With Brazil’s largest concentration of historic landmarks and famous landscapes, Rio de Janeiro’s passionate heritage debates have helped to define both the city and the country. Taking a critical preservationist stance, Brian Godfrey explores how historic designation and urban rebranding have shaped Rio’s distinctive sense of place.
Official heritage programs date from the 1930s, when federal authorities centralized power and promoted nationalism. The city began a heritage-based strategy of urban revitalization and rebranding in the 1980s––the “Cultural Corridor” of historic places downtown. Subsequent rediscovery of the old “Little Africa” district and continuing struggles of favela communities have emphasized narratives of “counter-memory” against racism, social injustice, and governmental neglect. Meanwhile environmental activism has encouraged programs to conserve the historic landscapes of Rio’s famous mountains, forests, beaches, and bays.
While historic preservation often presumes to conserve or restore heritage sites according to a preexisting authenticity, Godfrey shows how the past actually becomes a resource for present-day interests. Memory brokers have guided the reinvention of historic places, determining whose past has been preserved. Debates over the “right of remembrance,” he argues, shape place memories and identities in this spectacular if highly unequal megacity, which has much to teach the world about conserving cultural diversity and urban environments.
Brian J. Godfrey is professor of geography at Vassar College. His books include Neighborhoods in Transition: The Making of San Francisco's Ethnic and Nonconformist Communities; Rainforest Cities: Urbanization, Development, and Globalization of the Brazilian Amazon; and Cidades da Floresta: Urbanização, Desenvolvimento, e Globalização na Amazônia Brasileira.
1 Uses of Memory: Preserving Whose Rio de Janeiro?
Narratives of Historic Placemaking
“Civilizing” Rio through Urban Design
The “Land of the Future” Discovers Its Past
Memory, Preservation, and Heritage
Approaching Place Memory and Identity
2 Preservation Politics: Narrating a City and a Nation
Postcolonial Urbanism in Rio de Janeiro
November 15th Square: Placemaking on the Praça
Adaptive Reuse of the Imperial Palace
Reinvention and Continuity
3 Little Africa: Afro-Brazilian Heritage and Placemaking
Counter-Memory and Cultural Reinvention
Slave Port and Divided City
Valongo Wharf: Making a World Heritage Site
Little Africa and the African Heritage Circuit
Community Identity and Cultural Politics
4 Resilient Favelas: Pride of Place, Heritage of Resistance
Contested Origins: Invention of the Favela
Favela Expansion, Removal, and Resistance
Favela as Spectacle: “They Don’t Care about Us”
The Rise of “Favela Chic”
Favelas: A New Urbanism?
5 Environmental Heritages: Defending Carioca Landscapes
Carioca Landscapes: Making a World Heritage Site
Tijuca National Park: One Park, Many Symbols
Guanabara Bay: Conservation Turns to Environmental Justice
Copacabana and Ipanema: Democratic Beaches?
Environmental Heritages: Protecting Carioca Landscapes
6 Remembering Rio: The Politics of Memory
About the Author
Multi-dimensional and compelling! Brian Godfrey has brilliantly examined various facets of Rio’s landscapes in this distinct and elegantly written book. From contested cultural politics and sense of place to historical landmarks and urban design, Godfrey provides a unique gaze into carioca placemaking.
A panoramic examination of how diverse economic, political, social, and cultural forces have disputed and promoted the preservation, memorialization, and recognition of different spaces in Brazil’s former capital of Rio de Janeiro. By drawing on both historical records and contemporary accounts about the importance of the city’s historical zones, rediscovered locations of the African slave trade, favela communities, and natural sites, this innovative study helps us understand how the cityscape has become valued in an era of neoliberal hegemony over the political economy of the country.
Brian Godfrey’s book is timely, urgent, and very much in line with the current conversations and inflection points with which we are living in Rio de Janeiro today. He does a brilliant job of describing Rio’s special significance as a city of memory, the role of memory in placemaking, and what we've come to describe as the right to roots. All of the forces he describes continue to shape the city, often in conflict with each other. But he defends the prospect of a more inclusive and compassionate Rio. If we find that path, the city may just find its true vocation and realize its potential.
Rio de Janeiro is a megalopolis that embraces self-mythologizing, and Godfrey deftly guides us through the mythmaking. With close attention to placemaking in eclectic urban landscapes and dizzying natural features, Preserving Whose City? brings together the diverse residents and the contested politics that make Rio a ‘Marvelous City’ of memory and counter-memory. An excellent read for the cultural geographer, the educated traveler, and any student of global cities.