Beyond the Public Sphere: Political, Geographic, and Temporal Scales in the Modern Mexican Press

AHA Session 326
Conference on Latin American History 75
Sunday, January 8, 2017: 11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Room 503 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Zachary Brittsan, Texas Tech University
Edward N. Wright-Ríos, Vanderbilt University

Session Abstract

In keeping with the theme of the 2017 Annual Meeting, “Historical Scale: Linking Levels of Experience,” this panel critically engages the notion of the public sphere, making the case for a broader cultural appraisal of the concept. Rather than simply view the public sphere as an economic and political construct that permits the evaluation of the democratic and capitalist development of Latin American nations, this panel examines the historically contingent, cultural, legal, and material processes that influenced the formation and negotiation of public opinion. The panel’s papers explore a diverse range of cultural inputs and perspectives—as well as approaches to the question of scale—towards understanding the role of the press.

One paper explores material and discursive struggles over how print should be produced, regulated, and consumed in Mexico City—in which printers played a central role—during the extreme uncertainty of Mexico’s transformation from colony to republic in the 1820s. A second paper analyzes violence and its role in the reinforcement of masculine codes of public conduct in the mid-nineteenth century, foregrounding the geo-spatial scales associated with peripheral regions and urban centers. A third paper explores the multiple ways in which press crimes or “honor crimes” were defined in Mexico during the early twentieth century, and examines how these definitions shifted in the wake of the Mexican Revolution. These papers each engage questions of scale, considering the links between urban and rural spaces, local contests and national debates, and between longstanding practices and revolutionary time. Together, this scholarship demonstrates the rich new research agenda surrounding the press and its relationship to state and society that has emerged in last decade. As such, it will be of interest not only to historians of Mexico and Latin America, but also to scholars of the press and political culture more broadly.

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