Culture and/or Postmodernism

Authored by: Sujatha Fernandes

Routledge Handbook of Latin American Politics

Print publication date:  March  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415875226
eBook ISBN: 9780203860267
Adobe ISBN: 9781135280307


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The cultural and postmodern turn in the study of Latin American politics, and in the social sciences more generally, began in the late 1980s. Cultural studies is a theory and method pioneered in Britain during the 1960s, which seeks to expand the study of culture to enhance our understanding of politics, power, and society. Postmodernism is a constellation of ideas that rejects the meta-narratives (broad explanatory frameworks) of modernism, in favor of multiple realities, fragmentation, and discontinuity. In the North American context, postmodernism and cultural studies tended to meld together. They were mostly centered in the humanities, in disciplines like English and comparative literature. Cultural studies in the United States followed the postmodern tendency to interpret social and political processes through the discursive level. North American cultural studies focused on popular cultures as an expression of resistance, and displaced the primacy of economic class in a postmodern celebration of diverse identities. While the British school of cultural studies also incorporated elements from postmodern theory, in contrast to North American cultural studies the British school spanned the social sciences and humanities, had a strong material, class-based approach, and sought to theorize the constraints posed by the culture industry. Although Latin Americans did not simply adopt this approach from British cultural studies, they likewise generally kept the two fields of postmodernism and cultural studies distinct.

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