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White Gypsies

Race and Stardom in Spanish Musicals

2012
Author:

Eva Woods Peiró

White Gypsies

Reveals how Spanish film musicals, long dismissed as unworthy of critical scrutiny, illuminate Spain’s relationship to modernity

White Gypsies shows how the Spanish folkloric musical films of the 1940s and ’50s are inextricably tied to anxious concerns about race—especially, but not only, Gypsiness. Eva Woods Peiró reveals how these imaginary individuals constituted a veritable cultural barometer of how racial thinking was projected and understood across a broad swath of popular Spanish cinema.

White Gypsies enriches our understanding of the material history of the pre-, post-, and civil war periods, broadens Spanish cinema studies to focus on more popular forms of film entertainment, and combines a novel attention to race with nuanced readings of the intersections of the cinematographic construction of class, gender, and sexuality during the first half of the twentieth century.

Susan Martin-Márquez, Rutgers University

Little has been written about the Spanish film musical, a genre usually associated with the early Franco dictatorship and dismissed by critics as reactionary, escapist fare. A timely and valuable corrective, White Gypsies shows how the Spanish folkloric musical films of the 1940s and ’50s are inextricably tied to anxious concerns about race—especially, but not only, Gypsiness.

Focusing on the processes of identity formation in twentieth-century Spain—with multifaceted readings of the cinematic construction of class, gender, and sexuality—Eva Woods Peiró explores how these popular films allowed audiences to negotiate and imaginatively, at times problematically, resolve complex social contradictions. The intricate interweaving of race and modernity is particularly evident in her scrutiny of a striking popular phenomenon: how the musicals progressively whitened their stars, even as their story lines became increasingly Andalusianized and Gypsified.

White Gypsies reveals how these imaginary individuals constituted a veritable cultural barometer of how racial thinking was projected and understood across a broad swath of popular Spanish cinema.

White Gypsies

Eva Woods Peiró is associate professor of Hispanic studies and director of the Media Studies Program at Vassar College.

White Gypsies

White Gypsies enriches our understanding of the material history of the pre-, post-, and civil war periods, broadens Spanish cinema studies to focus on more popular forms of film entertainment, and combines a novel attention to race with nuanced readings of the intersections of the cinematographic construction of class, gender, and sexuality during the first half of the twentieth century.

Susan Martin-Márquez, Rutgers University

Eva Woods Peiró argues that Spanish musicals, while highly ambivalent and problematic in terms of their representation of race, are not reactionary exaltations of a premodern rural Spain but that their central notion of female stardom inserts women into modernity. This crucial perception turns interpretations of the genre on its head.

Jo Labanyi, New York University

In this extensively researched, original, and provocative assessment of the genre, Woods Peiró breaks new ground as she explores Spanish identity formation and related topics in terms of the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality.

Choice

Pieró’s tour of Spain’s cinematic, cultural, and political landscape is a fascinating excursion into the entertainment business’ manipulations of ethnicity, of self and otherness, of white Gypsies in movies, and of famous folklóricas. But it is also a revealing discussion of Spain’s understanding of ethnicity, its insecurity about its “European-ness”, and its fears about Arab, Muslim, and Gypsy “otherness” throughout the Franco era.

Pasatiempo

White Gypsies

Contents

Preface
Introduction: Modernity, Race, and Visibility
1. Time, Racial Otherness, and Digressions in Silent Films of the 1920s
2. Female Spectacle in the Display Case of the Roaring Twenties
3. Racing for Modernity: From Black Jazz to White Gypsy Folklore
4. The Gypsy “Problem”: Law and Spatial Assimilation
5. The Spanish Solution: The Folklórica and the Führer
6. Recycling Folklóricas: A Queer Spain
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Filmography
Index