A Master on the Periphery of a Periphery: Popular Music, Streetcars, and the Republic

Bruno Carvalho

in Porous City

Published by Liverpool University Press

Published in print December 2013 | ISBN: 9781846319754
Published online May 2014 | e-ISBN: 9781781381007 | DOI:
A Master on the Periphery of a Periphery: Popular Music, Streetcars, and the Republic

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This chapter picks up around the 1870s, when Rio de Janeiro’s streets gain tram (streetcar) lines, the contours of what we could call Brazilian musical forms begin to take shape, and abolition as well as the end of the empire are on the horizon. As the Cidade Nova increasingly turns into a site of crowded tenements and precarious housing, associations between the neighbourhood and ‘blackness’ become commonplace – along with racially tinged notions like insalubrity and the threat of ‘dangerous classes’. Mostly outside the scope of novelists, the neighbourhood goes on to have an important function in the fiction of Brazil’s most prominent nineteenth-century writer, Machado de Assis, a mulato who circulated ably among the lettered elites. The chapter argues that through specific spatial references (streets, public places), his writings meticulously plot the complex socio-cultural landscape during the transition from the empire to the republic, established in 1889. Some of his celebrated short stories, traditionally read as restricted to a domestic and private sphere, shed light on the author’s relationship with the city, allowing for a discussion of social tensions, racial relations, and the dynamics of economic mobility.

Keywords: streetcars; Machado de Assis; racial relations; republic; abolition; popular music

Chapter.  13628 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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