What to do with monuments and crowds when they coexist conspicuously in public space, and what might a variety of cultural expressions such as political cartoons of the ruler depicted as an imposing statue dueling with prominent figures of the opposition tell us about such a relationship?
When in 1870 Antonio Guzmán Blanco entered Caracas at the helm of a federal army of displaced, highly mobile, and mobilized peasants from all over Venezuela he almost immediately established the cult of Simón Bolívar as the official state cult. Rapidly, public spaces in all Venezuelan cities, large and small, became filled with the monumentalized representatives —busts, portraits, equestrian statues, commemorative medals and the like—of Bolívar often portrayed alongside Guzmán. Whenever this happened it conveyed a virtual exchangeability between the dead hero and the living Venezuelan ruler presiding over reduced circles of “civilized” fin-de-siècle ‘notables’ and over the nation’s disenfranchised multitudes menacingly assembled around them. Eventually the monumentalization of power and authority was such that in a “reaction” against Guzmán that arose during one of his trips to Paris some local cartoonists saw no better than to picture the conflict as a duel of living men crossing swords with the somewhat bombastic statue of the ruler. This talk by Rafael Sanchez presents the monumentalization of politics for what it may reveal of the republican governmentality that, to this day, in Venezuela has arisen in such close proximity to this nation’s also quite republican crowds.
Rafael Sánchez is Senior Lecturer at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. He has carried out extensive field- and archival research in Venezuela. His publications have focused on media, mass politics, populism, and spirit mediumship. His book Dancing Jacobins: A Venezuelan Genealogy of Latin American Populism appeared in Spring 2016 with Fordham University Press. His current project “The Fate of Sovereignty in the Landscape of the City” focuses on forms of popular imagination and territorializing practices in contemporary urban Venezuela.
Introduction and moderation of the Q&A by Dean of Arts and Sciences Maria Montoya.