[URBANTH-L]CFP: Grassroots Communication, Power and Political Cultures in Latin America & the Caribbean

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Fri Mar 10 14:38:02 EST 2006

From: Andrew Carey <acarey1 at unm.edu>

A panel proposal:


For the American Anthropological Association Meeting,
San Jose, CA, 11/15/06-11/19/06

We want to build a panel of presentations on communication and political
culture change in Latin America.  We are especially interested in research
on community media projects (radio, television, theater, etc.).  However, we
are also interested in papers on grassroots transformation projects that
focus their analysis on the connection between communication and political
culture in a local setting.

In his recent review article on the study of political culture in Latin
America, Barry Levitt starts out with a quote from Geertz:

"One of the things that everyone knows, but no one can quite think how to
demonstrate is that a country's politics reflect the design of its
culture.Above all, what the attempt to link politics and culture needs is a
less breathless view of the former and a less aesthetic view of the
latter.The two being thus reframed, determining the connection between them
becomes a practicable enterprise, though hardly a modest one."

(Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, 1973; 311-312.  In
"Political Culture and the Science of Politics," Latin American Research
Review, vol. 40, No. 3, Oct. 2005, 365-376.)

Levitt's conclusion in this article, however, is that recent attempts by
political scientists to make this link are not quite successful.  He also
notes that while anthropologists are doing among the most interesting work
on political culture in Latin America, "culturalist" work is often dismissed
by political scientists,

"for being vague about the object of study and the units of analysis; for
blurring the line between culture and other categories such as behavior and
institutions; and for failing to explain political change.  What is more,
causal mechanisms-how and why a given cultural attribute leads to one
political outcome and not another-are often indiscernible" (Levitt 366).

While dominant modes of analysis in political science may be preserving
conceptual boundaries at the cost of insight, we recognize the validity of
the overall critique: cultural anthropologists' penchant for portraiture and
the gestalt may limit the cross-disciplinary usefulness of our work.

We also feel that one of the crucial missing links in both political science
approaches and anthropological approaches to political culture-and political
culture change-is communication.  Indeed, in Latin America, this link has
been crucial in the past half-century.  Generations of promotores were
persuaded by Freirean theories that communication dynamics were at the heart
of political culture, and that, moreover, macro political cultures could be
changed, one micro-dynamic at a time.

However, the significance of teniendo la palabra is much deeper than that;
its resonance as an indicator of power in both sacred and civil realms in
cultures throughout Latin America suggests that patterns of communication
may map (albeit indirectly) onto patterns of political culture, in very
specific ways according to ethnicity, region, nation, time frame, etc.
Likewise, changes in communication patterns among group members may indicate
shifts in how power operates in a given cultural setting; we might be
inclined to ask whether cultural rules and institutions have changed as
well, and what caused the changes.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words to BOTH Leslie López
(leslilo at yahoo.com.mx) and Diana Agosta (dagosta at igc.org), no later than
March 28, 2006.  Papers submitted as part of the panel must be accompanied
by meeting registration fees; see AAA's website (aaanet.org) for details.

(Below is the paragraph from the AAA's general CFP for this year's meeting.)

"Anthropology has reached a critical intersection in its history and
heritage as a discipline. This year's theme, "Critical
Intersections/Dangerous Issues," provides opportunities to explore and
evaluate both new and established links among increasingly specialized areas
within the field. Two standard definitions of the term "critical" are
particularly apt: "characterized by careful analysis" and "designating a
point at which change occurs." We invite papers that showcase collaborative
efforts to analyze pressing issues of archaeological, biological, cultural,
biocultural, medical and linguistic concern by producing new intersections
of knowledge. We also invite explicit critiques of such collaborations by
those who are familiar with the potential dangers of crossing conceptual,
institutional, pedagogical and political boundaries."

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