Brazil's Northeast has traditionally been considered one of the country's poorest and most underdeveloped areas. In this impassioned work, the Brazilian historian Durval Muniz de Albuquerque Jr. investigates why Northeasterners are marginalized and stereotyped not only by inhabitants of other parts of Brazil but also by nordestinos themselves. His broader question though, is how "the Northeast" came into existence. Tracing the history of its invention, he finds that the idea of the Northeast was formed in the early twentieth century, when elites around Brazil became preoccupied with building a nation. Diverse phenomena—from drought policies to messianic movements, banditry to new regional political blocs—helped to consolidate this novel concept, the Northeast. Politicians, intellectuals, writers, and artists, often nordestinos, played key roles in making the region cohere as a space of common references and concerns. Ultimately, Albuqerque urges historians to question received concepts, such as regions and regionalism, to reveal their artifice and abandon static categories in favor of new, more granular understandings.
"In this modern classic of Brazilian cultural history, Durval Muniz de Albuquerque Jr. provides a richly documented and theoretically illuminating exploration of how the most 'regional' of all Brazilian regions has been imagined, indeed 'invented,' as a space of alterity, poverty, and authenticity during the past century. In doing so, he reveals the discursive production of regions, the relations of power that produce them, and the stereotypes that make them recognizable to a national audience."
Christopher Dunn, coeditor of
Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship
"In this brilliant and innovative study of Brazilian regionalism, Durval Muniz de Albuquerque Jr. traces the surprisingly recent invention of the Northeast as a putatively homogeneous space with particular socio-cultural traits. By exploring various sites of political, literary, and intellectual contention and representation, Albuquerque illuminates the process by which the poor and predominantly rural Nordeste emerged both as the internecine 'other' of the rapidly urbanizing South, and as a means for northern elites to maintain access to national resources and political influence. The Invention of the Brazilian Northeast is an outstanding example of the way in which historical research and interpretation can denaturalize even the most 'natural' categories and boundaries, and allow us new insights into inequalities of wealth and power."
Barbara Weinstein, New York University
"Originally published in 1999 in Portuguese, Durval Muniz de Albuquerque Jr.’s excellent book will now find a much expanded, English-speaking audience and should inform another wave of scholarship.... Albuquerque straddles disciplines, with his exploration of prose, theater, cinema, and television. Fifteen years past its original publication, the book dialogues in productive ways with a newly energized field; the growing focus on spatial history should produce an interested group of readers who may take away different lessons than the book’s initial audience. Albuquerque in some ways anticipated the recent attention to space and place."
Thomas D. Rogers
Hispanic American Historical Review
"The Invention of the Brazilian Northeast . . . is an enthralling book that will give the reader a clearer understanding of Brazilian culture."
Diego A. Godoy
Not Even Past
"Albuquerque's The Invention of the Brazilian Northeast is a masterpiece for both the originality of its thesis, and for its virtuosic readings of Brazilian art and literature."
Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y el Caribe
"Albuquerque’s book prompts us not only to examine the origins and consequences of discourses of Northeastern regionalism. His work, exemplary in its theoretical underpinnings and methodological rigour, is a model for discourse-centred analysis of any historical subject."
Canadian Journal of History
"The Invention of the Brazilian Northeast is a comprehensive and sensitive unmasking of the ways in which well-meaning intellectuals became trapped in tedious reiteration of the stereotypes that 'invented' the Brazilian Northeast as a sociocultural region from 1919 to 1969.... Albuquerque’s readings are swift, allusive, and delicate.... Albuquerque’s intellectual history of region is so fine and rich that we want it to cover more territory."
American Historical Review
“The Invention of the Brazilian Northeast is a soulful scholarly work.”
Latin American Research Review