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In the making of an alternative public sphere, or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine

democracy in Mexico.
Juan Carlos Sánchez Sierra, PhD Posdoctoral Research Fellow, UNAM-CEIICH

In the making of an alternative public sphere, or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico.

The Realm of this research • History of contemporary opposition journalism based on the discourses it promoted • A snapshot of the Mexican cultural field in the 1960s • Measure the pulse of left-leaning discourses expressed in both political and cultural journalism • Research Question. What was the reaction of leftist political and cultural journalists to the publication and aftermath of Lewis’ LHS in Mexico?

In the making of an alternative public sphere. journalist and intellectuals in Mexico used his core findings cast in Los Hijos de Sanchez as a platform to confront an authoritarian political regime in order to claim a democratic transformation • 1960s cultural and left-leaning journalism served as an embryonic alternative public sphere that used Oscar Lewis’ research as a standpoint for setting a political agenda . Hypothesis • Academics. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico.

In the making of an alternative public sphere. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. Empirical material • Política (1960-1967) • La Cultura en México (1963-1966c) Methodological Approach: Critical Discourse Theory (CDA) (Cfr. Fairclough. van Dijk) .

The context of discourse production • Crisis of the ‘revolutionary’ public sphere • The hegemony of ‚la gran prensa‛ production of narratives on revolution lost appeal in the public • Political and cultural journalism (not excluding categories) grasped an opportunity to denounce the 1917 achievements of revolution as ‘out of track’.In the making of an alternative public sphere. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. • In the 1960s cultural and left leaning journalism served as an embryonic public sphere • Journalists and intellectuals used Oscar Lewis’ research as a standpoint for setting a political agenda .

or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. Manuel Marcué) • • • • Political orientation. Editorial Line.In the making of an alternative public sphere. Contributors Attempt to call for a renovation of the meaning of ‘revolution’. • Prosecuted by government . Política (1960-1967) (Dir.

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• Political eclecticism • Revisionism in the left • Radical stances. Fernando Benitez – José Pages Lergo. Literature. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. La Cultura en México (1963-1966c ) Dir. debates. cinema. • All portrayed with a political light.In the making of an alternative public sphere. essay. its heyday) . Contributors: • Arts. but expressed in a warm intellectualist position • (‘La maffia’ et al.

“La Maffia” in the 1960s .

“La Maffia” in the 1960s .

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N. Oct 1962. Starred by Sofia Lauren and directed by Vittorio di Sicca. . or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. Política • Poverty was not a new topic for the editorial board • Among others.In the making of an alternative public sphere. April 1961 • Cinema and censorship. Bassols wrote an analysis on poverty and its roots. regarding the royalties and copyrights for the film on Lewis’ book.

• Debate on poverty and censorship of FCE publishing house was triggered. Feb 1965. and with some signals of xenophobia and the usual repressive attitude removed Arnaldo Orfila Reynal from the editorial . • The government decide to interfere in FCE’s Autonomy.

presenting a false image of the country • The book was a excuse for government’s denial on the issue. • Política started to question legitimacy of political institutions for failing to the majority of Mexican population. • Lewis’etnography is discussed as a form of foreign intrusion. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. .In the making of an alternative public sphere.

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In the making of an alternative public sphere. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. Poniatowska Interview. a piece of Mexican ‘neorealism’ • Her interest on sexual topics. pushed Lewis to clarify that the topic is not relevant. . and it cannot be seen as ‘natural’ by the ‘morbosa’ interpretation made by its readers. • Attempt to portray Lewis’ work as a piece of art. a novel. E.

without endangering its rhetoric beyond usual limits historically ‘tolerated’. La Cultura en México • • The book was regarded as a literary curiosity Aspects of language. popular distress. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. Silva Herzog wrote an assessment on the issue. Intellectuals found the problem of poverty as a good mechanism to negotiate with the government the future of intellectual influence.In the making of an alternative public sphere. it was a rather ‘official’ opinion for the epoch • • . and imagery of poverty were exploited in ‘a artistic vein’.

(In the light of GDO displays of force at public universities and against intellectuals) The final balance. when a final balance of ALM government was made. (GDO) • • • . the perpetuation of its cycle. but suggestions for solutions were absent The culture of poverty became a conceptual tool to explain the cultural issues in Mexico. No 138. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. was rather mild to the president leaving. • Further essays highlight the relation between misery. and how exclusion became institutionalized Several issues tackled the problem.In the making of an alternative public sphere. and did not established a position of the intellectuals to sustain in face of the new appointed successor. Predominant topic until 1966.

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For discussion • The publication o LHS became a good justification for leftist journalists.In the making of an alternative public sphere. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. to bring into the spotlight unconformities in their relation to political institutions (PRI-crowded) • It give us a glance of how in the 1960s the emergence of an alternative public sphere happened • Helps to distinguish the return/rediscovery of intellectuals to a topic that bolstered the voices against the regime • Established a clean-cut distinction between the nationalist discourse. and more cosmopolitan perspectives on how to ‘rule’ culture in Mexico • Editorial field expanded to new alternatives to FCE (JM / Siglo XXI) that opened up political debates with a variety of new scopes of analysis .

In the making of an alternative public sphere. but formally there was not convergence Despite that common goal. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. A claim for democracy. but based on a different notion of what type of ‘alternative public sphere’ should be fostered. . • • This divide shaped intellectual sectors in the years that brought about the emergence of the student movement. Cultural / Political = fragmentation of opposition Both created a ‘sense’ of communion gathering strength to resist government repression. both versions exclude each other regarding what type of contention should be necessary (Struggle Vs Negotiation) The fractures that emerged in this period accelerated the division of left leaning journalism between nationalists / cosmopolitanisms. • For Discussion • • • • Two different approaches to the problem.

• • • . Provisional Conclusions • Despite the chasm that divided both styles of journalism.In the making of an alternative public sphere. they contributed to build an alternative public sphere.for a new relation to the government Even though cultural and political journalism perpetuated paternalist and condescendence as ‘natural’ approaches to the underclass in México. political culture. or how Oscar Lewis’ ethnography helped to redefine democracy in Mexico. opposition journalism established a ground for a critical examination of government. suspicious of the hegemonic voice of the ‘gran prensa’. The booming years of such discussions on the direction of the nation and the lost path of a ‘revolutionary ideal’ prepared Mexican youth –and the growing readership. The form how ‘la maffia’ referred to people in poverty and the form how culture became a status marker and discourse to exclude a wide range of social sectors is a subject matter that requires further research.