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Urban Railways in Buenos Aires

Spatial and Social Alienation in the Documentary Film El tren blanco

Benjamin Fraser

Mixing transportation studies, film analysis, and urban geography, this article looks at El tren blanco (The white train), a documentary film from 2003 by directors Nahuel García, Sheila Pérez Giménez, and Ramiro García. In light of work by train theorist Wolfgang Schivelbusch and urban geographer Henri Lefebvre, the documentary's interviews with cartoneros—cardboard workers who ride daily into central Buenos Aires to pick up recyclable goods—speak to the alienation and spatialization of class that characterize the contemporary urban experience. Following an urban cultural studies approach, attention is balanced between the social context of Buenos Aires itself and the film as an item of aesthetic value. In the end, it is important to pay attention both to the train car as a space in itself and to the historical and contemporary positioning of the train in larger-scale urban shifts.

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Dhan Zunino Singh

This article traces a genealogy of sexual harassment in Buenos Aires public transport, analyzing the intersection between gender and mobility through cultural history. It focuses on the first decades of the twentieth century in which the city became a modern metropolis and women became more visible commuters using public transport. It deals with the tensions, interactions, expectations, and representations that emerged from the increasing presence of female passengers within the male imaginary and how women became a sexualized object in order to contextualize sexual harassment and explain how it became a “natural” practice over time. Finally, this article argues that the case study triggers the need to analyze gendered mobilities paying more attention to the relationship between sexuality and transport to understand passengers as sexualized bodies.

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The Subte as Looking Machine into the City

Moebius' Trajectory through Buenos Aires

Araceli Masterson-Algar

Moebius (1996) is the first cinematographic production of the “Universidad del Cine” of Buenos Aires. It is the collective project of forty-five film students under the general direction of Gustavo Mosquera. The film narrates the mysterious disappearance of a subway train along the last addition to its underground network: the “línea perimetral.” In search for answers, a topologist named Daniel Pratt initiates an allegorical journey into Moebius, a subway trajectory that is timeless but includes all times. This article explores the role of Moebius' subway as a metaphor to understand the urban. Drawing from Buenos Aires' urban history this filmic analysis ties the Subte to Buenos Aires' processes of capital accumulation and unveils the fissures of its modern spaces.

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Language Hierarchies

Visualizing Linguistic Space in Modern Travel Writing

Anjali Pandey

This article focuses on the travelogue of the twentieth century. Deftly using the spaces of city/country to situate language and people Miranda France, in Bad Times in Buenos Aires: A Writer's Adventures in Argen tina (1999), presents a hierarchy of linguistic value and poignancy of place by semantically conflating English, Spanish, and indigenous Latin American languages with a different spatial positioning relative to the Other in the bustle of Buenos Aires. The consequence is the building of a hierarchical edifice—which metaphorically as it literally centers English, and places its speakers atop the city— situates Spanish and its speakers at a street level; and relegates indigenous peoples to the lowest metropolitan reaches—unseen and underground—marginalized to the periphery of her literary geoscape. This conflation of linguistic code with the synecdoche of space introduces another way in which to examine the politics of travel writing in a globally connected, multilingual world.

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Yiddish Tango

A Musical Genre?

Lloica Czackis

The tango was born just before the turn of the twentieth century in Buenos Aires as the resulting blend of the cultures of Italian, Spanish, French and Eastern European Jewish immigrants and Afro-Argentine rhythms. In the 1910s the tango took Western Europe by storm, soon reaching Eastern Europe. Ballrooms and cabarets featured this Latin American import; composers, Jews amongst them, started to write new tangos. Inevitably, during the Holocaust tango became part of the life of ghettos and concentration camps, where it, now in Yiddish, was once again adopted as a vehicle to express the experience of inmates and their hopes for freedom. Not only did the Nazis allow this music, they forced Lagerkapellen, the camp orchestras, to play the Tango of Death to accompany prisoners as they were marched to the gas chambers. In different and happier circumstances, Jewish musicians living in Buenos Aires and New York – many of whom were émigrés – wrote Yiddish tangos for the Yiddish theatre, musicals and Jewish revues. The mixed nature of tango probably explains why it has been continuously embraced and transformed during its extraordinary voyage around the world. Yiddish tangos are only an episode in this chronicle, an example of the Jews' tendency to adapt to the ethos of their adoptive countries and also, more generally, the mutual acceptance and fruitful interaction between peoples.

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The Lacan Ward

Pharmacology and Subjectivity in Buenos Aires

Andrew Lakoff

This essay describes the use of medication by Lacanian psychoana- lysts in an acute psychiatric ward in Buenos Aires. In this chaotic and difficult setting, psychotropic drugs provided a way to sustain the object of psychoanalytic knowledge—patient subjectivity. Such drugs enabled the patient to speak—as long as such speech did not include discussions of medication. This ‘ironic’ use of medication was premised on a strict division of labor between the task of the physician and the task of the analyst—and, more fundamentally, on a distinction between the body and the subjectivity of the patient, known as ‘structuralist dualism’. In effect, physician-analysts in the ward gave medication not to treat the illness directly, but in order to remain Lacanian.

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Alain Bertho

Ida Susser and Stéphane Tonnelat are right to view the question of the urban commons in global cities as a crucial issue. It has precipitated massive urban and often violent struggles. We know that the ideological basis of these fights is very similar from one continent to another. Within the global space there is a global repertory of urban mobilizations and urban riots. Global cities can also be analyzed through the clashes that occur there. Where is this car burning? Beijing, Dakar, Buenos Aires, Tunis, or Mumbai? Where is the "southern world" and where is the "northern one"? When the riot erupts, who can distinguish the political regimes of the country? Against which government is this Molotov cocktail thrown? Against a democratic power or against a dictatorship? All that remains are the national peculiarities of the urban context. Why? First, because residents of global cities are faced with national states, national laws, national polices, in historical contexts. Second, because urban residents are in charge of the question of the people as a nation, as a collective subject in the heart of the cities.