Barrio Sur: Modernity for the Masses
The Detlef Mertins Lecture on the Histories of Modernity by Ana María León
Introduction by Felicity Scott, Professor, Architecture PhD Program Director, and MSCCCP Program Co-Director, GSAPP
Ana María León is an architect and a historian of objects, buildings, and landscapes. Her research and teaching examines the modernity of the Americas and its transcontinental flows. She studies how different publics relate to each other through spatial practices and discourses of power and resistance. León holds a PhD from MIT and is Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan. She is co-founder of several collaborations laboring to broaden the reach of architectural history including Detroit Resists, the Decolonizing Pedagogies Workshop, the Settler Colonial City Project, and Nuestro Norte es el Sur. Her book, Modernity for the Masses: Antonio Bonet’s Dreams for Buenos Aires is forthcoming from University of Texas Press in March 2021.
Barrio Sur (in Spanish, southern neighborhood) is a neighborhood located in the south of Buenos Aires and associated with popular movements and the complicated legacies of populist president Juan Perón. Barrio Sur is also the name of a large unbuilt modern project designed in 1956 by Catalan architect Antonio Bonet. The project was part of the broader strategy of the dictatorship of Pedro Aramburu to erase Perón’s image, name, and legacy. This talk examined the multiple meanings of Barrio Sur through the lens of Aníbal Quijano and the Modernity/Coloniality group, and speculated on the South as a conceptual and political position. Barrio Sur, I argue, reveals the ways in which for the masses of Buenos Aires—and more broadly of the South—coloniality has always been a component of modernity.
The Detlef Mertins Lecture on the Histories of Modernity is an annual lecture in honor of the life and work of Detlef Mertins (1954-2011), endowed by Elise Jaffe + Jeffrey Brown. Previous speakers include Lucia Allais, Craig Buckley, Zeynep Cęlik Alexander, Ayala Levin, Anthony Acciavatti, and Sophie Hochhäusl.