This engaging book, part of a series designed to map the field of contemporary Latin American culture, fills a void in the available literature. Although it is a survey, it starts from the premise that “the tendency for products from different cultural environments to mix on a global scale is and has always been accelerating.” Rowe and Schelling, from Kings College, London, and the Open University, respectively, do not accept the often unstated premise that cultural exchanges have been equal. Rather, they focus on the ways local and indigenous forms of behavior and expression have resisted the encroachment of Western culture. By so doing, they expand their conclusions to considerations about modernity, exploring and taking the measure of worlds of marginalization and, as in the case of women from precapitalist cultures, double marginalization.

The book races through topics as diverse as Andean rebellion, popular Catholicism, oral poetry, storytelling, telenovelas, samba, carnival, black identity, soccer, populism in the context of the “myth of the people,” national identity, and alternative models of development. As a synthesis, it draws from secondary sources, many of which were published in Europe as well as in Latin America. But Memory and Modernity is not merely an overview of the history of popular cultures in Latin America. It emphasizes such larger themes as colonization and the limits of obedience, acculturation, popular versions of national independence, popular culture and the state, and the devices through which minority cultures become articulated within the larger society.

For a study that addresses such broad and substantial issues, the book seems short. It contains only 13 illustrations, although, unlike many books that use photographs merely to illustrate, it discusses each at some length. Especially given the paucity of published materials on its theme in book form (as opposed to journal articles, of which there are many), Memory and Modernity will appeal to many instructors who wish to assign readings on popular culture in their Latin American subject courses. The fact that this is an original paperback makes it even more welcome.