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Mass Media as a Site of Resacralization of Contemporary Cultures

Mass Media as a Site of Resacralization of Contemporary Cultures

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« If, indeed, the media and religion are coming together,
then perhaps it is because they are fundamental cultural
mediations of the need felt by the people to transform
them into magic, into mystery and into the seduction of
the world. We would find, then, that something very
curious has happened. Despite all the promise of
modernity to make religion disappear, what has really
happened is that religion has modernized itself. Religion
has shown itself capable of eating modernity alive and
making modernity an important ingredient for its own
purposes. What we are witnessing, then, is not the
conflict of religion and modernity, but the
transformation of modernity into enchantment by linking
new communication technologies to the logic of popular
religiosity. »
« If, indeed, the media and religion are coming together,
then perhaps it is because they are fundamental cultural
mediations of the need felt by the people to transform
them into magic, into mystery and into the seduction of
the world. We would find, then, that something very
curious has happened. Despite all the promise of
modernity to make religion disappear, what has really
happened is that religion has modernized itself. Religion
has shown itself capable of eating modernity alive and
making modernity an important ingredient for its own
purposes. What we are witnessing, then, is not the
conflict of religion and modernity, but the
transformation of modernity into enchantment by linking
new communication technologies to the logic of popular
religiosity. »

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Jesús Martín Barbero on Oct 28, 2008
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10/28/2010

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www.mediaciones.net
Mass Media as a Siteof Resacralizationof Contemporary Cultures
 
Jesús Martín-Barbero
(In:
Rethinking Media, Religion and Culture,
 S. M. Hoover & K. Lundby (eds.) SAGE Publications,London, Thousand Oaks an New Delhi, 1997)
 
« If, indeed, the media and religion are coming together,then perhaps it is because they are fundamental culturalmediations of the need felt by the people to transformthem into magic, into mystery and into the seduction of the world. We would find, then, that something verycurious has happened. Despite all the promise of modernity to make religion disappear, what has reallyhappened is that religion has modernized itself. Religionhas shown itself capable of eating modernity alive andmaking modernity an important ingredient for its ownpurposes. What we are witnessing, then, is not theconflict of religion and modernity, but thetransformation of modernity into enchantment by linkingnew communication technologies to the logic of popularreligiosity.
 
»
 
 
Mass Media as a Site of Resacralization…
2In recent years, I have become increasingly aware of theprofound changes in the way people come together sociallyand how they relate to each other when they are together. Ithink that this constitutes, at the deepest level, the object of the study of human communication. What does, in fact, bring people together socially? This is connected, I wouldargue, with the study of the media as the locus of the consti-tution of identities and as a space for configuration of communities. The media are, above all, a factor in the dif-ferentiation of various types of communities. This implies,of course, that the media are not just economic phenomenaor instruments of politics. Nor are the media interestingsimply as one more instance of rapid technological change.Rather, the media must be analyzed as a process of creatingcultural identities and of bringing individuals into coherentpublics that are “subjects of action.” To conceptualize therelations of modernity, religiosity, and media, one must seethe media as a central factor in the constitution of socialactors.
The Disenchanted Modernity
 
I begin this chapter with the affirmation that modernityhas not lived up to many of its promises of social, political,or cultural liberation. But there is one promise that it hasfulfilled: the disenchantment of the world.
 
 
www.mediaciones.net 
3
Modernity has drained off the sense of the sacred, in largepart, because it has rationalized the world. The reduction of values to instrumental efficiency has left the world withoutmagic and without mystery. Today one finds a whole gen-eration of young people who are living, in their daily expe-rience, what Weber (1947, 1958) has called the disenchant-ment of the world. I think that it is almost impossible for many people to comprehend what it means for the young tolive the dizzy pace of today or the ecstasy of drugs if onedoes not see this in relation to the profound loss of awe andfearful reverence that pervades contemporary cultures.Every aspect of our experience reflects this disenchantment,from our blind faith in empirical science to insensitivity toenvironmental pollution, but especially the superficiality of social relations. In virtually all of us, especially in thosewho have drunk in the rationality of formal education, thedisappearance of the holy has changed the way we see theworld.And yet modernity, for all its power of control over na-ture, has left its sense of emptiness. Few people havelearned to live without some form of enchantment, mysterymythic vision, and some ritual moments. Strangely enough,we continue to seek ways to re-enchant the world, bring back the magic, and clothe our lives with mystery.One of the most lucid social analysts of our time, DanielBell (1994), a sociologist ready to declare the end of utopianthinking, has argued that the real problem with modernity isa kind of crisis of spiritual vision. The old foundations of our culture are now buried and the new have turned out to be illusory. Such an affirmation is interesting because Bell by no means holds a brief for religious apologetic. And inLatin America, Beatriz Sarlo (1994) writes in one of her recent articles that in the last twenty years, where once

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