December was a good month for Syracuse University’s Department of Art and Music Histories (AMH), as two of its assistant professors made their authorial debuts.
Luis Castañeda, an expert on urban, visual, and design culture in the Americas, is the author of Spectacular Mexico: Design, Propaganda, and the 1968 Olympics (University of Minnesota Press, 2014). Sascha Scott, a specialist in American and American Indian art, has written A Strange Mixture: The Art and Politics of Painting Pueblo Indians (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015), due out in February.
“Luis and Sascha are stellar representations of the interdisciplinary research that we value so highly in AMH,” says Theo Cateforis, associate professor and chair of AMH. “Their politically-charged books are both primed to shape art history scholarship in new and fascinating directions.”
Castañeda studies how objects, spaces, and images have influenced social and geopolitical transformations in Latin America across time, especially in the context of global media events. In Spectacular Mexico, he analyzes the creative run-up to Mexico City’s 1968 Summer Olympics. These Olympics were only "the most ambitious of a sequence of design projects” that also included the creation of sports venues, a subway system, and pavilions for World’s Fairs.
Throughout the book, Castañeda demonstrates how these projects were used to create a spectacle of social harmony and, ultimately, guide Mexico City into becoming the powerful megacity it is today.
Castañeda remarks that Mexico was not only the first Latin American country to host the Olympics, but also the first Spanish-speaking country to do so. “As a result of Mexico’s architectural transformation in the lead-up to the Olympics, the country and its people were put on international display. Architecture and design were used as instruments of propaganda and nation-branding.”
Castañeda joined the Syracuse faculty in 2011, after earning a Ph.D. from New York University. He is already working on his next book project, tentatively titled The Modernist Frontier: Architects, Bureaucracies and Power in Latin America.