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Communication a Strategic Site for the Debate on Modernity

Communication a Strategic Site for the Debate on Modernity

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« The everyday life of the majorities issues a deep
challenge to our paradigms because it neither responds
to our notions of culture, nor does it allow itself to be so
emphatically labelled as uneducated. Incorporated into
modernity without renouncing an oral culture, this
sensibility does not issue from books but from a
"secondary orality" whose grammar is radio, cinema and
television. In the process, the study of communication
has been converted into a task of truly anthropological
dimensions. At play here are not only displacements of
capital and technological innovations, but deep
transformations to the social fabric. These shifts release
profound dimensions of collective memory at the same
time as they mobilize fragmentary and dehistoricizing
imaginaries, changes which accelerate the
deterritorialization of cultural demarcations and the
hybridization of identities. »
« The everyday life of the majorities issues a deep
challenge to our paradigms because it neither responds
to our notions of culture, nor does it allow itself to be so
emphatically labelled as uneducated. Incorporated into
modernity without renouncing an oral culture, this
sensibility does not issue from books but from a
"secondary orality" whose grammar is radio, cinema and
television. In the process, the study of communication
has been converted into a task of truly anthropological
dimensions. At play here are not only displacements of
capital and technological innovations, but deep
transformations to the social fabric. These shifts release
profound dimensions of collective memory at the same
time as they mobilize fragmentary and dehistoricizing
imaginaries, changes which accelerate the
deterritorialization of cultural demarcations and the
hybridization of identities. »

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Published by: Jesús Martín Barbero on Oct 28, 2008
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06/16/2009

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www.mediaciones.net
Communication: A Strategic Sitefor the Debate on Modernity
Jesús Martín-Barbero
Translated by Michael Hoechsmann(In:
Border/Lines
Canada’s magazine of CulturalStudies. Nº 27 - Special issue on Latin America,pp. 47 - 52, Toronto, 1993)
 
«
 
The everyday life of the majorities issues a deepchallenge to our paradigms because it neither respondsto our notions of culture, nor does it allow itself to be soemphatically labelled as uneducated. Incorporated intomodernity without renouncing an oral culture, thissensibility does not issue from books but from a"secondary orality" whose grammar is radio, cinema andtelevision. In the process, the study of communicationhas been converted into a task of truly anthropologicaldimensions. At play here are not only displacements of capital and technological innovations, but deeptransformations to the social fabric. These shifts releaseprofound dimensions of collective memory at the sametime as they mobilize fragmentary and dehistoricizingimaginaries, changes which accelerate thedeterritorialization of cultural demarcations and thehybridization of identities. »
 
This essay is an edited version of “Pensar la sociedad desde la comu-nicación”, in:
 Diá-logos de la comunicación
, N° 32, Lima, 1992
.
 
 
Communication: A Strategic Site for the Debate…
2Although the crisis in Latin America is linked more to thedebt – and thus to the contradictions of the modernizationdesigned by business people and politicians – than to thedoubt over modernity suffered by intellectuals, philosophersand social scientists in Europe and the United States, thecrises are intertwined and their discourses are mutuallycomplementary. In some form the reemergence of the mod-ernizing project in our countries is the other face of their crisis, and our "external debt" is part of their "internaldoubt," just as their development is part of our dependence.Taking charge of the crisis of modernity is thus an indispen-sable condition in order to conceive of a project in our countries where economic and technological modernizationdoes not disable or supplant cultural modernity.Located in the centre of the philosophical, aesthetic andsociological reflections on the crisis of reason and modernsociety, the project of communication now transcends the boundaries and paradigms of our studies and research. Thefield of communication can no longer be neatly delimited by academic demarcations. Whether we like it or not, oth-ers – from other disciplines and with other concerns – nowtake part in it. We must accept this explosion and redesignthe map of questions and the lines of engagement.At the same time, the economic crisis and political unrestin our countries make the temptation to regress inwardstronger than ever. Nonetheless, the return to theoreticalcertainties, neoconservative positions and to the defense of the most legitimated and legitimating professional ideolo-
 
 
www.mediaciones.net 
3
gies is masked by a convergence of two discourses. On onehand is the discourse of political possibility, which – whilepresuming itself to be lucid about what is happening – playsits cards on the expansion of the market and its "presenta-tion" as the only dynamic site in society. On the other handis the discourse of technological knowledge which presumesthat the motor of the class struggle has broken down andthat history will encounter its revitalization in the events of communication; in the future, to transform society will re-quire changing the modes of the production and circulationof information.How should we confront this new and redoubled reduc-tion? How can we recognize the social and perspectivaldepths of new communication technologies, their cross-cutting modes of presence in the everyday, from work toplay and from science to politics? How can we accept themnot as facts that confirm the deceptive centrality of techno-logical development in which social inequality and power isresolved and dissolved, but as challenges to theoretical iner-tias and to schematic and automatic practices in pedagogyand research?
Photograph by R. Goldchain
 

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