The utopian design and organization of Brasília—the modernist new capital of Brazil—were meant to transform Brazilian society. In this sophisticated, pioneering study of Brasília from its inception in 1957 to the present, James Holston analyzes this attempt to change society by building a new kind of city and the ways in which the paradoxes of constructing an imagined future subvert its utopian premises. Integrating anthropology with methods of analysis from architecture, urban studies, social history, and critical theory, Holston presents a critique of modernism based on a powerfully innovative ethnography of the city.
In this revision of his doctoral dissertation, Holston (anthropology, U. of Southern California) combines analytical and ethnographic methods to examine Brasilia as an example of a development project founded on a paradox. In order to create Brasilia as the representation of an imagined and desired future, the government would have to utilize existing conditions incompatible with that future. Holston examines the ways in which, in the construction of the city and the making of its society, the paradoxes of utopia subverted its initial premises. With many maps, figures, tables, and some photos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)