Néstor García Canclini, PhD, teaches at the Universities of Paris and La Plata. His current research examines the relationship between aesthetics, art, anthropology, creative strategies, and youth’s cultural networks. He’s received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Prix Trial Casa de las Americas, and the Book Award of the Association of Latin American Studies. His books include Hybrid Cultures and Consumers and Citizens.
“To consume is to make more sense of a world where all that is solid melts into air” (42).
Canclini argues for an expanded notion of citizenship — not just enlightened democracy but, per Appadurai (1996), access to housing, health, education, and other goods through consumption. If we rethink citizenship as a “political strategy” with various options, rather than a stultifying, reason-boxed and problematic “political matter” (Habermas, 1995).
Within this strategy, Canclini argues for cultural citizenship through consumption: “when we select goods and appropriate them, we define what we consider publicly valuable” (20). Appropriation here is key — this is more about whimsical purchases or expression of taste, consumption for Canclini is “the ensemble of sociocultural processes” (38) of product appropriation and use. He rejects out of hand that neoliberalism is the only way to participate in globalization.
Canclini also rejects the media domination theory: “collaboration and transaction between both parties” (38) is required for communication. He advocates for a “politics of recognition” before one of “identity.” The latter implies sameness, whereas the former “directly integrates alterity, that permits a dialectic of same and other” (13) that accounts for our hybrid constructions (i.e. nationalities and ethnicities). Along with the standard sociospatial definition of identity, he proposed a “sociocommunicational” (29). “Identity is a narrated construct” (89); “theater and politics, performance and action” (96).
“Literary, artistic, and mass media discourses not only document a compensatory imagination, but also serve to record the city’s dramas, what is lost in the city and what is transformed…. Shouldn’t the discourse of the social sciences contain these daring declarations?” (65)
His proposed policies for citizenship:
- the point of departure for urban politics should be a democratic plurality
- urban policies should uphold multiple identities within their cities
- policies should promote the reification of urban imaginaries and, hence, social customs, in contradistinction to reactionary cultural policies
- citizenship shall be constituted in local social movements and through the “communicative processes of mass media” (76)