The Citizenship of Beauty

Diego A. von Vacano

in The Color of Citizenship

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199746668
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932337 | DOI:
The Citizenship of Beauty

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This chapter examines the postnational, cosmopolitan response to republican accounts of the role of race in politics through an analysis of the ideas of the Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos. When the modernist vehicle of the nation-state seemed to reach its limits and was led to dictatorships such as those of Gómez in Venezuela and Díaz in Mexico, intellectuals like Vasconcelos, deeply influenced by the ideas of Nietzsche, developed alternatives that proffered a regional cosmopolitanism grounded on aesthetic ideas rather than positivist statism. While Vasconcelos has been generally considered an advocate of Mexican mestizo nationalism, he was fundamentally a philosopher whose ideas lead toward a transcendence of nationalism and of the concept of mestizaje. Throughout his writings, we find a reconceptualization of the idea of race as something inherently mixed and variegated and leading toward ever-greater miscegenation. While largely ignorant of pre-Columbian ideas and uncritical about the role of Catholicism in the Americas in his old age, Vasconcelos provided an important defense of racial admixture at a time of widespread racism in Europe and North America. His perspective helps us to conceive of race in aesthetic terms in the late-modern period in the context of regional Latin American cosmopolitanism and antipositivism.

Keywords: Vasconcelos; race; aesthetics; Nietzsche; beauty; cosmopolitan; agonism; synthesis; miscegenation; teleology

Chapter.  15615 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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