This book is about a certain type of cultural conflict—culture wars—
fought in Brazil between October 1930 and October 1945, a period
commonly known as the first Vargas regime. In the following pages, I
argue that the contentious politicking over the administration, content,
and meaning of a national culture specifically marked as Brazilian was en-
demic to the authoritarian-nationalist politics associated with the popu-
list dictator Getúlio Vargas (1883–1954). In these culture wars, bureaucrats,
artists, intellectuals, critics, and everyday citizens competed against one
another and the state for control of brasilidade, an intangible but highly
coveted sense of Brazilianness. These culture wars shaped the cultural and
political landscapes of the first Vargas regime as state centered, national-
ist, and contested. These wars fueled the double process of state building
and canon formation that defined Brazilian political culture (cultura polí-
tica) and cultural policies ( política cultural) in the middle decades of the
twentieth century.
This book explains how the cultural politics of the first Vargas regime
simultaneously drew on the unconventional and dynamic expressions of
modernismo (modernism) that have come to be celebrated in Brazil and
abroad as the quintessential markers of twentieth-century Brazilianness,
alongside the conservative aesthetics of traditionalism and academicism
that rooted Brazilian culture in its colonial and nineteenth-century pasts.
This study locates the substance and meaning of cultural conflict over the
past, present, and future of Brazilian culture within the political and cul-
tural tensions of republican Brazil. The book concludes with an argument
that the culture wars of the first Vargas regime were powerful enough to
influence national and international imaginaries of Brazilianness well be-
yond the fall of the Estado Novo dictatorship in 1945.
Following a brief introduction to the metaphors of war that developed
during the first half-century of republican rule, chapter 1 situates the con-
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