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This chapter examines the versions of national identity enacted in the Argentine public sphere in 2010, during the official festivities commemorating the bicentennial of that country’s independence movement against Spanish rule. It analyzes the uses of symbols of high culture and musical harmony as tropes of a political order presumably threatened by increasingly polarized social relations. The bicentennial’s cultural events created the conditions for the emergence, in symbolically charged public spaces, of bodies, voices, and memories often perceived as bearers of that social polarization. This chapter considers the corpus of shared cultural references conjured up at two of these events—a pageant and a musical performance—and discusses the ways that corpus was resignified in the course of improvisational interactions among performers and spectators. Finally, it looks at how the commemorative and political ethos that emerged in that context critically probed reified signifiers of collective identity.

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