Dear Readers: I am pleased to present to you this special issue, entitled, Experimental Urbanity in São Paulo. The issue is the culmination of a major scholarly undertaking that began at the University of Chicago in 2013. Since then, the eight authors represented in this collection have held conferences and workshops at Tulane University and Princeton University, convening numerous other scholars whose work focuses on the largest city in the Americas. I will allow the organizers of the issue to present their findings in their introduction, and I will reserve my own comments for the editor’s note, both to follow this brief foreword. I do, however, again wish to convey my satisfaction that this project has been brought to fruition through the Journal of Global South Studies, and I hope that it will become the first of many special issues focusing on distinct geographic or thematic areas.

In addition to our guest authors and editors, I would, as always, like to extend my sincere gratitude to the anonymous peer reviewers who have worked to improve each article, as well as the volunteer associate editors (Fodei Batty for Africa, Srobana Bhattacharya for Asia, Vaughn Shannon for the Middle East, Tyler Ralston for the Americas, Jason Strakes for Eurasia, and Michael Hall for book reviews), and offer equally big thank-yous to the JGSS copy editor, Sara Abernathy, and to Lauren Phillips, journals manager at the University of Florida Press. Anyone wishing to contribute a book review can do so by visiting the guidelines page at the Association of Global South Studies website here:

Our parent organization, the Association of Global South Studies, was established in order to provide an international structure for the humane and scientific study of peoples, problems, and issues in the world’s developing countries, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life in those places. The late Dr. Harold Isaacs, professor emeritus of history at Georgia Southwestern State University in Americus, Georgia, founded the Association of Third World Studies (ATWS), Inc., in 1983. The association now has a global membership and chapters in South Asia and Africa. In the summer of 2016, following a vote of the members of the association, ATWS was renamed the Association of Global South Studies (AGSS).

As ATWS, the association began its history as an institution in 1991 when, under the newly ratified ATWS constitution, elected officials assumed responsibility for the management of the organization. Since 1992 the executive headquarters have been located at Georgia Southern University (1992–2003), Mississippi State University (2003–2006), and Louisiana State University-Shreveport (2006–). Due to the dedicated and energetic leadership of Zia H. Hashmi and Paul Rodell at Georgia Southern, Shu-hui Wu at Mississippi State, and William Pederson at LSU-Shreveport, AGSS has made great progress as a global, professional organization. In 1995 the United Nations recognized the success of AGSS by granting it UN “consultative status,” thus enabling the association to increase its direct impact on world development. AGSS has an established and newly revamped website, to be found at

Membership in AGSS is open to any person interested in studying the developing countries. Yearly membership dues are $60.00, which includes an annual subscription to JGSS. The yearly subscription rate is $60.00; single copies are $30.00. Discounts are available for students and those living in the developing countries. Membership and subscription forms, as well as copies of JTWS/JGSS, may be obtained by writing to the Association of Global South Studies, Inc., care of Ryan Alexander, History Department, SUNY-Plattsburgh, Champlain Valley Hall 224, Plattsburgh, NY 12901. Individuals interested in submitting articles to be considered, or refereed, for publication by the JGSS Board of Editors, should submit through our online submission portal at Alternatively, manuscripts may be sent to the editor via email:

Articles appearing in this journal are abstracted and indexed in the International Bibliography of Periodical Literature, the International Bibliography of Book Reviews, the International Bibliography of the Social Sciences, the International Political Science Abstracts, Political Science Abstracts, Sociological Abstracts, Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts, Historical Abstracts and America: History and Life, Periodica Islamica, A Matter of Fact; Media Review, Consumers Index, Social Sciences Index, University Microfilms, Inc., PAIS Indexes, and CAB International (CABI).










“Brazil … it’s the country of the future, and it always will be!” The exact provenance of this old joke is unclear. Typically, it is attributed either to the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, who wrote of his adopted homeland with admiration in his 1941 book, Brazil: A Land of the Future, or to the French statesman Charles de Gaulle, who is widely credited with coining the exact phrase, with its more sarcastic and derisive tone. Regardless, at its origin it reflected an outsider’s perspective. Since then, however, it has morphed into a kind of self-deprecating admission by Brazilians that every time their nation finally seems to be on the verge of breaking through, something bad happens.

A quick sweep through Brazil’s history can give you the feeling that it has been forever trapped in this boom-bust cycle. In the first half of the nineteenth century, foreign observers praised Brazil’s comparatively amicable split from Portugal and subsequent stability as an independent empire, both of which stood in stark contrast to Spanish America’s protracted wars of independence and shaky beginnings as a collection of unstable republics. Yet imperial Brazil hung onto chattel slavery longer than anywhere else in the Atlantic system (the decree of abolition finally came in 1888), making it a pariah in the international community while postponing and worsening its inevitable transition into a post-slavery existence. Its coffee-based export economy eventually recovered, but it was again thrown into disarray by the global economic depression of the 1930s. Its subsequent turn toward mass industrialization produced what some heralded as an economic miracle, but once again the bubble burst just as quickly. Populist mass politics, interpreted by well-to-do Brazilians and foreign economic interests as the start of a slippery slope into a communist future, spurred the imposition of a brutal military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985, while astronomical foreign debt plunged the country deep into a hyperinflationary economic crisis in the 1980s. The restoration of democracy in that decade appeared to offer a fresh start, but, yet again, reality hasn’t quite caught up to hope. While at the turn of the new millennium Brazil was the B in BRIC (which also included Russia, India, and China, and later South Africa, resulting in the expanded BRICS), a group of nations widely regarded as the world’s most potent emerging economies, today South America’s largest country is rarely discussed in such optimistic terms. Perhaps the most telling statement of Brazil’s most recent fall from grace is its current president, Jair Bolsonaro, a crude politician who has publicly defended the military dictatorship’s routine use of torture while touting, of all things, his own military record to secure mass support from an electorate looking for a savior.

The details of this history are unique to Brazil, but the general themes—dramatic shifts in economic policy, wild swings in political affairs, constant pivots from inward-looking nationalism to externally oriented integration into global markets—are no doubt familiar to scholars of all areas of the Global South. And one of the salient experiences across all Global South regions in the twentieth century has been mass urbanization. From Jakarta to Kinshasa to Manila, the world’s largest cities, and the world’s fastest-growing cities, by and large sit in the Global South. Latin America’s major urban centers have been no exception, and Brazil’s financial and industrial capital, São Paulo, has recently surpassed Mexico City as the region’s largest (both sit in the top five of the world’s megalopolises in terms of population). São Paulo, less familiar to foreigners than its glitzy counterpart, Rio de Janeiro, is arguably the more influential of Brazil’s two megacities. As the introduction to this issue points out, the stereotypes of the two cities could not differ more: Rio, with its attractive art deco facades, sexy samba dancers, pervasive beachgoing culture, and over-the-top carnival celebrations, stands in stark contrast to São Paulo’s drab, boxy high-rises, suit-and-tie wearing business class, and seemingly staid culture. These are, of course, gross exaggerations; reality is always more varied and complex than stereotypes. But the stereotypes have power. The authors of this special issue aim to move past them by offering new and innovative lines of analysis.

I do not want to repeat what is in the forthcoming introduction too much. It would be redundant, and I would not do it justice. But, briefly, the eight authors in this volume frame their analyses around what the guest editors, Aiala Levy of the University of Scranton, Jay Sosa of Bowdoin College, and ethnomusicologist Daniel Gough, call experimental urbanity. Their use of the word experimental draws from its twin meanings in Portuguese—to experiment, but also to experience. And the word urbanity in this case is meant to suggest a departure from urbanism, which emphasizes the material or structural dimensions of urban life, as well as from urbanization, which focuses on the practical elements that define how cities are established and grow. Rather, the authors here focus on cultural production far more than on political or economic affairs, emphasizing how middle-class urbanites have shaped and reshaped their lives in this sprawling metropolis, and in particular how the sensory experiences of urban life—its aesthetics, its sounds, its crowds—have spurred particular social activities.

Though they are eclectic in theme, the eight articles all revolve around these common goals. Aiala Levy examines cinemagoing in the 1910s as an aspirational activity for a growing middle class interested not only in seeing movies, but in being seen in the right places. Adrian Anagnost interprets the avant-garde architecture and iconoclastic performance art of Flávio de Carvalho as being symbolic of São Paulo’s constant cultural upheaval. Marcio Siwi sees the development of the sprawling Ibirapuera Park as both a showpiece of grand ambition and a process fraught with racial and class implications. Reighan Gillam analyzes a massively successful T-shirt design known as “I Africanize São Paulo,” extrapolating a great deal about the poorly understood realities of being Black in São Paulo. Leonardo Cardoso explores efforts to pass noise ordinances in São Paulo in response to the construction of a massive expressway and airport as a means of understanding common experiences with one of the unintended inconveniences of urban growth. Daniel Gough gleans crucial insights from a movement advocating financial support for music industry workers about the role that state funding for artistic creation plays in the city’s cultural landscape. Joseph Jay Sosa demonstrates that queer protest over the last few years in São Paulo has depended on a careful manipulation of space and geography to maximize its effectiveness. Finally, Marcos Steuernagel shows how a legal clash between celebrity TV-presenter-turned-investor Silvio Santos and legendary theater director Zé Celso over a proposition by Santos to build a series of high-rise luxury apartments points to competing visions of what well-heeled paulistanos wanted their city to look like. Together, these eight pieces give readers a sense of the preoccupations of middle-class residents of São Paulo across the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries.

What I like most about this collection is that it is not really about the Brazil of the future. As the old cliché at the top of this essay would suggest, visions of a better future have consumed Brazilians for a long time, and this is certainly reflected in its history and historiography. Its official capital, after all, is not the economic colossus of São Paulo, nor the cultural magnet of Rio, nor even the faded slave-holding center of Salvador, Bahia (although Rio and Salvador each were at one point), but Brasília, a rather unprepossessing planned city in the interior constructed according to the modernist visions of the architects Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer. Of course, the future figures prominently in this collection, too. Huge highways and airports are built, after all, in anticipation of a future filled with car and air traffic, and sprawling parks are built to preserve green space in a future defined by both urban density and urban sprawl. But this collection really is about the present, at different moments in time. It is about the interplay between individual lives, a collective existence, and the city itself, all three of which are continually made and remade across time in response to change.

A couple of final items worth noting: The term carioca means, as a noun, someone from the city of Rio de Janeiro, and as an adjective, something pertaining to Rio. Its counterpart for the city of São Paulo is paulistano. Someone from the state of São Paulo is known as a paulista, while someone from Rio de Janeiro state is a fluminense. You’ll also note another peculiarity: Some, but not all, of the authors in this special issue, in keeping with Brazilian historiography, will refer to scholars and historical figures by their first rather than last names. Rest assured that this is not amateurism on the authors’ parts, nor editorial laziness on ours. It is, rather, a distinct convention in Lusophone scholarship.

I hope, regardless of your knowledge of Brazil, that you will find this issue as enlightening as I did.