Political Protest and Street Art: Popular Tools for Democratization in Hispanic Countries

Political Protest and Street Art: Popular Tools for Democratization in Hispanic Countries

Political Protest and Street Art: Popular Tools for Democratization in Hispanic Countries

Political Protest and Street Art: Popular Tools for Democratization in Hispanic Countries

Synopsis

This first cross-national book-length study of street art as political protest and communication focuses on art forms traditionally used by collectives and state interests in the Hispanic world--posters, wallpaintings, graffiti, murals, shirts, buttons, and stickers, for example. Professor Chaffee examines the motives behind the use of street art as propaganda and seeks to explain how it is effective. Using field research and a sociopolitical approach, he assesses contemporary street art in Spain, the Basque country, Argentina, and Brazil. He shows how street art is a barometer of popular conflicts and sentiments across the political spectrum. This comparative analysis is intended for students, teachers, and professionals in the fields of communication, political science, history, and popular culture.

Excerpt

This chapter considers how political street art is effective. Evaluating that factor is difficult. What constitutes effectiveness can have different interpretations. Critical theorists in the field of communication who have focused on the Third World, such as the pioneering work of Armand Mattelart, believed the penetration of transnational media had an adverse effect. It induced a passivity to capitalist consumption values, eroded indigenous cultures and values, and created a subservient relationship to the dominant culture of the central core. But questions are: How passive are the masses? From which sources do they receive their political information? How hegemonic is the dominant media?

The political events in China and the revolutionary changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, where state-controlled media were monopolistic, provide evidence that the dominant media cannot pacify the citizenry over the long term. People who want to be informed, independent, and intelligent thinkers can; those who do not care, will not. Individuals act within social structures, and political information is passed along in one manner or another. People receive political information and convey it according to their preferences. They consume political information on the basis of what is available. In countries using street art, the messages conveyed augment the existing availability of information and ideas.

Is street art an effective means of communication? Do citizens and the state recognize it as such? In the cases presented in this study, the producers and the governing elites who respond to street art believed it was effective. If not, producers would not rely on this form of mass communication, nor would authoritarian states have responded the way they did in suppressing it. In Portugal, left-wing activists bitterly fought a law that would ban politicized street wall art. Citing Article 37 of the constitution, their representatives in Parlia-

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