Research Articles

The Intellectual Impasse of Cultural Studies of the Media in Latin America: How to Move Forward



This paper revisits the intellectual development of cultural studies in Latin America in order to assess current challenges and identify lines of research. It is argued that much of the literature has failed to seriously consider key points of cultural studies, namely, the need to be critical about its own epistemological premises and the need to study culture within broad social formations. Since the landmark studies by Néstor García Canclini and Jesús Martín Barbero laid the foundations in the 1980s, the field of cultural studies has generally aimed to illustrate original arguments instead of using them as a point of departure to analyze media and cultural phenomena. Consequently, many scholars have produced work that while it proves and illustrates original arguments about the hybrid nature of cultures and the complexity of cultural mediation, it does not push the field in new theoretical directions. An additional problem is that, often, the study of culture has been divorced from a close inspection of the linkages between cultural, political, and economic processes, and from the articulations between high and low culture. Consequently, the political underpinnings of the enterprise of cultural studies, as outlined by Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall, have been in the background. This choice has, arguably, restrained the intellectual development and undermined the potential to move theory‐building and the debate forward. Additionally, the disinterest in critically exploring theoretical premises has diminished the potential to transcend the boundaries of “area studies” in order to engage with the study of media and culture as well as cultural studies globally. The paper concludes by suggesting research directions that might contribute to overcoming the current intellectual impasse.

Keywords: intellectual impasse, culturalist theory, Latin America, Cultural Studies

How to Cite: Szurmuk, M. (2017) “The Intellectual Impasse of Cultural Studies of the Media in Latin America: How to Move Forward”, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture. 8(1). doi: