[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-LatAm]: Perelló on Ford, 'Childhood and Modernity in Cold War Mexico City'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Fri Oct 12 21:33:58 MDT 2018

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: October 11, 2018 at 10:54:50 AM EDT
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-LatAm]:  Perelló on Ford, 'Childhood and Modernity in Cold War Mexico City'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Eileen Ford.  Childhood and Modernity in Cold War Mexico City.
> London  Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.  240 pp.  $114.00 (cloth), ISBN
> 978-1-350-04002-1.
> Reviewed by Carolina Perelló (Universidad de Buenos Aires)
> Published on H-LatAm (October, 2018)
> Commissioned by Casey M. Lurtz
> Eileen Ford's thought-provoking book explores children's experiences
> and adult conceptions of childhood in Mexico City after the Mexican
> Revolution and during the Cold War. The volume proposes an
> interesting approach as she uses age as a category of analysis by
> focusing on the children who grew up in that period, a perspective
> that has not been explored despite the recent development of the
> field of childhood and infancy history. The book is a work of social
> and cultural history focused on the conditions faced by children in
> Mexico City, but also on the representations and ideas about
> childhood developed during this period. The author proposes to
> investigate "the intersection of discourse and lived reality" (p.
> 14). In other words, Ford compares the expectations and
> preconceptions about childhood with the everyday lives of children,
> using varied sources, including newspapers, magazines, census
> materials, and official documentation, combined with less traditional
> material, like film and radio programs, comic-book-style
> publications, and oral history_._
> Mexico's population of children grew very quickly after 1930, to the
> point where children aged fourteen or younger became the largest
> segment of the population, transforming the capital of Mexico into a
> "city of children" (p. 28). Ford states that this growth turned
> children into a target for political and religious reformers, but
> also for producers of popular culture and consumer goods. The state
> and the Catholic Church converged on ideas and strategies regarding
> children, like using the developing mass media to influence them to
> reproduce social and gender norms "with a modern, cosmopolitan face"
> (p. 3). At the same time, children were considered potential
> consumers, and thus new media devices, such as radio and television,
> were used to attract them into buying material objects as well as
> ideas about modernity, class, gender, and social status. In this
> context, Ford's book studies the development of an ideal image of
> childhood that presented it as a time for leisure and protection
> while also revealing that "the rights and privileges of a protected
> childhood were lost on countless children who slipped through the
> cracks" (p. 177).
> The purpose of Ford's investigation is to study the cultural markers
> for the construction of a modern idea of childhood in Mexico City,
> leading to her selection of two specific years to delimit the
> analysis. Her research starts in the year 1934, when the
> "mass-produced, mass-consumed children's radio entertainment in
> Mexico first debuted" with the presentation of a program that
> featured a popular character called Cri-Crí, and ends with the
> Tlatelolco massacre of 1968, when government forces attacked a
> student protest movement and killed hundreds of protestors and
> bystanders, including a twelve-year-old boy, in an episode that Ford
> defines as "a metaphorical end of innocence" (p. 4). The book
> constitutes a study of the influential forces that were involved "in
> the social and political formation of the children raised during
> these critical decades leading up to the 1968 student movement" (p.
> 23).
> The book is organized in five chapters that analyze different factors
> that influenced the idea of modern childhood in Mexico. The first
> chapter focuses on the capital city and proposes that it helped shape
> the political and social views of the children who frequently
> traveled across the city. During these decades the city started an
> outward expansion that transformed Mexico City into an
> industrializing city with new symbols of modernity, but this
> expansion increased social inequality and political and economic
> protests that were witnessed by youngsters and that "informed the
> social and political consciousness of a generation of children" (p.
> 43). Chapter 2 studies the education policies imposed by the state
> with the objective of transforming young citizens into productive
> workers for the modern nation they aspired to build. These policies
> included the _jardines de niños _(kindergarten) movement and the
> construction of schools, initiatives developed to influence children
> from a young age with an emphasis on economic productivity and
> rationality, but also on social and cultural norms that they would
> teach their parents and neighbors. From Ford's perspective, this
> meant that children "represented a means for the state to reach into
> the private lives of parents" (p. 53)_._
> Chapter 3 reconstructs the development of a new child-centered form
> of popular culture that was directed at children and that used
> children as its subject matter. Ford examines shows and films for and
> about children that gave them "a sense of belonging to society as
> Mexicans but also as children" through the encouragement of national
> identity and cultural traditions (p. 89). Despite the intention of
> using media to mold children, Ford concludes, "ironically, the
> state's promotion of popular culture in the postrevolutionary and
> Cold War decades encouraged the evolution of a youth culture with its
> own distinct identity" as revealed during the student movement of
> 1968, where students used media to communicate their ideas and
> demands (p. 84).
> In chapter 4, the author reviews such projects as the publication of
> children's magazines organized by the Catholic Church to compete with
> secular forms of entertainment. These magazines, intended to
> strengthen traditions considered threatened by foreign influences,
> were tied to broader anticommunist ideas. Ford demonstrates how these
> publications instilled ideas about "hierarchies and social-class
> distinctions that characterized Cold War Catholic ideology across the
> globe" (p. 19). Lastly, chapter 5 analyzes magazines and newspapers
> to observe their idealized images of childhood and their
> contradictions. For example, they criticized the problem of children
> living in poverty and being exploited and "photographed [them] en
> masse as proof of the failures of the industrial capitalism, and by
> implication, the revolutionary government" (p. 161), but at the same
> time promoted a consumerism typical of the middle class that deepened
> those inequalities.
> One of the most interesting aspects of _Childhood and Modernity in
> Cold War Mexico City_ is that it considers the agency of the children
> studied. Despite focusing on ideas, values, and practices imposed on
> the children, Ford also examines how children gave them their own
> significance. She emphasizes that regardless of the influence of
> secular and religious educational programs as well as mass
> consumerism, children made interpretations and adaptations to the
> messages they received and "their choices framed within the
> limitations configured by socioeconomic status nevertheless gave them
> some semblance of power" (p. 15).
> The book is suited for an academic audience due to the author's
> thorough and detailed research, but Ford's clear narrative and
> persuasive arguments can also reach a broader public. The vast
> research she conducted is one of the strong points of this volume,
> which will be of value to a wide range of readers interested not only
> in the history of childhood but also in Mexican history and the
> impact of the Cold War in Latin America. However, at the same time,
> the author's interest in covering and connecting several different
> topics may sometimes confuse the reader as some ideas lose impact
> among too many details.
> Above all, the main strength of Ford's work is her effort to
> contemplate all sides of the researched subject and their
> contradictions. This asset can be summed up with a photograph on the
> cover of the book, which portrays a group of children from the urban
> environment who seem to be smiling and happy; this photograph
> contradicts the image depicted by the media of Mexico as a place
> inundated with abandoned children. Ford concludes that "capitalism
> produced social stratification and children were often the most
> vulnerable.... Those atrocities existed, but so did other happier
> childhoods, and not only for those children with significant material
> advantages" (p. 177). This contrast is not seen by Ford as a
> contradiction or a mistake but as a manifestation of a complex
> reality, so she "invites the reader to consider both these vantage
> points as valid and representative of realities--among a range of
> realities--of modern childhood in the capital city" (p. 21).
> Citation: Carolina Perelló. Review of Ford, Eileen, _Childhood and
> Modernity in Cold War Mexico City_. H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews. October,
> 2018.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=52660
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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