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The Senses of Democracy

The Senses of Democracy
Perception, Politics, and Culture in Latin America

Tracing the evolution of “sense work” in literary texts, the visual arts, periodical culture, and history, this paradigm-shifting book explores how embodied cognition helps define democratic practice and rebellion, cultural crisis, and social change.

Series: William and Bettye Nowlin Endowment

May 2018
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325 pages | 6 x 9 | 24 color and 16 b&w photos |

In The Senses of Democracy, Francine R. Masiello traces a history of perceptions expressed in literature, the visual arts, politics, and history from the start of the nineteenth century to the present day. A wide transnational landscape frames the book along with an original and provocative thesis: when the discourse on democracy is altered—when nations fall into crisis or the increased weight of modernity tests minds and nerves—the representation of our sensing bodies plays a crucial role in explaining order and rebellion, cultural innovation, and social change.

Taking a wide arc of materials—periodicals, memoirs, political proclamations, and travel logs, along with art installations and fiction—and focusing on the technologies that supplement and enhance human perception, Masiello looks at the evolution of what she calls “sense work” in cultural texts, mainly from Latin America, that wend from the heights of romantic thought to the startling innovations of modernism in the early twentieth century and then to times of posthuman experience when cyber bodies hurtle through globalized space and human senses are reproduced by machines. Tracing the shifting debates on perceptions, The Senses of Democracy offers a new paradigm with which to speak of Latin American cultural history and launches a field for the comparative study of bodies, experience, pleasure, and pain over the continental divide. In the end, sense work helps us to understand how culture finds its location.

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Sensing the Early Republic
  • Chapter 2. Troubled by Gender: Technology and Perception in the Women’s Nineteenth Century
  • Chapter 3. Collective Synesthesia: The 1920s Avant-Garde
  • Chapter 4. A Politics of Perception against the State
  • Chapter 5. By Way of a Conclusion: A Sense of the “Now”
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index

Berkeley, California

Masiello is the Sidney and Margaret Ancker Professor Emerita of Spanish and Comparative Literature and professor of the Graduate School at the University of California at Berkeley. Her many books include Between Civilization and Barbarism: Women, Nation, and Literary Culture in Modern Argentina and The Art of Transition: Latin American Culture and Neoliberal Crisis, which were both awarded the Modern Language Association’s Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for outstanding book in the field of Hispanic studies, and El cuerpo de la voz (poesía, ética, cultura), which received the Latin American Studies Association Southern Cone Prize for best book in the humanities.