Inhabiting Utopias: Literature, Architecture, and Urban Utopianism in Post-Revolutionary Mexico (1919-1959)
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Inhabiting Utopias: Literature, Architecture, and Urban Utopianism in Post-Revolutionary Mexico (1919-1959)


This dissertation undertakes a critical history of post-revolutionary Mexico’s literary and architectural urban utopianism, from 1919 to 1959. As the Mexican Revolution that erupted in 1910 was coming to an end, debates on what this social movement meant in urban politics was a contested terrain. Radical writers and architects of the period believed that a revolutionary production of urban space could dramatically transform the daily lives of Mexico’s population by solving basic needs that, today, we organize under the concept of social reproduction. They claimed that reproductive needs like healthcare, affordable housing, childcare, education, and recreation constituted urban rights that could be provided through imaginative and experimental forms of designing urban space, providing public services, and organizing reproductive labor collectively. To this end, they approached the aesthetic and philosophical languages of utopianism, futurism, and science fiction. The dissertation analyzes how, in objects like the science fiction novel, the futurist magazine, the socialist realism novel, or the utopian architecture project, writers and architects articulated a radical critique of capitalist urbanization and explored alternative models of urban habitation. In this project, utopianism is understood as a world-building literary and architectural practice based on political speculation and aesthetic experimentality. As mentioned before, the dissertation provides a critical history of this generation of radical utopian writers and architects. It examines their crucial shortcomings, but also the most disruptive aspects of their urban thought and aesthetic practice. Chapter 1 explores Eduardo Ursaiz’s science fiction novel Eugenia. In dialogue with Donna Haraway’s notion of “oddkin,” it explores the novel’s critique of the traditional family as a reproductive institution and its complex notion of “scientific socialism” in Yucatán. Chapter 2 follows the debates on political stability and economic recovery in the 1920s by comparing how two different periodicals understood the importance of “networked infrastructures” (roads, radio, telephone): on the one hand, Horizonte, a futurist magazine published by the avant-garde estridentistas while collaborating in the leftist local government of Veracruz; on the other, Planificación, published by liberal technocratic urban planners in Mexico City. Chapter 3 studies how, after the fall of Estridentismo, some of its members remained in Jalapa and reorganized into the “proletarian literature” project experimenting with socialist realism. The chapter analyzes José Mancisidor’s socialist realism novel La ciudad roja, a socialist reconstruction of the massive anarchist tenant strikes in Veracruz in 1922. The chapter then analyzes the 1938 Proyecto de ciudad obrera, an architecture project for a workers’ city based on collective houses and a cooperative distribution of all labor (including reproductive tasks such as cleaning, cooking, or childcare). While never built, this project’s insistence that it was necessary and possible to organize social reproduction collectively so that all inhabitants had access to childcare, recreation facilities, or education became important in the experimental social housing policy of the 1940s and 50s in Mexico City. Chapter 4 traces how architects and bureaucrats in the magazine Arquitectura México theorized the multifamiliares social housing policy as an urban system of economic redistribution and welfare provision. A final epilogue, “Utopianism Reconsidered,” analyzes the legacy of post-revolutionary Mexico’s literary and architectural utopianism in the context of present-day urban struggles and world-building aesthetic practices.

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