Daniel R. Reichman, "Progress in the Balance: Mythologies of Development in Santos, Brazil" (Cornell UP, 2023)


Progress and development have long been important issues in anthropology and social sciences. Based on extensive archives and ethnographic fieldwork, Progress in the Balance: Mythologies of Development in Santos, Brazil (Cornell UP, 2023) addresses and assesses an anthropological theory of progress. Daniel Reichman documents and explains the contested meanings of progress, and reveals how this concept is deeply embedded in Brazil’s histories and socio-cultural contexts. Further, he investigates how any society can separate “progress” from plain old change and, if changes are constantly happening all around us, how and why certain events get lifted out of a normal timeframe and into a mythic narrative of progress.

Each chapter in the book outlines a particular episode in Santos, a city undergoing an unprecedented period of economic and political turmoil, as it is represented in public culture, mainly through museums, monuments, art, sports, and public events. Drawing on narrative stories and the anthropology of myth, Reichman proposes a model that he refers to as a “clash of timescapes.” Progress in the Balance shows how the concept of “progress” requires a different temporal structure that separates sacralized social change from mundane historical events, offering analysts a new framework of understanding progress and development.

Daniel R. Reichman is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Rochester. His research focuses on cultural responses to economic change, especially the anthropology of trade and globalization in Latin America. He is the author of The Broken Village: Coffee, Migration, and Globalization in Honduras, which was awarded 3rd prize in the 2012 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing.

Yadong Li is a PhD student in socio-cultural anthropology at Tulane University. He conducts ethnography among ufologists in China. His research interests lie at the intersection of the anthropology of the supernatural, hope studies, and post-structural philosophy (hauntology). More details about his scholarship and research interests can be found here. Anyone interested in his research can contact him at yli88@tulane.edu.

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Yadong Li

Yadong Li is a PhD student in socio-cultural anthropology at the Tulane University of Louisiana. He is interested in the anthropology of time, hope studies, and post-structuralist philosophy. Please feel free to contact him by email: yli88@tulane.edu / lydooooong@gmail.com.
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