New Approaches to Latin American Popular Culture

23 April 2009 - 25 April 2009

CRASSH Seminar Room, 17 Mill Lane

Registration is now closed.  

Geoffrey Kantaris, Centre of Latin American Studies
Rory O'Bryen, Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Popular culture in Latin America has always represented a fulcrum within social, anthropological and cultural discourses within the region. It has often been imagined as inhabiting interstitial and heterogeneous spaces that have represented a challenge to the dominant cultural paradigms of the 'lettered city' since at least Colonial times, and has repeatedly been mapped out onto political, economic and even libidinal boundaries - between the country and the city, between the folk and the street, between the 'masses' and élite national/political structures. Yet at the turn of the 21st century, concepts of the 'folk', the 'popular' and the 'mass' have exploded in the face of new cultural and informational technologies, with cinematic, televisual, narrative, musical and cybernetic manifestations of popular culture at the forefront of social processes which mediate between the national and the global in a see-sawing climate of neo-liberal economic ideology and profound crises marked by new and intensified social problems.
Cinema, television and the Internet are reconfiguring the face of cultural production in the continent, yet in academic terms we are largely stuck with a polarized set of analytical discourses which align themselves with 'modern' or 'post-modern' theoretical paradigms for understanding the relationship between the personal, the cultural and the social. New work is urgently needed to understand what happens to concepts of 'folk', 'popular' and 'mass' culture in the light of the emergence of massive diasporic populations, de-territorialized economies and 'negative' globalization, to name but a few of the social transformation which have profoundly affected the region. This conference aims to bring together a range of exciting contemporary thinkers on Latin American popular culture, combining theoretical approaches with innovative work on specific cultural forms from the 20th and 21st centuries, in the hope that new approaches can be aired and existing paradigms can be nuanced.

Keynote Speaker:
Alberto Moreiras (University of Aberdeen)

Other Speakers:
Abilio Estévez (Cuban writer)
Alberto Fuguet (Writer and filmmaker)
Stephen Hart (University College London)
Lorraine Leu (University of Bristol)
Chandra Morrison (University of Cambridge)
Andrea Noble (University of Durham)
Francisco Ortega (Universidad Nacional, Colombia)
Joanna Page (University of Cambridge)
Edmundo Paz-Soldán (Cornell University)
Lúcia Sá (University of Manchester)
Erica Segre (University of Cambridge)
Claire Taylor (University of Liverpool)


Centre of Latin American Studies
Department of Spanish and Portuguese



Administrative contact: Anna Malinowska, CRASSH



Thur 23rd April

Location: Ramsden Room, St Catharine’s College


Eve-of-Symposium Lecture by the 2009 Cambridge Maccoll Lecturer
Professor Alberto Moreiras, “Idolatrous Dwelling: On the Limits of Transculturation”

Followed by drinks at the Centre of Latin American Studies (from 18.30)


Fri 24th April

Location: CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane


Registration and Coffee


Opening words



Panel 1: Politics of the Popular (Moderator: Rory O’Bryen)


Prof Alberto Moreiras, University of Aberdeen,  “Populism and the Popular: An Antibiopolitical Critique”


Prof Francisco Ortega, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, “The Birth of the Pueblo and its political legacies”


Prof Andrea Noble, University of Durham, “Tears and Revolution”



 Lunch (at suggested venues in Cambridge)



Panel 2: Global Cultures (Moderator: Geoffrey Kantaris)


Screening of the short film 2 Horas by Alberto Fuguet (25 mins)


Alberto Fuguet, writer and filmmaker, “Latin American Liminality: Fear (and Sorrow) and Loathing (and Good Times) in Non-Places” (paper in Spanish)


Dr Claire Taylor, University of Liverpool, “Approaches to Latin American Cyberculture”






Panel 3: Urban Mediations (Moderator: Alberto Moreiras)


Dr Lorraine Leu, University of Bristol, “Brazilian Cinema, Mass Media, and Criminal Subjectivities”


Prof Lúcia Sá, University of Manchester, “Girl-Singers in the Streets of Hell: Tata Amaral’s Antonia”


 T.b.c. Screening of Street Art Shorts (t.b.c.)


Sat 25th April


Location: CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane 


Coffee (CRASSH)



Panel 4: Folk Art, Street Art, and Other Junk
(Moderator: Lúcia Sá)


Prof Stephen Hart, University College London, “Santería, Black Magic, and the Black Market in Cuba”


Chandra Morrison, University of Cambridge, “Colouring Pollution: ‘Cleaning’ the City and ‘Recycling’ Social Values in São Paulo Street Art”


Erica Segre, University of Cambridge, “‘El convertible no convertible’: Reconsidering Refuse and Disjecta Aesthetics in Contemporary Cuban Art”



Lunch (at suggested venues in Cambridge)



Panel 5: Hybrid Genres (Moderator: Erica Segre)


Prof Edmundo Paz-Soldán, writer and academic, Cornell University, “Mexican Pulp Fiction: Of Drug Lords and Writers” (paper in Spanish)


Dr Joanna Page, University of Cambridge, "Intellectuals, revolution and popular culture: a new reading of El eternauta


Abilio Estévez, writer, “Tres tristes tigres, La Estrella y el bolero” (paper in Spanish)






Panel 6: Round Table
(Moderators: Rory O’Bryen & Geoffrey Kantaris)


 Round Table/Open Floor Discussion