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Archives of Sao Paulo

Google Map of São Paulo's archives that I created while conducting research for my dissertation (last updated August 2012). Edits welcome!

My dissertation, “Forging an Urban Public: Theaters, Audiences, and the City in São Paulo, Brazil, 1854-1924,” is driven by the question of how a city becomes a city.  As foreigners and newly emancipated Afro-Brazilians poured into São Paulo at the turn of the twentieth century, how did residents conceive of who belonged within the city’s public spaces and public life?  My work offers an answer by examining São Paulo’s theaters, mass spaces that accommodated the entire spectrum of Paulistano society and that functioned as key nodes in the circulation of people and ideas.  Specifically, I analyze three sets of theater producers—government officials, associational leaders, and businessmen—and the ways in which they shaped theatergoing and competed to attract spectators.  I argue that, in doing so, these men and women helped define the urban public as one that was ordered and molded by visible, cultural practices.  While theater producers disagreed over who constituted this public, all challenged or reinforced on a mass scale the social categories upon which urban and national policies were built.  Cultural production, my dissertation thus suggests, is a crucial lens for understanding the diverse assumptions and actions that, more than planners’ drawing boards, shaped the transition to urbanity.

The research for my dissertation in 2011-2012 was supported by an Institute of International Education Graduate Fellowship for International Study (the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's generous rescue effort after the Fulbright-Hays DDRA was sent to the chopping block by Congress). My work has also been funded by the University of Chicago's William Rainey Harper/Provost Dissertation Fellowship (2015-2016), a Coordinating Council for Women in History/Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Graduate Student Fellowship (2014), a Tinker Field Research Grant from the University of Chicago's Center for Latin American Studies (2010), and a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship (2008-2013).

As part of my dissertation, I am also mapping and compiling a database of São Paulo's theaters. I hope to make both maps and database accessible online in 2016. Stay tuned! In the meantime, here's a 1913 map of São Paulo warped onto a present-day map (this enables full use of Google Earth's features, for example).

1. "Stages of a State: From São Paulo's Teatro São José to the Teatro Municipal, 1854–1911," Planning Perspectives 28, no. 3 (Jul 2013). This article uses the cases of the Teatro São José and the Teatro Municipal to explain how and why performance space in the city of São Paulo became an increasingly public issue between 1854 and 1911. The piece is based on a paper that I presented at the International Planning History Society's 2012 conference and which was awarded the Society's Postgraduate Prize.

2. "Sarah Bernhardt in São Paulo: A Muse for the 'Artistic Capital,'" Istor 14, no. 53 (Summer 2013). Using legislative records and newspapers, this article examines the Paulistano reception of French actress and global celebrity Sarah Bernhardt to illuminate the politics of the urban imaginary in São Paulo’s transition from sleepy village to bustling city.

I am currently working on two additional articles:
1. a historiographic essay that argues for the significance of placing in conversation urban history with that of cultural production, and
2. a piece evaluating the profitability of entertainment in turn-of-the-century São Paulo, and especially the impact on women's roles as theater producers.

São Paulo Symposium
In 2013, I helped organize and presented at the São Paulo Symposium, a two-day conference at the University of Chicago that brought together scholars of the city of São Paulo from across the disciplines. More information, photos, and videos can be found at spsymposium.blogspot.com.

The Symposium laid the foundation for an in-the-works online and book project that will offer São Paulo as a case for reinterpreting urbanity in Brazil, Latin America, and the Global South. More information coming soon!

Additional Projects
If you'd like a copy of any of my recent conference papers, please feel free to contact me.

Buenos Aires: A Song in Three Spaces. If you're in the mood to wander the web, here's a website that I created for my final project in the course "Noises of Imperial Cities." The site leads readers through a series of songs to analyze the relation between sound and space in Buenos Aires.