Diogo Rodrigues de Barros – The Awareness of Underdevelopment: Latin Americanism and Art Historiography in the 1960s and 1970s

At the end of the 1960s, the Brazilian literary critic Antonio Candido published “Literature and underdevelopment”, an article which quickly became a classic of Latin American cultural studies. It offers a brief history of Latin American cultural self-awareness through its literary production, arguing that from the 1930s intellectuals in the region gradually moved from the optimistic idea of inhabiting a “new land” to a less cheerful “awareness of underdevelopment”. This shift in perspective marked Latin American thinking throughout the 20th century, and especially during the Cold War, when it became the core of a Latin Americanist anti-imperialist intellectual agenda. The rise of a professional art historiography in Latin America during the 1960s coincides with the culmination of this process, a moment of acute awareness of the challenges and responsibilities of the Third World intellectual. Art historians and critics have written and debated widely on issues such as artistic dependence, the notions of progress and development, and centre versus periphery. They argued about what Latin American art should become and defended it against accusations of copying and backwardness. This paper aims to read and discuss key examples of this scholarly production, suggesting it once again has a contribution to make to art historical thinking at a time when discussions about the colonial vices of the “global art” ideology have gained momentum in the art world.

Diogo Rodrigues de Barros

Diogo Rodrigues de Barros holds a BA in History from the University of São Paulo and an MA from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS, Paris). He is currently a doctoral candidate in Art History at the University of Montreal (UdeM, Canada). In his doctoral research, he discusses recent global and transregional approaches to the art world by revisiting scholarly and museological projects on Latin American art developed from the 1970s to the early 1990s. As a lecturer at UdeM, he taught ‘History of collections’ (winter 2016), ‘Modern arts in Latin America’ (winter 2017, 2018 and 2019) and the ‘Synthesis seminar’ (Master’s Program in Museology, winter 2018 and 2020).


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