Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, History, University of Houston

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2005
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Indiana University / Bloomington
Peronism, Mass Consumption, and Working-Class Culture, Argentina, 1946-1955

My dissertation focuses on the relation among consumption, working-class culture, and politics in Argentina during Juan D. Peron's first and second governments (1946-55). Peron's administration incorporated the previously excluded working classes into the national mainstream, radically changing Argentina's economic structure, social relations, culture, and politics. While historians of Peronism have explained this incorporation in terms of political participation and union organization, my dissertation will demonstrate that the most original and subversive aspect of Peronism was the participation of the working class in a mass, modem consumer culture. This project is based on manuscript, printed, visual, and oral sources, the result of archival work and oral interviews in Buenos Aires, Rosario, and Cordoba. I will show how Peronism created the economic, legal, and ideological conditions that facilitated popular access to goods-houses, radios, sewing machines, refrigerators, clothing, and cars-that had been largely enjoyed by the elite until the mid-1940s. My project contends that buying, using, and displaying these goods deeply transformed working-class culture. Mass consumption had broad implications for working-class gender relations by changing the procedures and time devoted to cooking, cleaning, and leisure. In addition, consumer goods modified the working-class household in aesthetic terms leading to new notions of modernity, beauty, luxury, and comfort. I thus argue mass consumption contributed to the emergence of a distinct working-class taste. The importance of consumerism can be seen not only in the consumer goods cherished by working-class households, but in the use of consumer goods as political propaganda by Peron's government. Indeed, consumer goods and the regime were both advertised through the same media channels and with similar marketing techniques, evidence of the powerful mutual reinforcement of politics and consumerism under Peron.