A Fervent Crusade for the National Soul examines the implementation of cultural policies in relation to the contested configuration of citizenship in Colombia between 1930 and 1946. At a time when national identities were re-imagined all over the Americas, progressive artists and intellectuals affiliated with the liberal governments that ruled Colombia established an unprecedented bureaucratic apparatus for cultural intervention that celebrated so-called “popular culture” and rendered culture a social right. This book challenges pervasive narratives of state failure in Colombia, attending to the confrontations, negotiations, and entanglements of bureaucrats with everyday citizens that shaped the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. Catalina Muñoz argues that while culture became an instrument of inclusion, the liberal definition of popular culture as authentic and static was also a tool for domination that reinforced enduring structures of inequality founded on region, race, and gender. Liberals crafted the state as the paternalistic protector of acquiescent citizens, instead of a warden of political participation. Muñoz suggests that this form of governance allowed the elites to rule without making the structural changes required to craft a more equal society.
Catalina Muñoz-Rojas is associate professor of history at Universidad de los Andes.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Cultural Politics and State Formation during the Liberal Republic
Chapter 1: “A Vastly Transcending Mission”: The Cultural Politics of Music during Colombia’s Liberal Republic, 1930–1946
Chapter 2: “A Broad Path of Popular Action”: Forging Citizenship through the Stage and the Screen
Chapter 3: Hygiene, the “Social Question,” and the Making of a Racialized, Classed and Gendered Citizenship
Chapter 4: Who is Colombian? Nationalizing the Past and the Present
Incisive and creative, historian Catalina Muñoz follows Liberal politicians, bureaucrats, and intellectuals in the manner of an ethnographer using the paper trail they left behind. This critical study is beautifully crafted. Muñoz convincingly demonstrates that the simultaneous promotion of national unity and inclusion worked hand in glove with the maintenance of vertical ties for the legitimacy of the ruling elite, making the history of Colombia during the decades prior to the escalation of violence less exceptional than we have assumed. This is a must-read for anyone interested in how democracy is an ongoing, contingent project in a permanent state of expansion and contraction.