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Martín Barbero, Jesús

Summary and Keywords

Jesús Martín Barbero is a philosopher specializing in communication and culture, particularly focusing on Latin America as his major geographical research environment and emphasizing the social meanings and practices of cultural consumption. Although he was born in Spain and his formal academic training was developed in Belgium and France, his entire career has been conducted in Latin America and, specifically, in Colombia, where he has lived since the 1960s, with a brief interruption due to his graduate studies in the 1970s.

Along with others, Martín Barbero is considered to be one of the main theorists of the Latin American school of communication. He represents the cultural studies trend within it, and he is one of the few Latin American authors in communication and cultural studies who has been translated or published in English.

Some of Martín Barbero’s main contributions have been to resituate communication studies within the broader field of culture, emphasizing a nonmedia-centered approach, proposing a radically historical perspective, arguing that the concepts of popular and mass culture are not actually opposite, but tightly embedded within each other, and recognizing that popular and mass culture practices are indeed worthy of study. This perspective has often been dismissed or neglected by previous research in communication and cultural studies in Latin America, and the recent focus on telenovelas research is one such example.

De los medios a las mediaciones: Comunicación, Cultura y Hegemonía (1987), Martín Barbero’s most cited book, has several editions in Spanish and has been translated to Portuguese (Dos meios ‘as mediacoes, 1992) and French (Des médias aux mediations, 2002). The translation to English in 1993 includes a little twist on its title: Communication, Culture, and Hegemony: From Media to Mediations.

Although Martín Barbero’s work has been included in edited volumes or special issues in English, it has been overwhelmingly published in Spanish. Drawing on his corpus of work—his books, articles, conferences, and interviews—this article offers an overview of Jesús Martín Barbero’s main concepts, his intellectual trajectory, his major intellectual influences, and how and why he became an influential thinker in the Latin American field of communication and cultural studies. It also highlights some limitations in Martín Barbero’s work.

Keywords: Jesús Martín Barbero, Latin America, Latin American school of communication, cultural studies, popular culture, mass culture, communication and critical studies

An Overview to Martín Barbero’s Career and His Institutional Commitments

Jesús Martín Barbero was born in Spain in 1937, but he has lived in Colombia since the 1960s.1 His intellectual horizon and his entire geographical and symbolic universes are firmly located in Latin America. Indeed, he has traveled across the continent for both scholarly and nonacademic purposes, embedded in Latin American cultural and intellectual life that he recognizes as a complex, diverse, and even contradictory imagined universe (Martín Barbero, 1995, 2002; Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000).

Barbero draws on an expansive approach to theory, which means that diverse disciplines nurture his academic work. In fact, his formal training bridges the fields of philosophy, semiotics, and anthropology. Martín Barbero obtained his PhD in philosophy from the Université Catholique de Louvain in 1971, and later he conducted his postdoctoral research in anthropology and semiotics in the École d’Hautes Études in Paris. Consequently, an intercultural commitment and an interdisciplinary approach best define Martín Barbero’s work, his academic trajectory, and his scholarly contributions.

Together with scholars such as Luis Ramiro Beltrán, Antonio Pasquali, Eliseo Verón, Armand and Michelle Mattelart, and Néstor García Canclini, Martín Barbero is considered one of the major theorists of the Latin American school of communication. Indeed, since the 1960s, these researchers were part of an intellectual effort to critically review foreign frames in communication and culture and to advocate the promotion and strengthening of a local way of thinking to better understand Latin America’s own history, problems, and needs. Within this broad process in the Latin American field of communication studies, Martín Barbero’s work is part of what has been termed the “cultural turn” in communication studies (Huesca & Dervin, 1994; O’Connor, 1991). However, because of the eclectic character of Martín Barbero’s objects, production, and methods, his work implies a classifying challenge for librarians. Along with Beltrán, Armand Mattelart, and García Canclini, Martín Barbero’s scholarship remains one of the few authors in Latin America to have his works translated into or published in English. However, most of his work had been published exclusively in Spanish.2

Beyond his broad influence on the Latin American intellectual field, Martín Barbero’s project also has been globally recognized as a cornerstone of cultural studies and communication research because of his understanding of communication within the wider frame of culture, the crucial value of a historical perspective to better understand the interplay between communication and culture, and the recognition of popular cultural practices and productions usually neglected by research, such as telenovelas, melodrama, and folletines.3

Martín Barbero’s effort to decenter cultural research has nourished a comparative perspective, contributing to intellectual debates in North America and Europe, as well as in the Global South. Soon after De los Medios a las Mediaciones was published in English, Martín Barbero reached global influence as a major figure in mass communication studies and as a pioneer in the reconfiguration of media reception studies (Hinds, 1994; Scolari, 2015).

History as an unavoidable frame within which to understand communication and culture is central to Martín Barbero’s thinking; consequently, he argues that discontinuities do not exist, but rather processes regarding cultural practices, actions, and experiences. This perspective has implications for epistemological standpoints and the decolonization of knowledge. In fact, under Martín Barbero’s radical historical frame, the critical reading of modernity processes in Latin America is also crucial. Indeed, throughout his intellectual project, he not only recognizes and disentangles the contradictions entrenched in Latin American modernity, but he also acknowledges traditional cultural practices that have been previously dismissed by communication research framed under principles of the Enlightenment and colonization (Quijano, 2000). Currently, Martín Barbero’s theoretical and practical approaches are hybrid regarding his training in philosophy but also in anthropology; the problems that he addresses, such as cultural production but consumption, too; the methods that he deploys, mixed and flexible, and also because the current processes that he investigates are messy and represent a mixture of past and present, tradition and modernity, sophistication and archaism. Popular festivities in cemeteries and public spaces, as well as daily-life practices in urban spaces and rural markets, are at the core of Martín Barbero’s research agenda, for instance.

Martín Barbero has been recognized internationally, which can be seen through his many visiting scholar appointments, his role as an international advisor to several research projects, and his honorary titles. In fact, he has served as a lecturer, a researcher, and as a participant in an international academic exchange at universities such as Stanford University, the Freie Universität Berlin, La Sorbonne, the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Nonetheless, he has especially devoted his academic trajectory to Latin American institutions, visiting several centers of studies and universities from Mexico to Chile. As a way to acknowledge his intellectual contribution to the field of culture and communication, Martín Barbero has been named Doctor Honoris Causa by Colombian universities, such as the Universidad de Antioquía and the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá, and also by the Universidad Nacional de Rosario and the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, in Argentina, and the Universidad de Guadalajara, in Mexico.

One of the milestones in Martín Barbero’s agenda is his advocacy for a socially engaged scholarship, encouraging research that is strongly tied to its environment—not enclosed within its institutional walls, but committed to real-life challenges. In this sense, Martín Barbero has foregrounded two central questions in his work (Anthropos, 2008): first, a constant questioning of the purpose of communication research and the personal and scholarly aspects of his research practices; and second, the acknowledgment of an epistemological commitment to participatory research, which he describes as ver con la gente or seeing through the eyes of the people and with the people. According to his spirit of social engagement, he has been a consultant and advisor in the field of cultural politics, both in Colombia and abroad. Part of this commitment is demonstrated in his contribution to the institutionalization of the field of communication and cultural studies in Latin America. Indeed, along with previously named Latin American scholars, Martín Barbero has been engaged in the foundation and/or consolidation of the three main regional institutions focused on the field of communication research and its promotion: the International Center for Advanced Studies in Communication for Latin America (Centro International de Estudios Superiores de Comunicación para América Latina, Ciespal); the Latin American Association of Communication Researchers (Asociación Latinoamericana de Investigadores en Comunicación, ALAIC); and the Latin American Federation of Colleges of Communication (Federación Latinoamericana de Facultades de Comunicación Social, Felafacs).

Ciespal was founded in Ecuador in 1959 by UNESCO as the first attempt to institutionalize research, publishing, and training in communication and journalism in the region; ALAIC was created in 1978, and Felafacs was founded in 1979, in Lima. At different points in his career, Martín Barbero has been part of the advisory committee of Felafacs and ALAIC’s president, and Ciespal named a special chair after him.4 Professor Omar Rincón coordinates the Jesús Martín Barbero Chair in Ciespal. The initiative aims to acknowledge the most cited thinker in Latin America and Spain, as well as his wide influence in inspiring younger communication scholars to join the field, and also to spread his contribution to the fields of communication, media, journalism, and culture. Rincón states that many researchers consider themselves as Martín Barbero’s apprentices and disciples.5

The chair promotes research topics based on Martín Barbero’s works, including the interplay between communication and power, the relationship between communication and cities, and cultural and reception studies. It also promotes a network of Latin American researchers on critical theory6 and provides online access to key works of Martín Barbero, as well as taped videos of some of his lectures.

Martín Barbero’s Ideas and Works

Exiliado de su espacio, y en cierta manera de su tiempo,

el pensamiento crítico sólo puede otear y dibujar futuro

abandonando las seguridades en que se resguardaba

y volviéndose nómada, aceptando el camino de la diáspora

(Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 36)

Exiled from its space, and in a certain way from its time,

critical thinking can only watch from above and draw the future

abandoning the securities in which it sheltered itself

and becoming a nomad, accepting the path of diaspora

Martín Barbero and His Circumstances

Martín Barbero was born during the conservative and Roman Catholic–inspired dictatorship that ruled Spain after the Civil War (1936–1939). Growing up in a deeply divided society, in which collective and respectful coexistence was seriously damaged by omnipresent hate speech, the intolerance to dissension, and a broken civil coexistence, stroke Martín Barbero and left a footprint in his intellectual trajectory (Marroquín, 2015). Indeed, Spain under General Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1938–1973) resembled more a nation of enemies than a community with a shared understanding of culture, history, or memory.

Despite Martín Barbero’s early life experience in a rigid society, it was his scholarly experience in Colombia that shaped his intellectual thinking. After his graduate studies, he returned to the Colombian city of Cali in 1975, and he helped created the School of Social Communication in the Universidad del Valle, serving as its chair until 1995. Martín Barbero has highlighted his appointment as a milestone that defined the course of his life, placed him in the field of communication studies without dismissing his previous philosophical training, and opened some key paths for his thinking and his further research and writings.

Grounded in his interdisciplinary frame, he developed the concept of mediations (mediaciones), which relates media and communicative practices to cultural dynamics and social movements (Martín Barbero, 1995). Indeed, Martín Barbero understood that communication does not just mean the production, circulation, and consumption of media, but also several phenomena entangled in culture and in daily life. In other words, his intellectual project does not ignore media and their crucial influence in 20th-century Latin American societies, but rather, he argues that everyday experiences have as much influence on people’s lives regarding communication phenomena as media do.

Neither Martín Barbero’s work nor his intellectual contributions can be understood without paying attention to the broader political, economic, and cultural transformations in the Latin American context that are anchored in his writing. The roots and development of the Latin American School of Communication are part of that history, and there are three distinct waves of its path. First, from the mid-20th century until the late 1960s, the school was characterized by a rather uncritical adoption of theories and methodologies developed in the United States and Europe; second, an attempt to develop local approaches to communication studies was based upon extensive empirical work that lasted until the early 1980s; and third, the current wave has been recognized by the expansion and the consolidation of the field that some authors have described it as highly fragmented, though (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000; Ossandón, Salinas, & Stange, 2014; Scolari, 2015).

The first period of uncritical adoption of US and European theoretical frames in communication and journalism in Latin America is well illustrated by Ciespal’s efforts to translate key works in communication. In fact, the institution was exclusively spreading the ideas of communication theorists coming from scholarly traditions outside Latin America, such as Wilbur Schram, Paul Deutschmann, Josef Eschenbach, Ralph Nafziger, and David White (Chasqui, 1976; Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000; Parente Aragão, 2017). Indeed, Ciespal’s efforts in translating these works provide a good example of larger, global, and political economic trends at a historical moment at which an unbalanced North-South relationship encouraged a diffusion of knowledge frames, promoting a range of actions such as public policies, professional training, and technical transfers, funded by foreign aid.

The assumption is that the developed world could “teach” the developing world how to overcome underdevelopment. Thus, the two-step flow of communication and diffusion analysis, as well as the information theory model, were at the core of the syllabi within the recently created schools of communication in Latin America (Scolari, 2015, p. 1094). In that vein, moving beyond the transmission model was a fundamental shift in Martín Barbero’s work. In an interview in 1990, Martín Barbero said that what was problematic within the theory of information “was the type of communication processes that could be actually analyzed under this frame” (Martín Barbero, 1995, p. 14). The mechanical representation of communication as information delivered from messenger to recipient fell short of illuminating communication phenomena that were (and still are) taking place in Latin American culture, practices, and media. Indeed, it is impossible to sharply distinguish this linear way of thinking in communication, especially when considering, for example, religious festivities in public spaces or alternative strategies deployed by popular radio stations.

Martín Barbero’s Main Concepts

One of the ways of assessing the significance of Martín Barbero’s work about communication and culture can be weighted by the epistemological twist that his thinking triggered in the field of cultural studies and communication in Latin America, which meant rejecting dichotomic ways of thinking from both Marxist and functionalism/administrative traditions (sender vs. receiver; dominant vs. subordinated). Further, the relevance of his intellectual proposal is based upon the importance that he gives to people’s communication consumption, how a given society collectively makes sense of its cultural and communication practices and experiences, and to what extent its members not only receive information or content, but appropriate and signify it.

Another crucial area of Martín Barbero’s contribution is his focus on processes, as well as the particular productions, processes, and languages that he highlights as vital to understanding what communication actually represents to people in everyday life. These appropriations of spaces can be seen in farmer or urban markets, mass media consumption through traditional frames or collective practices, and social appropriations of cultural productions previously considered as alienating, such as telenovelas or radio dramas.

In sum, in early Latin American research, the goal was, first, to deploy communication as a tool of transferring knowledge in order to achieve development; and second, to criticize that process as an unbalance of power in which hegemonic players defined what cultural and communication products powerless actors consumed, including global and domestic varieties. By the late 1970s, Martín Barbero displaced this question about the impact of unbalanced power and began to look at the perceptions, appropriations, and practices that people had in their early lives, at home, and in the family, participating in grassroots organizations, religious movements, or traditional groups. In other words, the core of Martín Barbero’s epistemological shifting on Latin American studies in communication is encouraging the analysis of how people appropriate and resignify popular and cultural productions that were previously considered alienating by neo-Marxist or critical perspectives or unworthy according to administrative frames, like telenovelas, radio dramas, folletín, melodramas, and popular rituals, among others.

Moreover, scholars identify theoretical insights in Martín Barbero’s works, such as the concept of mediations (mediaciones) as the multiple cultural and narrative practices that people mobilize in their experience of cultural and communication consumption, the appropriation and resignification of Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony in the Latin American cultural and communication landscape, and his critical examination of nationalism processes. As a consequence, Martín Barbero also problematizes the concept of identity (or identities) within a noncontemporary modernity (or a modernity at the wrong time, in Martín Barbero’s conception).

Indeed, the critical status of Martín Barbero’s concept of mediaciones relies upon the complex interconnections produced by uneven communication practices and social movements entrenched in multiple cultural matrices, like traditional, popular, massive, modern, and postmodern. Such unlikely and even contradictory practices, movements, and matrices unfold variable temporalities—in other words, they have different social tempos. In that vein, states Martín Barbero, there are so many unexplored dimensions in daily life to help one better understand cultural and communication processes, experiences, and subjects that a media-centered analysis falls short.

On the contrary, communication and mass culture studies should problematize mediaciones (mediations) inhabited by these multiple institutions, organizations, and individuals experiencing different temporalities and uneven cultural frames (Anthropos, 2008; Martín Barbero, 1987; Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000; Martín Barbero’s foreword in Sunkel, 1985). It tends to be misunderstood as media, as something in between content’s producers and audiences. However, the concept of mediaciones constitutes a dispute between two or more social players building collective and sense-making processes and implies cultural clashes over what interpretive frames will dominate others (Martín Barbero, 1983). In that sense, mediaciones is about what cultural and communication frames will become hegemonic, in Gramscian terms.7

Indeed, Gramsci coined the concept of hegemony during his imprisonment by the fascist Italian government in the 1930s, and it describes the process of moral, philosophical, and political leadership that a social group obtains with the active consent of subordinate social groups rather than direct coercion. Hegemony does not occur naturally; rather, it should be enhanced throughout institutions that contribute to the social order and its relations of production, such as everyday practices and educational, legal, political, and cultural systems. The Gramscian concept of hegemony problematizes and expands the Marxian concept of ideology “by explaining how it is that subordinate classes consent to the practices and views that go against their own interests and perpetuate their subordination” (Woodfin, 2006, p. 134). The social order is not a neutral playing field, but rather a scenario of struggles. In Martín Barbero’s framework, hegemony is not fixed, but is a living process produced by coercion, but also by persuasion, complicity, and assimilating the meaning of power (Martín Barbero, 1987).

In that vein, the relationship between the ruling and the subaltern classes seems to be a rather dense, complicated, and meaningful web of interconnections instead of two disconnected and opposite dimensions of social life. The rich field of mediaciones that Martín Barbero theorizes includes power unbalances, but also active processes through which popular cultures navigate in daily life. Sometimes popular cultures in Latin America have been framed as the practices and discourses driven by the peasant and indigenous people inhabiting preindustrial and premodern worlds, closer to the folklore. But the category of popular culture also represents mass, urban, industrial, and working movements.

Popular (lo popular), in Martín Barbero’s thought, refers to a repertoire of practices embedded in the industrial experience of daily life and the symbolic place where those practices should be analyzed to be better understood. Popular culture, then, refers to residual elements and to a particular style. Indeed, popular culture is made of residual experiences and symbolically resisting hegemonic discourses. Thus, popular culture constitutes rather the leftovers of knowledge that are useless to technological colonization and, at the same time, symbolically embed daily life, turning them into a space of social creativity.

On the other hand, the style of popular culture constitutes a scheme of operations, a specific way of walking around a city or of watching television. In other words, popular culture’s style implies specific ways of social exchange and living, as well as technical innovation and moral resistance. In sum, there are multiple, complex, and active ways in which people use, consume, produce, resignify, and navigate culture, rather than simply passive or subordinated ways. Then, by denaturalizing and withdrawing from a certain idealization of popular culture, Martín Barbero examines what people actually do with their cultural practices, consumption, and production.

It is important to highlight some fundamental nuances and differences that lo popular in Martín Barbero’s thought implies in comparison to the Anglo-American concept of popular culture. Indeed, as Scolari (2015, p. 1095) points out, “traditional media studies in the United States homologated ‘popular’ and ‘mass’ culture,” considering them even synonymous. However, following Scolari, “in Latin America ‘mass culture’ refers to homogenized cultural industry—in the sense of Adorno and Horkheimer—while ‘popular culture(s)’ relates to the folkloric, pre-industrial and/or the culture of the subaltern classes from a Gramscian perspective . . . Jesús Martín Barbero proposed thinking about social identity in relation to popular culture without forgetting that popular culture has deeply modified the forms of expression of mass culture” (Scolari, 2015, p. 1095). Therefore, popular culture and mass culture are not divided nor divergent experiences in Latin American cultural practices. On the contrary, they should be understood as complex interconnected dimensions of Latin American modernity’s paradoxes. Under that vein, cultura popular should be the epistemological frame for inquiring into communication in Latin America, considering it not as a frozen experience, but as an alive, social memory (Martín Barbero, 1983; Sunkel, 2008).

Thus, the conceptualization of mediaciones as dense and complex interconnections between institutions, individuals, cultural matrixes, and grammars implies problematizing the idea of the nation and what identities mean. Martín Barbero’s perspective of historically reading contemporary processes of communication and culture implies the unweaving of what nation-states mean in the Latin American context; that is, the intricacies that it carries due to the two purposes that it served: as an inheritance of modernity, but also as the construct that attempted to found independent, Latin American states. Thus, the tangled paths of building identities are traversed by the mixture of popular and mass cultures. The rather flexible strategies that individuals and social groups deploy in order to navigate uneven dimensions of culture and communication entail negotiated identities.

There are plenty of cultural and communication processes, products, and practices that problematize modernity and tradition, popular and mass culture, and the complex identities that emerge from such interconnections. Indeed, those daily-life examples have nurtured Martín Barber’s work. In that vein, the telenovela is not the only one, but it might be one of the most illuminating examples of the importance of popular production and consumption in communication and culture in Latin America.

The telenovela is a Latin American genre of fiction produced and delivered through free-to-air television. Adapted first from radio dramas and a descendant of the folletín and the serial novel, the first telenovelas were aired in Cuba, Brazil, and Mexico in the early 1950s. Indeed, by the late 1970s, telenovelas were one of the most important Latin American exports (Mattelart & Mattelart, 1990).

Roughly speaking, a telenovela is a type of fiction, especially produced for television and aired daily. In the beginning, telenovelas were broadcast in prime time, but as the genre succeeded and became a cultural industry, Latin American broadcasters developed telenovelas targeting diverse audiences at different times each day. The genre presents a long-form story developed throughout several episodes, with a main story articulating the action. The main character is usually a young woman struggling to make a life for herself, pursuing happiness, and finding true love. The core of the action is around a triangle of a main character, an antagonist (often another woman), and a man who is desired by both women. Eventually, the basic and simple structure that has characterized the traditional telenovelas developed into more complex scripts, echoing larger social or political trends. Nonetheless, the more contemporary approaches to telenovelas are still relying upon the pursuing of love as the main conflict driving the action.

Nonetheless, the telenovela is probably the most important Latin American cultural product because it has mobilized the economics of broadcasting in the region’s countries, funding armies of writers, producers, actors, musicians, and countless other professionals, technicians, and executives that expanded the industry. But telenovelas also have shaped (and been shaped by) daily-life practices and symbolic imaginaries. There are innumerable Latin American women named after the telenovela hero of the day they were born, just to mention one of the obvious cultural influences.

Although elites and scholarly frames considered telenovelas as an alienating form of cultural consumption, well-fitting manipulation, and mobilization of basic knowledge, an important part of the genre’s success is that the phenomenon is about much more than plain domination. The modern telenovela consists of complicities, resistances, inventions, old moralities, and new conflicts and rebellions. Indeed, telenovelas’ success comes “from a dense cultural re-understanding of the humiliated and excluded, whose truth constitutes a deep challenge to both erudite aesthetics and intellectualized ethics” (Martín Barbero, 2014, p. 143). Countless studies of telenovelas have come after Martín Barbero’s seminal work (e.g., Acosta-Alzuru, 2007; Felafacs, 1996; Jacks, Schmitz, Oikawa, Sifuentes, & Pieniz, 2012; Santa Cruz, 2003). In fact, one of his main works is Televisión y Melodrama: Géneros y Lecturas de la Telenovela en Colombia (Martín Barbero & Muñoz, 1992), which tries to disentangle critical meanings from the Colombian telenovelas, their audiences, and the social practices and discourses that those cultural productions triggered socially. In the telenovela, in its entire cycle of writing, production, and consumption, Martín Barbero’s concepts of mediaciones, cultura popular, and the complicated meanings of nation and identities are embedded within.

In sum, Martín Barbero situates communication within the wider field of culture, from and since Latin America. Cultures should not be considered as natural or essential, “beyond time and space. Any living culture is a culture that is continually and simultaneously integrating other cultures’ elements and being adopted for somebody else, crossed by movements coming from politics, economy, or the market” (Martín Barbero, 1995, p. 17). In his first work, Martín Barbero introduced the category from as “a way to make explicit the strategic importance of the place of enunciation. It was like that that I also introduced the idea of thinking communication from culture,8 that I later expanded to thinking not ‘in’ but ‘from’ Latin America, which also implies a plurality of Latin American places” (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 144). Critically placing communication within the broad field of culture and not exclusively under a neo-Marxist frame has been a paramount value in Latin America because the cultural matrix of mixing traditions and innovations, archaic and modern ways of thinking and living, and traditional and modern technologies is crucial to understanding the particularities of Latin American history.

The rupture with a dichotomic way of thinking about communication as a fundamental epistemological twist in Martín Barbero’s work implies highlighting the processes instead of the objects. This concept is indebted to the work of Walter Benjamin, the German philosopher. His close reading of Benjamin was useful not only because of the topics—working-class character, popular-culture production, public spaces such as streets, and photography, among others—but also because he provided a method of decentering the gaze, in the sense of losing the focus on the object and allowing oneself to get lost in the process of discovery. The roots of this approach can be traced to a late 1970s conference in Mexico.9 In that lecture, Martín Barbero stated: “I reversed the formula communication is a domination process, which was a commonplace in which all of us agreed, to domination is a process of communication10 (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 116). If communication adopts only a form of domination, explains Martín Barbero in another work, it would be impossible to understand the meaning of communication if we just looked at the dominant side; in consequence, we should analyze the ways in which domination operates and the complicities it triggers (Martín Barbero, 1995).

Intellectual Influence

As much as his own theoretical scholarship is eclectic, Martín Barbero’s influences are intellectually hybrid, combining European and Latin American thought and mixing philosophers, writers, and historians. Indeed, Martín Barbero’s vital contribution introduces a number of authors into the Latin American scholarly debate and resignifies them in relation to the specificities of the theoretical perspective in communication and culture within the region. Guillermo Sunkel notes that “he introduces a perspective that, back then, thirty years ago or so, was very innovative.”11

Walter Benjamin, a Frankfurt School theorist, has been central to Martín Barbero’s project, from the methodological decentering standpoint, from the radical historical perspective to address communication and culture, and at the borders in which Martín Barbero situates himself. In the 1980s, as Martín Barbero says, Benjamin’s writings became “part of my own personal adventure. Since 1977 I was inquiring about the popular aesthetics history; I have intuitively suspected that the conventional and Manichean opposition between popular culture and mass culture was too obvious and tricky. Only positioning popular aesthetics in history allowed me to dismantle the fallacies on which it was based” (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 14). Martín Barbero traces to Benjamin a validation to what he calls a sort of productivity of the Latin American “mess” because Benjamin also used to think at the edges, inquiring about the grotesque, photography, the back streets, mirrors, the tavern, and so on. That is, Martín Barbero’s own inquiry turned to popular rituals, religious practices, cemeteries, and marketplaces, as well as telenovelas and radio dramas.

In addition to Benjamin, the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies inspired Martín Barbero to acknowledge the uses and practices of communication and culture and the shift from structural problems to the entangled net that characterizes daily life and cultural experiences. Indeed, “the strategic relationship between culture and industry was emancipated from Frankfurtian determinism by Hall, Golding, and Murdock,12 who began to decode social and ideological determination, no longer in terms of context, but by setting limits and enforcing boundaries” (Martín Barbero, 2014, p. 134). The aim to pay attention to what remains in what is changing and what changes in what remains in the field of cultural and communication practices in Latin America is also indebted to this intellectual path, from Raymond Williams to E. P. Thompson (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 114). Francophone authors, such as Michel de Certeau, Paul Ricoeur, and Pierre Bourdieu, are also significant in Martín Barbero’s work, especially in his writings on daily life, cultural appropriation, and the importance and the role of language these scholars developed (Anthropos, 2008; Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000).

As important as the authors, questions, ideas, and problems that Martín Barbero brings and resignifies in the Latin American intellectual field in the 1980s and later, he also feels that he is part of a regional intellectual environment consisting of a heterogeneous group of writers, philosophers, researchers, historians, and the like. He acknowledges his perspectives as being part of a broader cultural debate actively animated by thinkers like Beatriz Sarlo and José Luis Romero (from Argentina), Nelly Richards and José Joaquín Brunner (from Chile), and Carlos Monsiváis and Néstor García Canclini13 (from Mexico), just to mention a few.

Actually, his book Oficio de Cartógrafo acknowledges the collaborative side of his work. His intellectual journey through the Latin American field of culture and communication is a collective rather than just a personal effort, as he points out in the introduction: “The layout of this book knits fragments and texts on which, for nearly thirty years, I have been an actor and some times I have been a witness and a chronicler of the Latin American crossings of communication into the culture. Hence, my work has been, and continues to be, a collective rather than a personal adventure” (Martín Barbero, 2002, p. 10).

Martín Barbero’s Key Books

A WorldCat Identities search identifies 198 works by Martín Barbero, in 457 publications, in six languages, and in 2,517 library holdings since 1967,14 when he first published, to the present day. Google Scholar provides more than 27,000 results from the word search “Jesús Martín Barbero,” which reaches almost a half million in the regular Google search engine. However, according to Eduardo Santa Cruz,15 professor of communication and cultural studies at the Universidad de Chile, there are five key books that can be used to map the main intellectual contributions of Martín Barbero: Comunicación Masiva: Discurso y Poder (1978), De los Medios a las Mediaciones: Comunicación, Cultura y Hegemonía (1987), Procesos de Comunicación y Matrices de Cultura: Itinerario para Salir de la Razón dualista (1988), Pre-Textos (1995), and Oficio de Cartógrafo. Travesías Latinoamericanas de la Comunicación en la Cultura (2002). Sunkel and Hinds also acknowledge the importance of Televisión y Melodrama: Género y Lecturas de la Telenovela en Colombia (Hinds, 1994; Martín Barbero & Muñoz, 1992; Sunkel, 2008). This section provides an overview of Comunicación y Poder (1978), De los Medios a las Mediaciones (1987), and Televisión y Melodrama (1992) because they represent the main theoretical shifts in both Martín Barbero’s work and the Latin American agenda in cultural and communication research.

Comunicación Masiva: Discurso y Poder is split into three sections. The first provides an overview of the Latin American theoretical debate on communication and Martín Barbero’s criticism of it, raising new questions that were the inception of the main concepts that he developed later. The second section discusses the place and role of the sign, symbolic displacement, and practices related to communication and discourses. The third part analyzes both press and television discourses. There are obvious traces of Martín Barbero’s training in semiotics, but it is also a critical conjuncture during which, to him, semiotics lost its explanatory power and became an obstacle to making sense of communication, such as daily-life experiences, urban places, or leisure opportunities. In particular, semiotics did not capture the nuances of and noises in the interplay between identities, social practices, and communication processes. He proposes to go beyond the administrative approach to communication, which is very distinctive of the US tradition in media studies since the 1930s and 1940s. Martín Barbero also encouraged scholars to go beyond the critical and neo-Marxist response to the American tradition in addition to the semiotic frame, borrowed from the French influence in Latin American social sciences.16

Latin American communication research is unimaginable without the neo-Marxist work by Armand Mattelart in Chile and Argentina during the 1970s, contributing to the political economy of communication and being indebted to the neo-Marxist critical tradition of social sciences (Bolaño, Mastrini, & Sierra, 2012; Maldonado, 2010; Mattelart, 1978). As Martín Barbero recognizes, they were pioneers highlighting that understanding communication processes outside the structures of domination was impossible, and also that media held a key role in reproducing the hegemonic ideology.

Mattelart and his team contributed to the embodiment of communication research into the social sciences, beyond cybernetics or behavioral psychology. This epistemological move not only defined the nature of communication studies in Latin America, but also shaped social sciences themselves.17 At that time, Latin American social sciences as a whole converged on dependency criticism (Cardoso & Faletto, 1969) and liberation theology (Anthropos, 2008; Huesca & Dervin, 1994), two fundamental Latin American frames conceived in the second half of the 20th century. Dependency challenged the hegemonic idea of development, conceived as a progressive and linear process. Instead, this critique highlighted international and structural inequalities, recognizing centers of power and peripheral players. On the other hand, liberation theology’s communication aspect emphasized dialogue. This structural perspective identified communication processes as being imbricated with a global order and regimes of power with long historical roots, and proposed a zero-sum rather than an unlimited-growth economic process.

However, according to Martín Barbero, the Mattelart team’s contribution had some shortcomings due to dependency theory’s inability to account for the complexity of the social world, especially the historical particularity of communication and culture. The second shortcoming of this political economy of communication, he believed, was its lack of attention to issues of reception—that is, the sense-making ability of people in their cultural and communication consumption. In Comunicación Masiva, he comments: “I discussed with Armand Mattelart and Héctor Schmucler how critical theory on communication in Latin America was liberated from American functionalism, but it also kept some of its features . . . and was a sort of functionalism from the Left” (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, pp. 53–54).

De los Medios a las Mediaciones (1987) is considered a key work in Latin America and globally. The book has been translated into four languages and, according to WorldCat, is held by 578 libraries worldwide. The Handbook of Latin American Studies describes De los Medios . . . as an “Important contribution to Latin American cultural studies [that] focuses on popular culture within a general theory of hegemony. It also addresses how mass media define national identities” (Martín Barbero, 1993). Herlinghaus adds that it is “one of the most important books about the episteme of modernity and its mismatches” (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 147), as well as a treatise about how “the study of communication should shift from an emphasis on ownership, control, and messages, to an emphasis on reception and consumption” (Hinds, 1994). Protzel called it “an ethno-historiographic painting of popular massification, a cultural history composed by its own fragments” (cited in Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 30).

This book is not only a result of Martín Barbero’s erudition and his interdisciplinary approach, but also a product of his journey across Latin America and meetings that he attended at several think tanks and universities on the continent in the mid-1980s. Martín Barbero was eager to discover what communication scholars were doing in the field: “[H]e interviewed them, asking what we were doing and how, and what were our models,” remembers Eduardo Santa Cruz, who participated in one of these meetings in Chile, in 1985. Back then, notes Sunkel, Martín Barbero knew and dealt with many studies and met many researchers working on these topics and was able to knit productive networks.

Like Comunicación Masiva, De los Medios . . . is divided into three main sections. The first discusses the interplay between the concepts of popular culture and mass culture, or how people and masses interact with each other and how they live within their cultural and communication landscape. The second section provides a historical approach to the specifics of Latin American cultural and communication landscapes, emphasizing the matrices within which mass mediation is embedded. The final section undertakes the challenge of explaining how modernity and mass mediation have been occurring in Latin America. Thus, as Hinds (1994) argues, Martín Barbero successfully demonstrates in his book that traditional cultures were not wholly destroyed, and they display several strategies to appropriate and resignify hegemonic cultural forces in their daily lives and practices.

As Néstor García Canclini, another vital Latin American thinker, states in the preface to the second Spanish edition of De los Medios . . ., “If we believe that the more indispensable books are the noncomplacent ones, this is one of the essential books of the 1990s.” The book, according to García Canclini, changes the questions that had previously energized the communication field in Latin America and “offered one of the most consistent theoretical refutations to the romantic illusion, the Marxist reductionism, and the Frankfurt aristocratic frame” (García Canclini’s preface in Martín Barbero, 1987, p. 6).

The book was translated into English in 1993, and the difficulties behind its translation illustrate the struggles of interculturality and interdisciplinarity that Martín Barbero’s work has been trying to achieve and promote. As Martín Barbero remembers, “[I]t was a three-year battle in which I had to get a second translator in order to guarantee that the differences in thinking, the conceptual nuances in which another perspective was expressed, were not erased in the translation” (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 134).

Finally, Martín Barbero’s intellectual project developed throughout his career, but especially in De los Medios . . ., it presents a mapping of difference, introducing a historical criterion that has been crucial to rethinking alterity (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000). In that intercultural, interdisciplinary, and historical enterprise, the concept of mediation has been fruitful to the social sciences, both methodologically and epistemologically (Averbeck-Lietz, 2011).

According to Sunkel (2008), Televisión y Melodrama . . . is one of the key works of Martín Barbero for three reasons. First, the telenovela becomes the most Latin American expression of the residual in two senses (i.e., what the important or the valuable leaves behind, but also in Williams’s sense of residual—the fragments from the past that are still present in cultural processes). A second reason is the decentered perspective investigating the success of a specific cultural product and its influence on everyday life, individual and collective, and also how that everyday life is constituted through these cultural products (Martín Barbero, 1987; Martín Barbero & Muñoz, 1992). And maybe the most important idea in Televisión y Melodrama is that Martín Barbero suggests that the popular narrative (el relato popular) is a narrative genre. That is, it is as a genre in itself because it is not only a way to tell a story, but also a strategy to decodify it; it is a cultural place from where to decipher writings and readings. “I picked telenovelas,” explains Martín Barbero, “because they really become a very important economic phenomenon, an exportable cultural phenomenon, and a Latin American way of integration” (Martín Barbero, 1995, p. 56).

The book is divided into six chapters, through which it analyzes telenovelas itself and its uses—and in particular, what are the clues to recognize (re-conocer, or “to get to know again”) it. The book sketches types of transformations that can be identified, specifically in Colombian telenovelas; how people actually watch them, what types of routines they trigger, and so on. Finally, the book identifies and analyzes the gaze and the worlds of daily life embedded into the experience of watching telenovelas.

Martín Barbero was and remains important because “he grabbed communication studies and threw them aside, in a totally different direction,” states Santa Cruz. After Martín Barbero’s work, we can hardly find his replacement. “What would be the fundamental books we must read now?” asks Santa Cruz. “[W]hat works are the equivalent of Martín Barbero’s books, to García Canclini’s books, to Mattelart’s books . . .? Martín Barbero is still important because there has been no one that has challenged him”18 or proposed an entirely new scholarly project to address communication studies and research in culture in a radical way in Latin America.

Professor Carlos Ossandón, a philosopher and faculty member in the Latin American Studies department at the Universidad de Chile, agrees: “There is nobody else who threw communication research in Latin America overboard, as he did with De los medios . . .”19 In a recent study that analyzes articles published in six Latin American journals since 1981, Ossandón, Salinas, and Stange (2014) conclude that critical theory in communication research in Latin America is stuck in a sort of administrative way of thinking, it mainly applies theoretical frames developed in the US or Europe, and the scarce epistemological discussion found has been marginalized.

Limitations and Challenges in Martín Barbero’s Project

Martín Barbero’s framework entails three main limitations. Indeed, one of the main assumptions behind Martín Barbero’s framework is the existence of a thick web of social and collective relationships, understanding collective players as a key component of social life. So, Martín Barbero conceives cultural appropriation as a collective experience instead of as an individual experience of consumption fostered by commercialization and marketing. Therefore, the first limitation in Martín Barbero’s frame is the highly fragmented Latin American societies that encourage individualized ways of living.

Connected to the blurring of collective players in the cultural and communication fields, a second weakness in Martín Barbero’s project is the lack of attention that he gives to gender as a key component of better understanding popular cultures, collective practices, and communication experiences in Latin America. Although Martín Barbero highlights diversity as a cornerstone of building identities and a key component in cultural analysis, women are overlooked as social and collective players. Nevertheless, thanks to the institutionalization of gender studies in Latin America since the late 1980s, we know that cultural experiences rely heavily on gender. Eventually, Martín Barbero acknowledged this shortcoming, but only as a lack of “a feminine perspective,” which is not exactly equivalent to a gender analysis. Indeed, in cultural studies, he states that “a certain absence of a feminine view” becomes evident, “and a gender perspective bewilders our scholarly communities. In academic practices, there is still a strong machismo and the critical theoretical self-reflection does not escape it.” In fact, he adds, “machismo is embedded in hegemony” (Martín Barbero & Herlinghaus, 2000, p. 121). Nonetheless, this plain acknowledgment does not necessarily redefine Martín Barbero’s work as being inspired by gender perspectives.

Although it is not exclusive to Martín Barbero’s work, the consequences of institutionalization and formalization of Latin American cultural studies present a third problematic side effect within this framework. As Ossandón points out, “[A]longside its incorporation to academia and to higher education institutions, Latin American cultural studies indebted to Martín Barbero’s perspective was losing weight and critical strength and finally became more integrated than apocalyptic, more comprehensive than critical. Cultural studies were committed to social intervention; the field was not conceived as just academic knowledge. And that has been missing.”20 Along with its decreasing critical power, Latin American communication research has lost influence in the social sciences since the 1980s. Rather, communication is considered an appendix of the social sciences and its interdisciplinary and critical power has been neglected. Martín Barbero’s contributions continue to give intellectual clues to disentangle these epistemological conundrums.

Final Remarks

Jesús Martín Barbero is one of the thinkers who has been crucial to the Latin American school of communication. Indeed, he has contributed to institutionalizing the field, in his positions as president or board member of some of the largest and oldest organizations in communication research on the continent and occupying the top positions at higher education institutions. Martín Barbero has also embodied scholarship as a public scholar serving as a consultant to public organizations concerning matters such as public policies in culture, urban life, and communications development. Earlier, he had committed his career to doing participatory research, and that frame can be traced to his studies embedded into social environments, grassroots movements, and daily-life experiences.

Theoretically, he represents the cultural studies’ turn within the Latin American school of communication. That is a trend which, without neglecting the economic and material dimensions of communication experiences, highlighted communication as a part of broader phenomena entangled to culture. In particular, he resignified popular culture and related it to mass culture, identifying dense, problematic, interplays among popular culture, mass culture, and premodern and modern experiences in daily life.

As a scholar engaged in the broader debates of his time, Martín Barbero represents a community of Latin American thinkers; he is not just an isolated, extraordinary individual doing research in communication and culture. Rather, he embodies larger theoretical and methodological problems that triggered—and still trigger—lively debate about what is culture, how it is related to communication, and to what extent it constitutes an autonomous field (or, rather, a dense web of interconnections).

Finally, despite his outstanding thinking, Martín Barbero’s work carries some limitations. It does not fully acknowledge a gender perspective that could better illuminate cultural and communication processes and experiences that are certainly shaped by the uneven experiences of being a woman or a man. Even though it recognizes the economic dimensions of the production and reproduction of cultural and communication products, the cultural turn seems to have gained weight in relation to economics. Finally, Martín Barbero’s project heavily relies upon social movements and organizations as key players in the constitution of the mediaciones. However, under a neoliberal umbrella, in which individuals are at the core of the social life and expectations, the assumption that collective players have a key role in communication and cultural life seems to lose its explicative power and requires a renewed examination.

Further Reading

Aparicio, J. (2012). Cultural studies in Colombia. Cartographies of encounters, tensions, and conjunctures. Cultural Studies, 26(1), 39–61.Find this resource:

    Martín Barbero, J. (1978). Comunicación masiva: Discurso y poder. Quito: Ciespal.Find this resource:

      Martín Barbero, J. (1987). De los medios a las mediaciones. Comunicación, cultura y hegemonía. Barcelona and Mexico: Gustavo Gil. Translation: Communication, culture, and hegemony (1993). London: SAGE.Find this resource:

        Martín Barbero, J. (2004). Popular memory and the collective imagination in Latin American soap operas. In M. Valdés & D. Kadir (Eds.), Literary cultures of Latin America: a comparative history (pp. 630–639). New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

          Martín Barbero, J., & Muñoz, M. (1992). Televisión y melodrama. Género y lecturas de la telenovela en Colombia. Bogotá: Tercer Mundo Editores.Find this resource:

            O’Connor, A. (1991). The emergence of cultural studies in Latin America. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 8, 60–73.Find this resource:


              Acosta-Alzuru, C. (2007). Venezuela es una telenovela: Melodrama, realidad y crisis. Caracas: Editorial Alfa.Find this resource:

                Anthropos. (2008). Mediaciones comunicativas. Anthropos, 219, 3–20.Find this resource:

                  Averbeck-Lietz, S. (2011). French and Latin American perspectives on mediation and mediatization: A lecture note from Germany. Empedocles: European Journal for the Philosophy of Communication, 3(2), 177–195.Find this resource:

                    Bolaño, C., Mastrini, G., & Sierra, F. (2012). Political economy, communication, and knowledge. A Latin American perspective. Ed. C. Bolaño, G. Mastrini, & F. Sierra. New York: Hampton Press–IAMCR.Find this resource:

                      Cardoso, F., & Faletto, E. (1969). Dependencia y desarrollo en América Latina : Ensayo de interpretación sociológica. Ciudad de México: Editorial Siglo Veintiuno.Find this resource:

                        Chasqui. (1976). Publicaciones de Ciespal. Chasqui, 15, 83–95.Find this resource:

                          Felafacs. (1996). El principal género de ficción seriada en América Latina: La telenovela. Diálogos de la Comunicación, Special Issue, 44. Retrieved from this resource:

                            Hinds, H. E. (1994). A Colombian contribution to the critical theory of popularity: Two recent works by Jesús Martín Barbero and his collaborators. Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, 13, 195–203.Find this resource:

                              Huesca, R., & Dervin, B. (1994). Theory and practice in Latin American alternative communication research. Journal of Communication1, 44(4), 53–73.Find this resource:

                                Jacks, N., Schmitz, D., Oikawa, E., Sifuentes, L., & Pieniz, M. (2012). Circulação e consumo de telenovela: Passione num cenário multiplataforma. Comunicação, Mídia E Consumo, 9(26), 191–210.Find this resource:

                                  Maldonado, A. (2010). Michèle y Armand Mattelart, pensadores, investigadores, militantes y fundadores de la investigación y las teorías críticas en comunicación en América Latina. Chasqui, 119, 4–7.Find this resource:

                                    Marroquín, A. (2015). La categoría de “lo popular-masivo” en el pensamiento de Jesús Martín Barbero. Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas.Find this resource:

                                      Martín Barbero, J. (1983). Memoria narrativa e industria cultural. Comunicación Y Cultura, 10, 59–73.Find this resource:

                                        Martín Barbero, J. (1987). De los medios a las mediaciones. Comunicación, cultura y hegemonía (2nd ed.). Barcelona: Editorial Gustavo Gili.Find this resource:

                                          Martín Barbero, J. (1993). Communication, culture and hegemony: from the media to mediations (Trans. E. Fox & R. A. White). London: SAGE.Find this resource:

                                            Martín Barbero, J. (1995). Pre-textos: Conversaciones sobre la comunicación y sus contextos. Cali, Mexico: Centro Editorial Universidad del Valle.Find this resource:

                                              Martín Barbero, J. (2002). Oficio de Cartógrafo. Travesías Latinoamericanas de la comunicación en la cultura. México D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica.Find this resource:

                                                Martín Barbero, J. (2014). Thinking communication in Latin America. In C. Christians & K. Nordenstreng (Eds.), Communication theories in a multicultural world (pp. 129–145). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.Find this resource:

                                                  Martín Barbero, J., & Herlinghaus, H. (2000). Contemporaneidad Latinoamericana y análisis cultural. Conversaciones al encuentro de Walter Benjamin. Madrid-Frankfurt: Iberoamericana—Vervuert.Find this resource:

                                                    Martín Barbero, J., & Muñoz, S. (1992). Televisión y melodrama: Géneros y lecturas de la telenovela en Colombia. Bogotá: Tercer Mundo Editores.Find this resource:

                                                      Mattelart, A. (1978). The nature of communications practice in a dependent society. Latin American Perspectives, 5(1), 13–34.Find this resource:

                                                        Mattelart, M., & Mattelart, A. (1990). The carnival of images: Brazilian television fiction. New York: Bergin & Garvey.Find this resource:

                                                          O’Connor, A. (1991). The emergence of cultural studies in Latin America. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 8, 60–73.Find this resource:

                                                            Ossandón, C., Salinas, C., & Stange, H. (2014). Sin armas para la crítica: El estancamiento de los estudios críticos en comunicación y los viejos debates teórico-políticos. In C. Salinas & J. P. Arancibia (Eds.), Comunicación política y democracia en América Latina. Barcelona: Gedisa—Ciespal.Find this resource:

                                                              Parente Aragão, I. (2017). Primeira década do Ciespal: Fundação e indicações de investigação. Chasqui, 135, 339–360.Find this resource:

                                                                Quijano, A. (2000). Colonialty of power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America. Nepantla: Views from South, 1(3), 533–580.Find this resource:

                                                                  Santa Cruz, E. (2003). Las telenovelas puertas adentro. Santiago: LOM Ediciones.Find this resource:

                                                                    Scolari, C. (2015). From (new) media to the (hyper) mediations. Recovering Jesús Martín Barbero’s mediation theory in the age of digital communication and cultural convergence. Information, Communication & Society, 18(9), 1092–1107.Find this resource:

                                                                      Sunkel, G. (1985). Razón y pasión en la prensa popular: Un estudio sobre cultura popular, cultura de masas y cultura política. Santiago: ILET Instituto Latinoamericano de Estudios Transnacionales y Editorial Nueva Imagen.Find this resource:

                                                                        Sunkel, G. (2008). Culturas populares e investigación en comunicación. Anthropos, 219, 180–185.Find this resource:

                                                                          Woodfin, F. (2006). Lost in translation: The distortion of egemonia. In L. Artz, S. Macek, & D. Cloud (Eds.), Marxism and communication studies: The point is to change it (pp. 133–156). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.Find this resource:


                                                                            (1.) The Colombian government granted Martín Barbero Colombian citizenship in 2004.

                                                                            (2.) All the quotes originally published in Spanish have been translated by the author.

                                                                            (3.) Although some authors interpret telenovelas as being a sort of American soap opera, Martín Barbero has argued that this genre founds its roots in long-form novels delivered as series in postrevolutionary European press, particularly in France. Nonetheless, he and other scholars have stated that the telenovela is a very particular Latin American genre that exceeded its own historical roots and turned into a cultural production in itself. Telenovelas, then, involve social practices of consumption and specific visual and symbolic languages that radically differ from the American soap operas (See, particularly, Martín Barbero & Muñoz, 1992).

                                                                            (4.) See “Cátedra Jesús Martín Barbero. Estudios Culturales y Teoría de la Mediación.” Available online at

                                                                            (5.) Personal communication, October 9, 2016.

                                                                            (6.) See “Red Latinoamericana de Teoría Crítica en Comunicación y Cultura.” Available online at

                                                                            (7.) I acknowledge the valuable comments of Professor Eduardo Santa Cruz, Universidad de Chile, personal communication, September 27, 2016; and Professor Carlos del Valle, coordinator of the network of critical theory in Latin America and Chair of the College of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education at the Universidad de la Frontera, Chile, personal communication, September 29, 2016.

                                                                            (8.) Italics are in the original.

                                                                            (9.) The First Latin American Conference of Schools of Communication, Mexico City, 1978.

                                                                            (10.) Italics are in the original.

                                                                            (11.) Personal communication, October 13, 2016.

                                                                            (12.) Some experts do not consider Golding and Murdock as part of the School of Birmingham.

                                                                            (13.) Just like Martín Barbero, Néstor García Canclini is a nomad: He was born in Argentina, but most of his career has taken place in Mexico. Further, he is also one of the most influential thinkers in Latin American research on culture and communication.

                                                                            (14.) See WorldCat Identities, Jesús Martín Barbero, available at

                                                                            (15.) Personal communication, September 27, 2016.

                                                                            (16.) Professor Eduardo Santa Cruz, Universidad de Chile. Personal communication, September 27, 2016.

                                                                            (17.) Professor Carlos Ossandón, faculty member of the PhD program in Latin American studies at the University of Chile. Personal communication, September 27, 2016.

                                                                            (18.) Personal communication, September 27, 2016.

                                                                            (19.) Personal communication, September 26, 2016.

                                                                            (20.) Professor Carlos Ossandón, faculty member of the PhD program in Latin American studies at the University of Chile. Personal communication, September 27, 2016.