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Antagonism, Europhilia, and Identity: Guillermo Uribe Holguín and the Politics of National Music in Early Twentieth-Century Colombia


Guillermo Uribe Holguín (1880–1971), a student of Vincent d’Indy and founder of the Colombian National Music Conservatory, occupies an ambivalent place in Colombian music history. Many of his contemporaries regarded him as Colombia’s foremost composer, while others accused him of being an anti-nationalist, an elitist polemicist, and a Europhile. Most recently, Uribe Holguín has also emerged as the embodiment of coloniality—a cultural actor who stifled the development of local, subaltern musical practices by imposing a European-based educational model.

This dissertation examines Uribe Holguín’s polemic persona as a site of antagonism from which national narratives were, and continue to be, crafted in opposition to a Europeanizing elite. I pursue this by studying the symbolic construction of an enemy, whose presence in national narratives haunts the process of identity formation itself, preventing identity from being ever fully constituted within any social space. Uribe Holguín’s putative anti-nationalism thus presents itself as a locus for the analysis of nation-building strategies in a postcolonial place like Colombia. I contend that Uribe Holguín’s figure in Colombian historiography operates as a reinscription of what I call a discourse of permanent national prolepsis—that is, a discourse that permanently places forward in time the moment in which the nation will finally constitute itself. I suggest that we can trace this discourse as a particular ontology of Colombianidad (“Colombianness”), which has been dispersed across multiple cultural practices, including music. Throughout this dissertation, I point to the elision between this ontological register of Colombianidad and an epistemological register in which such processes of identity formation have been historicized into musical epistemologies that conceive of art music as distinct from folkloric and popular musics. In this light, I also examine: (1) how Uribe Holguín himself responded to the historicization of his figure as an anti-nationalist foreignizer through his music and literary work; (2) the role of bi-partisan politics in national identity formation processes in early twentieth-century Colombia; and (3) the convergence of Europhilia and orientalism in the construction of an indigenous imaginary by non-indigenous, mestizo (racially-mixed) intellectuals.

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