Culture and development in latin america

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Since the independence of the Latin American nations, the idea of development among intellectuals has fluctuated between two tendencies. On the one hand, the creation of institutions following the lead of England, France, or the United States under positivist premises regarding education, science, material progress, industrialization, with the understanding that most fellow citizens, particularly indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, mixed-race peoples, and rural folk were not apt learners. On the other hand, a few intellectuals, like José Martí, placed great emphasis on deepening knowledge of home-grown ways of doing things. This fluctuation continues to this day, with neoliberals and globalizers, on the one hand, promoting a liberal cosmopolitanism, and on the other hand, decolonial activists seeking to work from indigenous ways of knowing. A third position is that of those who seek to network across differences, advancing local, national, and regional projects. With regard to the definition of culture, this chapter takes as its point of departure the so-called anthropological view adopted by UNESCO: The representations, symbols, values, and practices by which a community reproduces itself._1_In the 1980s and 1990s there emerged an economic understanding of culture, in large part oriented toward the cultural and creative industries (CCI), especially those that exploit copyright. A major challenge has been to mediate between these two tendencies. As thin as these thumbnail sketches of culture and development are, it should already be evident that they relate to each other, as in the developmentalist view that traditional cultures hold back development, or as in the contrary view that culture, like the environment, is a necessary factor in achieving a sustainable development that does not exhaust resources or endanger cultural and natural ecologies. There are positions as well that see sustainable development as an alibi for a kinder and gentler despoliation of culture and nature. And finally, the Internet, social media, and OTT streaming platforms are transforming what we understand by culture and development. We shall comment on all of these positions in the course of this essay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Latin American Development
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781351669696
ISBN (Print)9781138060739
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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