To Belong in Buenos Aires
Germans, Argentines, and the Rise of a Pluralist Society
Stanford University Press 2018
New Books in German StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Latin American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network May 11, 2018 Monica Black
Benjamin Bryce, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Northern British Columbia, has written a history of belonging within a culturally plural Argentina. To Belong in Buenos Aires: Germans, Argentines, and the Rise of a Pluralist Society (Stanford University Press, 2018) describes a period from the 1880s to the 1930s, when a massive wave of immigration transformed Argentine society and the country’s cultural landscape. By 1914, almost half the residents of Buenos Aires were foreign nationals. About 100,000 of the country’s newcomers in those decades were Germans, who arrived from Austria-Hungary, the Russian and German Empires, and Switzerland. Alongside the leaders of many other immigrant enclaves in Buenos Aires, Germans, too, created ethnic spaces by building institutions, from orphanages to hospitals to schools. They became loyal Argentine citizens even as they maintained a connection to German culture. The book’s guiding argument is that while immigrants often talked about the past – where they or their predecessors had come from, for example – their activity to maintain cultural identity was very much a future-oriented project.
Benjamin Bryce’s book fits into the burgeoning field of migration history – an important and timely topic, one generating tremendous political energy today around the world. In this podcast, the author and I discuss cultural pluralism, the amazing flexibility of ethnicity, and the aesthetics of ethnic cemeteries, among other topics.
Monica Black is Lindsay Young Associate Professor of History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.