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Book chapter - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Brasilia, a Story Seen from the Roadside : narratives of Landscape Transformation and the Technological Sublime

Silva, Sued


Images of a monumental concrete city arising over the vast and arid plains of central Brazil have exerted a powerful hold on the Brazilian national imagination since the construction on the New Capital began in 1956. Celebrated and condemned, the project of Brasilia may be placed within a wider project of nation-building and the collective desire to realize modernity’s utopian potential. Despite the city’s extensive historiography, however, the role of the capital in the colonization of the interior is less well known. However, many political leaders, journalists, and opinion-makers viewed the siting of the capital as a necessary step in the production of a national landscape and a new political identity grounded on progress and modernization. Through epic language and evocative visual representations, official discourses and mass media circulated narratives of the technological sublime common to many settler colonialist societies, from the United States to Australia and the Soviet Union. And nowhere was this national imaginary more condensed than in the figure of the road. By evoking the aesthetic of the sublime to extol the grandeur and power of technology, public discourses celebrated the national road network as a symbol of monumental force, splitting and knitting the territory together, and mostly, symbolizing the conquest of humans over nature, of civilization over underdevelopment. This chapter examines the narratives of nature, landscape, and technology surrounding road construction during Brasilia’s inaugural years. Acting as a powerful political link, the emerging road network cleared the way for a radical transformation of the landscape by technology, making possible new readings and understandings of the territory while reframing the political and cultural project behind the construction of Brasilia.

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Book title: The Routledge Handbook of Infrastructure Design
ISBN: 9780367554910, eISBN: 9781003093756
Publisher: Routledge

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    Cultural Studies

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