest. I’m not entirely sure how long it takes the bureaucratic machine to finish its job, but the thesis was entirely ready at the end of January so it might well be in Senate House Library now. There should also be a copy at Birkbeck Library. Saludos

    Posted by lisa | March 12, 2011, 9:20 am
  6. HI Lisa – I am very interested in reading your thesis for my own research on the contemporary art market in Vzla. Is there a digital format of the final submission? I am completing my research at King’s College London but I live abroad (in Portugal) but could look for it at Birkbeck College when I am next in London if there is no PDF version available. Congratulations on completing your doctorate and the job at the Simon Bolivar! Hope we can chat more soon, V.

    Posted by Victoria Rodner | October 9, 2012, 8:10 am
  7. Just read http://lisablackmore.net/?p=3100.
    I would like to read your thesis. Is it possible?
    Great website, great work.

    Posted by Capitán Zeppos | August 15, 2016, 10:23 am
  8. Thanks for your interest! The book that adapts my thesis will be out in Spring next year with the University of Pittsburgh Press. Saludos

    Posted by lisa | August 15, 2016, 10:37 am

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