Art and Social Movements

Cultural Politics in Mexico and Aztlán

Art and Social Movements

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 42 illustratons Published: March 2012

Art and Visual Culture, Latin American Studies > Mexico, Sociology

Art and Social Movements offers a comparative, cross-border analysis of the role of visual artists in three social movements from the late 1960s through the early 1990s: the 1968 student movement and related activist art collectives in Mexico City, a Zapotec indigenous struggle in Oaxaca, and the Chicano movement in California. Based on extensive archival research and interviews, Edward J. McCaughan explores how artists helped to shape the identities and visions of a generation of Mexican and Chicano activists by creating new visual discourses.

McCaughan argues that the social power of activist artists emanates from their ability to provoke people to see, think, and act in innovative ways. Artists, he claims, help to create visual languages and spaces through which activists can imagine and perform new collective identities and forms of meaningful citizenship. The artists' work that he discusses remains vital today—in movements demanding fuller democratic rights and social justice for working people, women, ethnic communities, immigrants, and sexual minorities throughout Mexico and the United States. Integrating insights from scholarship on the cultural politics of representation with structural analyses of specific historical contexts, McCaughan expands our understanding of social movements.


“As more works on 1968 Mexico and its role in the Cold War continue to be published, this text will remain a standard for understanding how Mexican and Chicano activists interpreted their historical moment. More importantly, McCaughan explores how artists reinterpreted, challenged, and reflected on that moment for decades afterward.”  — Elaine Carey, Hispanic American Historical Review

“. . . [A] broad and politically sensitive addition to the English-language literature on three contemporaneous social movements whose demands and achievements continue to reverberate in the contemporary art worlds of Mexico City, Oaxaca, and California.” — Christopher Michael Fraga, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

“Overall, McCaughan’s book is an excellent resource for scholars interested in the cultural dynamics of social movements or who have an interest in the Chicano movements of the late 1960s. As text, the book would be useful in undergraduate and graduate courses addressing art and social movements.” — Katherine Everhart, Mobilization

“Based on extensive research and informed by the perspective of a witness to and participant in the political activism of the 1960s and 1970s, Art and Social Movements carefully attends to the cultural and artistic dimensions of recent social movement history and experience.” — Bruce Campbell, Journal of Latin American Studies

This book offers a detailed and fascinating exploration of the work of a generation of Mexican artists during the decades that followed the 1968 student revolution. . . . The real strength of the book is that the author, as a sociologist, is always keen to place art and artistic practice in a wider context.” — Annette Jorgensen, Visual Studies

“Masterful. . . . The value of a transdisciplinary lens surfaces in the diverse bodies of knowl¬edge activist artists draw on ‘to produce a deeper knowledge of the social world’ they inhabit (165). Clear in McCaughan’s analysis is the ability of art¬ists to draw from the works of philosophers, writers, and historians to further promote movement efforts.”  — Daniel Sarabia, Social Forces

"Art and Social Movements makes a powerful statement about the continued vitality of—and need for—the creative arts in radical political movements. By effectively synthesizing grounded analysis of grassroots politics with deft theoretical explanations of artistic genres, Edward J. McCaughan provides what I believe is the most significant empirically grounded study of cultural politics in Latin America since the anthology Cultures of Politics, Politics of Cultures: Re-Visioning Latin American Social Movements was published in 1998." — Howard Campbell, author of Mexican Memoir: A Personal Account of Anthropology and Radical Politics in Oaxaca

"Only when the art and culture of social movements are explored along with their politics do we begin to have a vital and comprehensive sense of the emotions and creativity involved. The sad, violent, and arbitrary border between Latin America and Latino USA too often ignores the history of collaboration and influence across that fictitious line. Through personal experience and exhaustive research, Edward J. McCaughan sets the record straight." — Margaret Randall, author of To Change the World: My Years in Cuba


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Edward J. McCaughan is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at San Francisco State University. His books include Reinventing Revolution: The Renovation of Left Discourse in Cuba and Mexico.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Preface. "The Heart Has Its Reasons" xi

Acknowledgments xxi

1. Signs of the Times 1

2. Signs of Citizenship 20

3. Signs of (Be)Longing and Exclusion 57

4. The Significance of Style 101

5. Creative Spaces 135

6. Creative Power 152

Postscript. Of Legacies and the Aroma of Popcorn 167

Notes 171

References 179

Index 197
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5182-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5168-9
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