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When Cultural Policies Change

Comparing Mexico and Argentina


Elodie Bordat-Chauvin

How can change in cultural Policy be explained? Through a comparative and historical analysis, this research sheds new light on the emergence, institutionalization and transformation of the cultural policies of two major Latin American countries: Mexico and Argentina.
Elodie Bordat-Chauvin’s investigation is based on the material gathered in ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2008 and 2010. It gathers observations, unique archive material and more than ninety semi-directive interviews with the majority of Secretaries of Culture in office between 1983 and 2010, several intellectuals, interest groups leaders, cultural managers and members of unions who all played a role in these countries’ cultural policies in the last thirty years.
This work challenges the common assertions that Mexican cultural policy is characterized by inertia and Argentinean cultural policy by instability. It analyses factors of changes – such as the neo-liberal turn, transnationalization, decentralization and politico-institutional changes – and their consequences – including reductions in cultural budgets, transformations in cultural industries and modifications in the balance of power between national, subnational, public and private actors.
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Chapter 1. The First Public Actions in The Cultural Sphere


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The First Public Actions in the Cultural Sphere

Are the nation-building projects of the Mexican and Argentinian authorities similar? Did they lead to the implementation of similar cultural actions from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the 1980s? Do democratic and authoritarian governments support the same type of cultural expression? These are some of the questions which this chapter will endeavour to answer. After comparing the national projects of the two countries, we shall propose a typology of the different kinds of cultural action used in Argentina and Mexico. We shall see that the main difference between the two countries lies in the central role played by the state in Mexico and the importance of the associative sector in Argentina.

Different nation-building projects, different cultural actions

Although they have populations with very different characteristics, the authorities of the new States of Mexico and Argentina faced the same challenges. How to define national identity? What characteristics should be defined for people of mixed race, Creoles, immigrants or Indians, to consider themselves part of one and the same nation? This section will show that, although confronted with different challenges, the authorities of both countries used similar strategies to create among the population an attachment to their homeland. We shall see however that there were several differences between the countries, particularly concerning the place allocated to the Indian populations, the role given to intellectuals or the...

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