Isabella Cosse’s Mafalda: A Social And Political History of a Global Comic
(Duke University Press) is the definitive account of the most famous comic from Latin America, the Argentine strip Mafalda
Mafalda, a four-year-old girl living in a Buenos Aires apartment with her middle-class family, became an international symbol of dissent through her humorous, yet pointed critiques of authoritarianism. Cosse’s work of cultural history carefully situates the comic in the context of social modernization and political polarization in Argentina.
Cosse reveals that the various characters reflect the heterogeneity of the Argentine middle classes during the years prior to the military dictatorship, when censorship was on the rise and standards of living grew more precarious for social sectors accustomed to modern comforts. Gender roles and generational change were also central themes in the comic, which used humor to explore the ways that middle-class families grappled with shifting configurations of power within the family and society more broadly.
Cosse analyzes the processes by which Mafalda has acquired new meanings in a changing Argentina before, during, and after the military dictatorship. But this book is also transnational in scope, for Cosse follows Mafalda
to the other countries where the comic found great success and resonated politically: Spain, Italy, and Mexico. Cosse’s award-winning work was first published in Spanish in 2014, and the English translation with Duke is part of the press’s series Latin America in Translation/En Traducción/Em Tradução
is an independent researcher for the National Science and Technology Research Council and the University of Buenos Aires.
Rachel Grace Newman is Lecturer in the History of the Global South at Smith College. She has a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, and she writes about youth, higher education, transnationalism, and social class in twentieth-century Mexico. She is also the author of a book on a binational program for Mexican migrant children. She is on Twitter (@rachelgnew).