Lunes / Miércoles
Stuart Hall – Representation & the Media
In this accessible introductory lecture, Hall focuses on the concept of “representation”– one of the key ideas of cultural studies– and shows how reality is never experienced directly, but always through the symbolic categories made available by society.
Sections: Intro | Visual Representation & The Contemporary World | An Old View | A New View | Culture as Primary | Conceptual Maps | Language & Communication | Reality & Discourse | The Practices of Signification | Meaning & Absence | Identity, Identification & The Viewer | Meaning is Interpretation | Ideology & Power Fix Meaning | Contesting Stereotypes | What is at Stake in Representation
Stuart Hall, a leading figure of the British left over the past thirty years and a visionary race theorist, had made profound contributions to the field of cultural studies at the Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University. His work has made possible multiple conversations taking place around questions of culture, race and ethnicity.
Producer & Director: Sut Jhally
Editors: Sanjay Talreja, Sut Jhally, & Mary Patierno
Super-low resolution video here
* Recomendado *
Otro videos de Stuart Hall
Viernes: Comentarios finales
Structural Linguistics, Semiotics, and Communication Theory:
Basic Outlines and Assumptions
Two main versions of structural linguistics have influenced thought and discourse about language and culture since the mid-20th century: the French school, modeled on Ferdinand de Saussure’s concepts of linguistic signs and phonology, and the American school, based on Noam Chomsky‘s theory of generative grammar and syntax. It’s important to understand the different starting points and key concepts, and the kind of further work that these schools of thought have enabled. (That is, the heuristic potential of each approach, both for forming a tradition of thought and today for continued work modeled on these approaches.) For semiotics, the major traditions have come from the French tradition of semiology and Claude Levi-Strauss, and from the American tradition of C. S. Peirce. This overview is an abbreviated (an overly-generalized) description of the conceptual models in both fields to help students understand some of the common questions and assumptions, and also consider the areas open for productive new research.
Both the French/European and Chomskyean/American traditions attempted to map out different kinds of abstract and necessary structures that determine possible linguistic behavior–sign functions from phonology, in Saussure’s starting point, and language formation through internalized abstract rules for syntax, in Chomsky’s breakthrough. Chomsky inaugurated a research agenda to define a “formal grammar” by means of which any specific sentence in any natural language could be generated and understood. In Chomsky’s model, a “deep structure” of internalized abstract rules and codes (termed the “I-language,” the internalized language rule set) enables and generates the “surface structure” of actual expressions and usage conventions in all varieties of dialects in any language (an “E-language” or external expressions).
Both schools of thought approach language (that is, the universal human capacity for language, not any specific language) and language communities (specific languages) as as things that cannot be explained empirically (the data and facts of language use and extrapolations from these), but according to rules and abstract schema internalized by language users that define how a language works (that is, the models for how any language, all languages work) and allow the production and recognition of new expressions in any language.
For linguistics in the 1960s-80s, the research paradigm remained mainly at the level of sentences and phrases, and until recently was not as concerned with additional levels of cultural meaning surrounding sentences, large bodies of discourse, or the formal units of written cultural genres. Many forms of discourse studies, sociolinguistics, and semantics are part of the field of linguistics today. French and European semiology adapted Saussure’s linguistic model for analysis of larger cultural formations (especially for the study of literature, anthropology, and popular culture). Unfortunately, Anglo-American and European disciplinary identities and boundaries have separated the research agendas and starting premises in areas of common concern (how human cultures use language and all kinds of meaning-systems and communicate meanings across space and time), though there are now many areas of cross-disciplinary research with many areas open for new convergence.
Semiotics focuses mainly on units of meaning and the generalizable conditions for encoding across symbolic systems (linguistic, visual, auditory), and, in general, uses language as the modeling system for other “second order” systems that function according to systematic rules (e.g., visual art, music, literature, popular media, advertising, or any meaning system). We now have methods for merging the “generative” approach of linguistics with the “networks of meaning” approach in semiotics. The next step is to develop models for a “generative grammar” and “generative semiotics” of culture, describing the rules for producing new cultural forms from our established base of meaning and content systems (in language, images, music, digital mixed media, or any transmittable cultural genre). The models developed by Peirce and Bakhtin have allowed for new research on this central question.
What are the Structures in Structuralism?
The term structuralism refers the method that proceeds from a description of systems of abstract, generalizable rules that govern actual instances of expression. This starting point is considered the best explanation for how actual expressions in any symbolic form (linguistic, visual, etc.) are formed, generated, and understood.
=expressions formed from an internally complete system of abstract rules
In this context, structure = a priori rules systematically followed for any expression; that is, the “structures” that must be in place and presupposed before any new expression can be uttered or understood. Structures in this sense form an a priori (lit., from what is prior), that is, rules or codes not given in any direct experience of instances of language use, but required as the precondition for the possibility of any linguistic expression.
American linguistic theory in all of its schools and sub-schools rarely uses the term structure or structuralism (although Chomsky acknowledges the European tradition). In most descriptions of language theory and semiology, structuralism refers mainly to the theory and philosophy arising from European and French thought, with it’s main developments in the 1960s. The structural model, however, is common among several schools of thought even though the kinds of work and specific problems are different.
De Saussure’s starting point is a structural description (the abstract and necessary rules) of the learned (conventional) abstract codes that link speech sounds (phonology) and linguistic meaning; that is, how acoustic stimuli (sounds, signifiers) get mapped onto meanings (signified “content”) in any language. For de Saussure, a linguistic (or any cultural meaning-unit) is a “sign,” specifically defined as the arbitrary–but internally necessary–coupling of a sensory vehicle (speech sounds, printed words) and a mental concept. This model of abstract and necessary learned, conventional conditions for expression and meaning influenced linguistics, semiology (models for a grammar of meaning applicable to all cultural forms like writing, images, and music), and anthropology.
Chomsky, beginning in the 1950s-60s, takes the abstract system of both phonology and grammar as necessary, but starts with the problem of syntax, language acquisition, and language productivity. His model of syntax as the internalized rules for generating expressions solves the empirical problem of “the poverty of stimulus” when seeking to explain the rapid acquisition of grammar from few experiences; that is, trying to explain how humans learn language by induction from experienced examples (i.e., how any child in any language community from around age 3-4 is capable of generating an infinite set of new grammatically formed sentences which the child has never experienced). For Chomsky, humans have an innate capacity for language and the ability to internalize a grammar from a very small set of examples, and are soon able to generate an infinite number of new expressions in their native language. From this observation, he was able to map out a rigorous set of syntactic phrase structures capable of many transformations.
Chomsky explains in his influential book, Language and Mind (1968, 3rd edition, 2006)
The person who has acquired knowledge of a language has internalized a system of rules that relate sound and meaning in a particular way. The linguist constructing a grammar of a language is in effect proposing a hypothesis concerning this internalized system…
[T]he grammar proposed by the linguist is an explanatory theory; it suggests an explanation for the fact that (under the idealization mentioned) a speaker of the language in question will perceive, interpret, form, or use an utterance in certain ways and not in other ways….
Continuing with current terminology, we can thus distinguish the surface structure of the sentence, the organization into categories and phrases that is directly associated with the physical signal, from the underlying deep structure, also a system of categories and phrases, but with a more abstract character. [pp. 23-25]
Where de Saussure distinguishes between langue and parole (the underlying grammar and rules of a language vs. spoken and written expressions in any concrete instance), Chomsky distinguishes between “deep structures” and “surface structures” and “competence” vs. “performance.” The observations here allow us go beyond the experiential data of language in use to the underlying rules everyone shares in making new expressions and participating in a system of meanings.
At all levels, then, for language to be language, it must be:
These assumptions form the presuppositions of all work in semiology or semiotics, which maps out ways to analyze any meaning system as a “second-order” language; that is, for semiotics to proceed, we must presuppose that the structural features of language also operate in other language-like systems (for example, visual art or music) and are assumed or incorporated in a different level of operation like the system of other linguistic levels, a computer network “protocol stack” of layered functions, or the nested and embedded functions in computer programming.
Semiotics: Basic Assumptions
Contemporary semiotic theory merges the thought of Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Sanders Peirce in many variations. Here are some of the most important starting assumptions.
1. Cultures are formed through language. Language is public, social, and communal, not private or personal. (If anyone used a private language, it would be very uninteresting to the rest of the world.)
2. Users of a common language form what is called a “speech community,” though we use “speech” in this context to include many kinds of communication communities (subcultures, dialects, ethnic groups, social-class specific communities, etc.); any individual can participate in multiple “speech communities”.
3. Language is a system with rules (its own internal structure). Language as a system is multi-leveled, from speech sounds, words, and sentences to longer units called discourse. Discourse circulates through a culture, providing meanings, values, and social identities to individuals.
4. Discourse is the level studied by most cultural theory and semiotics. All of our cultural statements–from “mainstream” and official “high culture” products to popular culture genres and emerging new cultural forms–can thus be studied as forms of discourse, parts of a larger cultural “language.”
5. Communication and meaning are formed by mediations–representative or symbolic vehicles that “stand for” things, meanings, and values. The mediating vehicles are called “signs”. For example, words in a language, images, sounds, or other perceptible signifiers.
5.1. Thus signs and sign-systems never present a copy of “reality”–the order of things external to language and our mediated way of knowing thinning-out a socially interpreted and valued representation.
6. The study of how a society produces meanings and values in a communication system is called semiotics, from the Greek term semion, “sign”. (Here “sign” has a specialized meaning, referring to our social and cultural vehicles for signification or meaning.) Languages, and other symbolic systems like music and images, are called sign systems because they are governed by learnable and transmittable rules and conventions shared by a community.
Ferdinand de Saussure
Simple two-part model of the sign: a signifier (sign vehicle; material perceptible
content like sound or visual information) and the signified (a conceptual
and abstract content)
De Saussure: Descriptive model
Charles Sanders Peirce: Triadic Model
Peirce used a different set of terms to describe sign functions,
which for him were a conceptual process, continually unfolding and unending
(what he termed “unlimited semiosis,” the chain of meaning-making by new signs
interpreting a prior sign or set of signs).
In Peirce’s model, meaning is generated through chains of signs (becoming interpretants), which is parallel with Mikhail Bakhtin’s model of dialogism, in which every cultural expression is always already a response or answer to prior expression, and which generates further responses by being addressible to others.
7. Semiotics isolates sign functions for social analysis. French semiotics distinguishes two main sign-functions,
the signifier (the level of expression, like the bare acoustic impression
of speech sounds or the visual impression of written marks and images)
and the signified (the level of content or value, what is associated
with the signifier in a language). But what allows the sign to work as
a whole unit of social meaning is a code, the rule for combining
a sensory impression with a mental content, and the basic signifiers in
a language into a system of meanings.
7.1. The relation between signifier
and signified is not natural, but arbitrary, part of the internal rules
of a language. Having an arbitrary relation to things signified, the signs
of a culture can be analyzed for how societies construct, produce, and
circulate meanings and values.
8. Sign systems are often described as organized into sets
of differences (differential values) and hierarchies that structure
meanings and social values. The form that these differences take is governed by ideology.
(For example, the large set of socially constructed meanings for things
considered “masculine” and “feminine,” a pervasive set of binary oppositions. “Masculine” and “feminine” are meaningless apart from their mutual definition in
a socially encoded binary structure.) The majority of our complex social use of signs reveals a network of relationships,
rather than simple binaries.
9. Signification is therefore a process, a
product, and a social event, not something closed, static, or completed
one and for all. All members of a society are interpreters or decoders.
9.1. Signification occurs in the encoding
and decoding process.
9.2. Position of the interpreter/receiver
of communication is inscribed in the system itself. Ability to decode and
understand signification is based on competence with the sign system
and with a larger cultural encyclopedia of codes and correspondences.
10. Semiotics, however, moves beyond
language to study all the meaning systems in a society–fashion, advertising,
popular culture genres like TV and movies, music, political discourse,
all forms of writing and speech. Semiotics contributes to communication
studies by providing a method for uncovering and analyzing how a
whole system of signification like a movie genre, fashion images, or TV
works in a culture.
10.1. Semiotics, then, looks at culture
broadly as a language considered as a sign system, or the ways signs
and language map onto culture as a whole.
Sign: something that stands
for something else in a system of signification (language, images, etc.).
Code: the relational system
that allows a sign to have meaning, the social organization of meanings into
differences, hierarchies, and networks of relations.
Image is Everything: easy examples that seem transparent because we engage the codes quickly:
Early Perrier advertisement. Sexual allure and brand appeal. But how do we “know” this? Is sexiness and the meaning of the brand a property of the image? The meanings aren’t inherent in the image but learned in the culture where these signs circulate and accumulate. Part of the social meaning of the image is the history of accrued associations and contexts which, of course, circulate apart from this specific image but are understood by members of the culture in which this image functions. None of this information is a property of the image itself, but must be learned.
Likewise, a Calvin Klein CK One ad. The cultural codes here are learned and circulate throughout advertising and popular culture. What the image means is only explicable in terms of a shared code base, not as a function of the properties of the image.
The Fashion System: meaning only in network system of differentiations, hierarchies, distinctions
Benetton branding: The new “Holy Family”: information and code base from Western cultural history and contemporary ethnic and sexual identities. A new, globalized, sexually ambiguous, “holy family”?
Whatever we want to say about what the images “mean” comes from a cultural code base, and not from anything inherent in the images themselves. Benetton can invoke the associations and construct a new image with different meanings because the new image references a genre with both well-known cultural information and established compositional structures immediately recognizable by an interpretive community in the culture receiving the advertising image.
Semiotics, then, helps explain how any member of a culture quickly produces or decodes meanings from a system of rules and symbolic correspondences that are internally structured and necessary for a culture in a parallel way to the rules of formation for any language.
Cultural Icons and Popular Religions
Lunes: conversación sobre el proyecto final
Miércoles: Presentaciones (Abby, Andrew, Ashley, Erica)
Viernes: Terminar las presentaciones (Julia, Chelsea, Becca, Ann + Katie)
Spring Break – No hay clases
Revolución, moda y masculinidad:
Breve presentación: moda-y-masculinindad
Los corridos mexicanos: morir por Pancho Villa, cuestión de “hombres”
La noche de los 41… (un poco de historia)
“Moda y masculinidad en México: el bicentenario de una reflexión.”
“Entre esculturas rupestres y acciones de pantalón:
el espacio de la revolución y la inestabilidad.”
“Los Mundos que Amo” Díana Chaviano (Cuba)
“Daína Chaviano’s Los mundos que amo: megalithic monuments and extraterrestrial encounters” (Robin McAllister)
Tango en la película Un chien andalou (Luis Bueñel y Salvador Dalí, 1929)
Una versión de “Echale Salsita” de Ignacio Piñerio (1928), para algunos cubanos éste es el origen del término “salsa” actual…
La Lupe con la Fania All-Stars: Qué te pedí… bolero fantástico!
Cesaria Evora, Carnaval de San Vicente — un poco de samba-batucada y mucho carnaval
Music (Pop Culture in Latina America) pp. 27-56
“Fotonovela, ciencia ficción y revolución en Los Mundos que Amo” (Porbén)
El amor durante La Revolución Mexicana
Cuy (Perú): El diario del Cuy
Acedo habla sobre El Cuy (video)
(anti)Disney Latinoamericano (D.W. Foster 103-107)
Dossier Cómics (seleccionar 1 de los ensayos escritos por estudiantes de BGSU)
Conversación sobre (posibles) proyectos finales (ensayos, foto-ensayos, videos, etc.)
Mafalda: varios cómics;
Mafalda y sus amigos (selección de videos)
Mafalda (David William Foster, 53-61);
Este sitio es fantástico para conocer más sobre Mafalda (http://www.turning-pages.com/mafalda/)
Quino es más que Mafalda…
Memin Pinguin (México):
Vamos a la escuela(cómic original)
Memín Penguin, Changing Racial Debates, and Transnational Blackness (Bobby Vaughn & Ben Vinson) — > (Otra versión en PDF por si tienen problemas con el documentos original)
Video sobre Condorito (Chile 2009)
To read critically is to make judgements about how a text is argued. This is a highly reflective skill requiring you to “stand back” and gain some distance from the text you are reading. (You might have to read a text through once to get a basic grasp of content before you launch into an intensive critical reading.) THE KEY IS THIS:
When you are reading, highlighting, or taking notes, avoid extracting and compiling lists of evidence, lists of facts and examples. Avoid approaching a text by asking “What information can I get out of it?” Rather ask “How does this text work? How is it argued? How is the evidence (the facts, examples, etc.) used and interpreted? How does the text reach its conclusions?
All knowledge exists in “systems” of meanings, with interrelated primary ideas, secondary ideas, and peripheral ideas. Imagine a series of circles beginning with a small core circle of primary ideas, surrounded by concentric circles of secondary ideas, moving outward to an outer circle of peripheral ideas. The primary ideas, at the core, explain the secondary and peripheral ideas. Whenever we read to acquire knowledge, we should take ownership, first, of the primary ideas, for they are a key to understanding all of the other ideas. Moreover, when we gain an initial understanding of the primary ideas, we can begin to think within the system as a whole. The sooner we begin to think within a system, the sooner the system becomes meaningful to us.
Thus, when we understand core historical ideas, we can begin to think historically. When we understand core scientific ideas, we can begin to think scientifically. Core or primary ideas are the key to every system of knowledge. They are the key to truly learning any subject. They are the key to retaining what we learn for lifelong use.
We should relate the core ideas we learn within one discipline to core ideas in other systems of knowledge, for knowledge exists not only in a system but also in relation to all other systems of knowledge. To do this, we must learn how to read books for their core ideas and for their system-defining function. Mastering any set of foundational ideas makes it easier to learn other foundational ideas. Learning to think within one system of knowledge helps us learn to think within other systems.
For example, if in studying botany, we learn that all plants have cells, we should connect this idea to the fact that all animals have cells (which we learned in studying biology). We can then begin to consider the similarities and differences between animal and plant cells.
Or consider the relation between psychology and sociology. Psychology focuses principally on individual behavior while sociology focuses on group behavior. But one’s individual psychology influences how one relates to group norms, and social groups shape how individuals deal with their perceived life problems and opportunities. By reading for the core ideas in both fields and relating those ideas, we better understand the way in which the psychological and sociological are intertwined in our lives.
P O P C U L T U R E
Defining the Popular in the Latin American Context
The notion of popular culture is not a straightforward one, and a single definition of the term “popular” has proved elusive. The term is often used simply to refer to cultural products enjoyed or experienced by large numbers of people, chiefly but not necessarily those on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy. Alongside this perhaps obvious numerical sense of the word, some people use “popular” to signify “low-brow” culture, diametrically opposed to “elite” culture in terms of sophistication, the received standards of good taste, and its presumed consumers. Others consider “popular culture” to refer solely to that which has origins in preindustrial traditions, and the term may often be synonymous with “folk” or “peasant culture” in certain Latin American contexts. In this book it is not our intention to try to establish a single understanding of the concept of popular culture; rather, we intend to familiarize readers with the main definitions and ideas that have been put forward. Leading scholars who have provided theories on what constitutes popular culture in the Latin American subcontinent include Jesús Martín-Barbero, Renato Ortiz, Fernando Ortiz, Angel Rama, Ricardo Gutiérrez Mouat, Néstor García Canclini, William Rowe, and Vivian Schelling.
Martín-Barbero has noted the tendency to classify the popular either as the romanticized notion of the “authentic” or as the negative idea of “vulgarized.” He proposes that the popular in Latin America is instead a “dense space of interactions, interchanges and re-appropriations, the movement of mestizaje (cultural hybridity)” (1994, p. 92). Renato Ortiz has said that the notion of the “popular” as merely synonymous with nu- merical consumption arose in the Brazilian context as a consequence of the emergence of the culture industry and a market of symbolic national goods since the 1970s.
Mouat has further observed that “mass culture bridges the gap be- tween marginal cultures (popular and regional) and consumer culture, whose mode of production and circulation is now perceived to be hege- monic” (1993, p. 163). He does not believe that popular culture and mass culture are one and the same thing; rather, he considers mass culture to be a form of mediation between popular and hegemonic culture. Canclini, meanwhile, believes that the traditional view of popular culture as existing in opposition to elite culture is in- valid, since this binary is complicated by the existence of mass culture. However, he illustrates how the distinctions among these three categories are increasingly be- ing blurred by the processes of moderniza- tion and globalization. Globalization is not, however, a purely negative force, bringing with it only the eradication or appropria- tion of popular culture; it also provides new openings for the reception and inter- pretation of cultural products. As William Rowe and Vivian Schelling note: “the vast increases in channels of communication which flow across cultural boundaries have the effect of dismantling old forms of marginalization and domination and mak- ing new forms of democratization and cul- tural multiplicity imaginable” (Rowe and Schelling 1991, p. 1).
In their study of popular culture in Latin America, Rowe and Schelling identify three different versions of popular culture in the subcontinent: first, popular culture seen as authentically rural, threatened by industrial- ization and the modern culture industry; second, popular culture as a variant of mass culture, trying to copy the cultural forms of advanced capitalist nations; third, popular culture as the culture of the oppressed, sub- altern classes, in which their imaginary, ideal future is created. In Rowe and Schelling’s view all these categories com- bine and intermingle in Latin America. They also draw a distinction between popular and mass culture: the former shares neither the audience nor the popularity (in raw nu- merical terms) of the latter, despite the fact that neither remains entirely distinct from the other. The traditional duality between “popular” (or “low”) and “high” culture is dangerous, they argue, since it can lead to other assumed, symmetrically polarized op- positions that have highly pejorative impli- cations for popular culture, such as “vulgar” versus “polite” and “impure” versus “pure.”
As a result of these assumed oppositions, popular culture is often thought of as the domain of the uneducated and illiterate. Latin America has one of the lowest rates of school completion in the world, pre- school education is barely available, and residents of rural areas are less likely to re- ceive a decent education than their urban counterparts. At times the only access Latin Americans have to education is outside for- mal institutions (i.e., traditional schooling) in what has been termed popular education. The uneven patterns of literacy make it harder for large sections of the region’s population to have access to some forms of popular culture (those using the written word, in particular) than to others. But in the context of Latin America the interlinking of literacy/popular education and popular culture is much more extensive. In fact, in many of its manifestations it is often difficult to separate Latin American popular culture from popular education. Perhaps the best-known and arguably the most effective popular educational method is that developed by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921–1997) in the 1960s and 1970s. Freire’s method differs from traditional teaching methods in that students are encouraged to learn first and foremost about their “oppression” and to develop the tools to “liberate” themselves. As Liam Kane ex- plains, “politically, education could never remain neutral: traditional education promoted the values of the dominant classes ignored the real-life knowledge and experience of the ‘oppressed,’ and maintained a social order in which the oppressed came to blame themselves, not the oppressors, for their destitution” (2000, p. 595). The kinds of materials used in Freire’s method, which has been popularized throughout the third world, include literatura de cordel (chapbooks), murals, popular songs, films, theater, and so on. The consciousness-rais- ing techniques that Freire espoused were partly inspired by Liberation Theology and are reminiscent of Brazilian dramatist Au- gusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed, both of which, in turn, can be said to play a sig- nificant role in popular education in Latin America and beyond.
Much popular cultural production in Latin America, then, serves to liberate the individual or communities from oppression or can be adapted to that purpose. There are many examples of such “liberatory” cultural expressions discussed in this book, including the work of Mexican mu- ralist Diego Rivera and the plays and songs written and performed under military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina. This in itself is one of the favored interpretations of popular culture—a culture of resistance. Analyses of culture using this perspective can be found in the work of Paraguay’s Roa Bastos and Brazil’s Marilena Chauí, for ex- ample. Thus, not only does popular culture have strong ties with popular education in Latin America, but it also frequently has links with left-wing politics. One signifi- cant example of this can be found in Chia- pas, Mexico, in the form of the Zapatismo movement, and another in the form of the Movimento dos Sem Terra, or Landless People’s Movement in Brazil: both success- fully integrate the political and the cultural in their agendas.
Key Theoretical Perspectives
The theorists cited above tend to agree on certain key concepts and issues that inevitably crop up when the issue of popular culture in Latin America is discussed. Be- low we have summarized these central notions as they have been conceived in and applied to this particular regional context.
Uneven processes of development characterized Latin American countries through- out the twentieth century and continue to do so in an increasingly globalized new millennium. Cultural theorists often refer to the “other” or “peripheral” experience of modernity in Latin America, where the modern and the premodern continue to co- exist. Canclini, for example, has contrasted the advanced state of cultural modernity in the region with its relatively underdeveloped socioeconomic and political modernity. For this reason, Latin American popular culture embraces both elements of postmodern mass media, such as the ubiquitous telenovela (television soap opera), and vestiges of the cultural practices of colonial or even pre-Columbian civilizations, such as religions created by African slaves in Cuba (Santería) and Brazil (Candomblé) or food and dress of indigenous origin in Mexico and the Andean countries. The work of Mexican photographer Gra- ciela Iturbide effectively portrays this co- existence of the indigenous/rural and the modern.
In the context of Latin American culture, Santería and Candomblé are often viewed as folkloric in the sense that their basic content predates industrialization. Folk- lore, then, is frequently thought of as being in opposition to modernity. It is generally associated with rural or indigenous populations and with communities rather than in- dividuals; a certain naïveté of spirit is suggested by the term itself. Theorists of popular culture recognize, however, that it is increasingly difficult to talk of expres-sions of culture that are “authentically” indigenous, rural, and premodern given the extent of mestizaje (racial mixing, in Spanish and Portuguese, respectively), the migration of rural populations en masse to urban areas, and the wide- reaching power of the media (consider, for example, the influence of the media con- glomerates Televisa in Mexico and Globo in Brazil). That said, tourists in Latin Amer- ica, both international and domestic, frequently seek out the “exotic,” which more often than not in cultural terms means the folkloric. This preindustrial “other” is particularly attractive to Europeans, North Americans, and urban Latin Americans, who feel that modernity has forced upon them a globalized culture that is no different from that of the rest of the Western world. This pursuit of the “exotic” or folkloric in turn affects cultural production in the region, since many producers of traditional handicrafts, for example, depend on the tourist market for their economic survival. Some tourists are drawn to indigenous communities, in Peru and Mexico, for example, where they fully expect to see “Indians” dressed in traditional garb.
Latin American cultural forms have perennially been involved in complex negotiations with foreign models and the demands of Westernization, giving rise to what has been called cultural mestizaje, or cultural hybridity. With the advent of modernity this process intensified, as exemplified by the development of cinema in Latin America. As Ana López says, “we could argue that the cinema was one of the principal tools through which the desire for and imitation of the foreign became paradoxically identified as a national characteristic shared by many Latin American nations” (2000, p. 167).
Canclini argues that the dependency the- ory model, which opposes cultural imperi- alism to national popular cultures, is inadequate to understand current power relations in Latin America. Latin American culture has often entered into a complex dialectical relationship with its European and North American counterparts, not least with regard to local film industries and the omnipotent and omnipresent Hollywood product. Latin American films, such as the Brazilian chanchadas or, more recently, Mexican horror films, have reappropriated Hollywood techniques and genres, often in the form of parody, in order to “dehierarchise,” to use Canclini’s terminology, the established asymmetry between the center (Hollywood) and the periphery (locally produced film) (Canclini 1989, p. 229).
Canclini’s work on “deterritorialisation” and intercultural movements across the U.S.-Mexican border is particularly useful in the context of Latin American reworkings of Hollywood paradigms. He analyzes hybrid and simulated cultural products in border contexts, such as in cities like Tijuana, and argues that the homegrown ver- sion becomes a resource for defining identity, whereby the “authentic” becomes relativized. Tijuana-based periodicals, for example, rework definitions of identity and culture from the starting point of the bor- der experience, becoming a voice for a generation who grew up exposed to both Mexican and U.S. culture (Canclini 1989, p. 238). The work of Chicano performance artist Guillermo Gómez Peña focuses explicitly on this notion of border crossing. Chicanos, some but by no means all of whom inhabit the physical frontier land with the United States, experience two cultural worlds. Canclini argues that popular sectors in Latin America deal with ideolog- ical oppression today by “incorporating and positively valuing elements produced outside of their own group (criteria of prestige, hierarchies, designs, and functions of objects)” (p. 260).
Transculturation is an alternative and more positive term for acculturation. “Acculturation” suggests that one culture subsumes another, as colonial relations are frequently perceived. “Transculturation” suggests that two cultures in contact are both influenced in what is often a complex process of negotiation. It is thus similar to the notion of hybridity, discussed above, and it offers a more inclusive definition of national culture (that is, it does away with the need to define what is “authentic” and homegrown). The theory of transculturation is most often associated with Uruguayan critic Angel Rama (1926–1983), who borrowed the expression from the Cuban intellectual Fernando Ortiz (1881–1969). Ortiz, in Cuban Counter- point: Tobacco and Sugar (1940), argued that the slave trade and agriculture in the Caribbean combined elements of African and Hispanic cultures, which influenced each other. Rama later picked up on the notion of transculturation “as a model for a nationalism capable of integrating the heterogeneous elements characteristic of many Latin American countries” (Gollnick 2003, pp. 110–111). Both Ortiz and Rama felt that discussing Latin American culture and politics as a unidirectional, center-periphery relationship (seen, for example, in the influential dependency theory of the 1960s, which ultimately blamed the region’s backwardness on the growth of the nations of the “center”) was inadequate. That criticism can also be found in the theories of a number of other cultural critics from Latin America. Renato Ortiz, for example, has argued that it is too simplistic to view Brazilian culture as unique and peripheral and that it makes more sense to consider it within the context of a globalized culture industry. The Brazilian writer Roberto Schwarz, in his theory of “misplaced ideas,” which is beginning to gain popular- ity among scholars of Latin American cultural studies, holds that in Brazil ideas appropriated from Europe have always been negotiated first.
Cultural Imperialism and Globalization
Latin Americans themselves, however, do not always read the importing of ideas, cul- tural practices, and technologies from abroad in the same way. The notion of cultural imperialism continues to influence as- pects of popular culture in Latin America. As Arturo Arias points out, “from the very first moment when present-day Latin American nations came into contact with the Western world, they were placed in a subordinate position and an asymmetrical relationship of power to the West, politically, economically and culturally” (2003, pp. 26–27). A consciousness of this subordinate position and of the threat (perceived or real) of cultural domination, particularly from the United States, was particularly strong in the region in the 1960s. Anti- imperialist messages can be found, for example, both in the protest music of this period and in the reaction to Latin American cultural expressions that dared to appropriate cultural forms from abroad, such as the Tropicália movement in Brazil. The famous text by Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart on cultural imperialism in Disney cartoons was well known among the region’s left-wing intelligentsia and students in the 1970s, and anti-U.S. feeling is present to this day in many grassroots social move- ments in Latin America. Notions of cultural imperialism are making a comeback in some quarters, in the face of the threat (again, perceived or otherwise) that global- ization now poses to national cultures. Within the context of neoliberal globaliza- tion, the products, not least music CDs and movie DVDs, of Europe and all North America continue to swamp the Latin American market (Schelling 2000, p. 27).
That said, in recent years, creative possi- bilities have been opened up by economic and cultural globalization, a feature of late modernity that has given rise to new mar- kets and increasingly important additional sources of income. In popular music, this process has produced such crossover music as that of Ricky Martin and Shakira. In cin- ema, it has led to international coproduc- tions. As this book testifies, Latin Americans continue to enjoy a rich and distinctive pop- ular culture, a fact that is recognized and ap- preciated by the hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists who visit the region annu- ally. Equally, armchair travelers are today able to buy translations of the novels of so- called Boom and post-Boom writers Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende or the New Age fiction of Paulo Coelho at their lo- cal bookstore, to purchase posters and greeting cards featuring images by Diego Rivera or Fernando Botero, or even to see a display of the Afro-Brazilian dance-fight capoeira performed by students at a nearby college. Images of Latin America created abroad can be found in chapter 8, “Cultural Icons”; such images reflect foreigners’ perennial fascination with Latin America, of- ten considered as the “exotic other.”
Popular Culture in the Context of This Book
As discussed above, there is no one work- able definition of popular culture, and for the purposes of this book we have taken the term to encompass aspects of all the main theoretical positions outlined above. Thus, we have included cultural products enjoyed by the mass market, such as com- mercial music and blockbuster movies. We have also considered culture produced by the poor masses, sometimes referred to as the “popular” classes, such as the architec- ture of shantytowns in Brazil and Peru. We have chosen to illustrate both “elite” cul- ture designed to embrace those on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy, such as the murals of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, and “low-brow” culture that often sets out to undermine the pretensions of “high” or “hegemonic” art, such as the parodic chanchada musicals made by the Brazilian film industry and the films of Cantinflas in Mexico. Finally, we have included elements of folk or peasant cul- ture, such as popular medicine and healing in Mexico and Central America, and we have included contemporary urban cul- ture, such as street slang in Mexico and Ar- gentina and rap and hip-hop music in Brazil. We thus hope to have covered all bases and to have avoided privileging any particular definition of popular culture.
P O P C U L T U R E