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Colección: La Educación
Número: (119) III
Año: 1994

8. William ROWE and Vivian SCHELLING. Memory and Modernity. Popular Culture in Latin America. London: Verso, 1991, 243 p., notes, illustrations, index, table of contents.

The recent tendency of seeking to assimilate products from different cultural environments is accelerating as the century draws to an end. It is a process which has both negative and positive aspects. One of its effects is homogenization, whereby differences become eroded either between the objects themselves, between the experiences involved in their making, or between the ways in which we receive them. This destructive process involves cultural death. On the other hand, the vast increase in channels of communication which flow across cultural boundaries has the effect of dismantling old forms of marginalization and domination and making new forms of democratization and cultural multiplicity possible. The outcome is uncertain. New forms of cultural violence and of power monopolization are also possible, and indeed have been happening for some time in Latin America. This book is against homogenization and its deadening effects. But at the same it time seeks new possibilities of cultural mobility and inventiveness brought about by the proliferation of communication in the late twentieth century. This book investigates what actually occurs in the conflict of meanings and practices.

The selection and distribution of material in this book has been initially divided into folk and rural culture, and mass and urban culture. Chapter 1 gives a historical view of the continuities and discontinuities that have marked popular cultures from the time of the Spanish and Portuguese Conquests until the beginning of the twentieth century. The descriptive material is concentrated in the second chapter, where a series of examples of different popular cultures are given. The other chapters are essays which explore the broad issues arising from the study of popular culture in Latin America: its history, the ways the political models have been assimilated and built, and their relation to high culture. The final chapter tests the validity of differentiations between popular culture and high culture and explains the role played by popular culture in the work of some major twentieth-century writers.

This is a highly recommended study. It explores this new field by drawing on history, ethnography, sociology, literary criticism, and communications theory, and it is a good start that will surely lead to future works in this area.

Mónica G. Luque