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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 2. The Emergence and Institutionalization of Cultural Policies


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The Emergence and Institutionalization of Cultural Policies

Several investigations and the specialist literature claim that a cultural policy came into being in Mexico with the creation of the National Council for Culture and the Arts. In looking back at the history of this institution, it can be seen, according to certain sources, that a mobilization of artists and intellectuals was behind this creation. However, there are other explanations. In the case of Argentina, we also discovered that an artists’ collective had demanded a reform of cultural policy during the presidential campaign of 1983. These actors would therefore seem to have deliberately acted together to call for a change in cultural action1. We put forward the hypothesis that they formed a structured interest group for they pursued the aim “of influencing the authorities in a direction favourable to [their] interests”2. To test this hypothesis, we shall look at the resources and “repertoires of collective action”3 used by these groups to gain visibility in the eyes of the political actors. We shall then see to what extent these mobilizations had a successful outcome. Then we shall look at the characteristics of the cultural policies which emerged in the two countries. Were these institutionalized? If so, how should this process be understood?

Mobilization for the inclusion of culture on the agenda

Did the question of culture emerge on the public cultural agenda in the same way in Mexico...

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