A Brief History of the Latin American Academy of Communication

By Islas, Octavio; Arribas, Amaia | Communication Research Trends, June 2010 | Go to article overview

A Brief History of the Latin American Academy of Communication


Islas, Octavio, Arribas, Amaia, Communication Research Trends


This essay in no way attempts to completely analyze the main objects of study or even the uniqueness or relevance of the theoretical and methodological imagination that we have designated as the "Latin American academy of communication." Instead this essay responds to a far more modest concern--to describe specific episodes of relevance to our troubled historiography of the Latin American academy of communication, understanding that it definitely can not be understood as an essence but as a story.

Beyond the description of certain events, it is essential to understand that the history of Latin American programs of communication results from the actions and commitments of some groups which, over the years, have become the powers inside the Latin American programs of communication and from the unquestionable "charisma" of certain leaders. It could not be otherwise. The Latin American programs of communication simply reflect and to some extent reproduce the historical inevitability of Latin America. In the deep history of our troubled region, national chiefs and leaders have taken on key roles and appealed to constitutional goals. This situation has hindered the healthy development of our institutions. Something similar has happened within the Latin American academy of communication. In the vast majority of associations, councils, and federations, which should specifically promote the study and research of communication, the democratic and institutional life still presents a major unresolved subject. In these days, however, the hegemony which a remarkable historical generation of scholars and researchers of communication has sustained over three decades has gradually vanished. These main leaders are Jesus Martin-Barbero (for the Latin American Federation of Faculties of Social Communication: FELAFACS), and Jose Marques de Melo (for the Latin American Association of Communication Researchers: ALAIC).

As residents of the periphery, our narrative and interpretation differ from the vaunted heroic assumption about who recounts and describes the script and names the protagonists of the story. Our position towards Latin American programs of communications is also critical, and the critique, as rightly pointed out by the Mexican Octavio Paz--the smartest of the 20th century--"consist[s] as much or more as in the knowledge to free us. Criticism displays a possibility of freedom and it is an invitation to action" (Paz, 1970, p. 12). The maturity of Latin American communication programs depends on the strength of their institutions, not the charisma of their leaders or the intricate interests of some of the powers that actually have managed to subordinate the interests of the academy to their particular interests. Perhaps future generations of scholars and researchers of communication are able to act with greater generosity, noting the actual benefit of the Latin American programs of communication, apart from the interest groups.

1. Background: The Latin American academy of communication before CIESPAL

Jose Marques de Melo (2007), a leading Brazilian communication researcher argues that since the late 19th century we find evidence of Latin American studies on certain phenomena of communication. Maria Cristina Gobbi (2006), a researcher at the Methodist University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where Marques de Melo works, said that in the 1930s the economic and political problems arising from the First World War, compounded by such phenomena as the development of the industrialization process, fascism, national socialism, and abrupt urbanization, among other things, significantly extended the objects of study of the social sciences. Such an excited context, of course, favored the development of journalism, advertising, and propaganda, encouraging further implementation of the first studies on U.S. public opinion, which soon after began to be applied in Latin America. (In 1930 George Gallup published a summary of his doctoral thesis on public opinion in Journalism Quarterly; in the 1940s the Brazilian Institute of Public Opinion and Statistics--IBOPE--began. …

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