The Expediency of Culture

Uses of Culture in the Global Era

The Expediency of Culture

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 480 Illustrations: 27 b&w photos Published: January 2004

Author: George Yúdice

Cultural Studies, Latin American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

The Expediency of Culture is a pioneering theorization of the changing role of culture in an increasingly globalized world. George Yúdice explores critically how groups ranging from indigenous activists to nation-states to nongovernmental organizations have all come to see culture as a valuable resource to be invested in, contested, and used for varied sociopolitical and economic ends. Through a dazzling series of illustrative studies, Yúdice challenges the Gramscian notion of cultural struggle for hegemony and instead develops an understanding of culture where cultural agency at every level is negotiated within globalized contexts dominated by the active management and administration of culture. He describes a world where “high” culture (such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain) is a mode of urban development, rituals and everyday aesthetic practices are mobilized to promote tourism and the heritage industries, and mass culture industries comprise significant portions of a number of countries’ gross national products.

Yúdice contends that a new international division of cultural labor has emerged, combining local difference with transnational administration and investment. This does not mean that today’s increasingly transnational culture—exemplified by the entertainment industries and the so-called global civil society of nongovernmental organizations—is necessarily homogenized. He demonstrates that national and regional differences are still functional, shaping the meaning of phenomena from pop songs to antiracist activism. Yúdice considers a range of sites where identity politics and cultural agency are negotiated in the face of powerful transnational forces. He analyzes appropriations of American funk music as well as a citizen action initiative in Rio de Janeiro to show how global notions such as cultural difference are deployed within specific social fields. He provides a political and cultural economy of a vast and increasingly influential art event— insite a triennial festival extending from San Diego to Tijuana. He also reflects on the city of Miami as one of a number of transnational “cultural corridors” and on the uses of culture in an unstable world where censorship and terrorist acts interrupt the usual channels of capitalist and artistic flows.


The Expediency of Culture is a groundbreaking book destined to become a necessary reference throughout the Americas. It will serve scholars in a wide range of disciplines, as well as groups and individuals working in the areas of culture promotion, social activism, and policy making and those who are involved in educational and cultural institutions, non-governmental organizations, research foundations, the entertainment industries, museums, and the arts. . . . The Expediency of Culture will revolutionize our interpretations of the significance of the notion of culture, its social uses (in the sense of its value or worth to societies), and the actual ways culture is ‘used.’” — Daniel Mato , Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

"Expediency of Culture represents a major contribution to the field. It is crossdisciplinary in its scope and manages to provide a sober and balanced assessment of the challenges confronting cultural activists and reformers. The issues raised are important in the age of terrorism and governmental spin-doctoring, a theme dealt with in the final chapter. What might advocates of culture as resource offer to the war on terror? Will appeals to community prevail? Where does the anti-globalization go from here? These are important issues and Yudice is challenging us to reassess our understandings of how culture works on the social. I hope that this timely publication will bring Yudice's work to a wider readership." — Michael Keane , Continuum

"[A] valuable resource to cultural studies scholars interested in Latin American studies, international development discourses and cultural policy under the current phase of globalization." — Jenny Burman, Topia

"[T]he best parts of Yúdice’s book are dedicated to case studies of just such institutional reconversions. In examples that range across the Americas, he presents detailed analyses of particular examples of complex negotiations within expedient culture. . . . Yúdice’s description of the emerging model of culture and his attentiveness to the effects of international monetary policy and global economic interests on culture are convincing and they serve well as a corrective to an overemphasis on issues of representation and interpretation in the practice of Cultural Studies today." — Elizabeth Walden, Culture Machine

"The present substantial book . . . confirms the nuanced complexity and importance of Yúdice's work. . . . This learned volume offers a coherent perspective on the links between urban locality, national territory, transnational and global commerce in culture, and mobile group identities. Highly recommended." — Khachig Tololyan , Choice

"This book takes a broad sweep at understanding new cultural forms. It accounts for local and global changes and suggests an instrumental role for the arts in the future." — John Knight , Leonardo Reviews

"Yúdice monitors an ethical pulse to culture's utilization. Through careful analysis of cultural events and collaborations (including the national politics of samba, Afro reggae, and funk music in Brazil; Rio de Janeirian citizen initiatives of Viva Rio and the Associação Internacional Arte Sem Fronteiras; the Zapatista movement in Mexico; Miami-based media production targeting a hemisphere of Latin consumers; and the triennial inSITE art exhibition on the border between San Diego and Tijuana), Yúdice avers that cultural policy is influenced not only by 'corporations, the media, foundations, politicians' but 'sometimes even citizens' (286). . . . Nuanced. . . ." — Kendall Johnson , American Literature

“George Yúdice’s book demonstrates more clearly than any other I know how deeply and inextricably culture is today, in the era of globalization, embedded in economic circuits and political regimes. His provocative analyses of the function of culture in contexts throughout the Americas give us a new and powerful model for cultural studies.” — Michael Hardt, coauthor of Empire


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

George Yúdice is Professor of American Studies and Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures and Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. He is the coauthor of Cultural Policy and coeditor of On Edge: The Crisis of Contemporary Latin American Culture.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

1 The Expediency of Culture 9

2 The Social Imperative to Perform 40

3 The Globalization of Culture and the New Civil Society 82

4 The Funkification of Rio 109

5 Parlaying Culture into Social Justice 133

6 Consumption and Citizenship? 160

7 The Globalization of Latin America: Miami 192

8 Free Trade and Culture 214

9 Producing the Cultural Economy: The Collaborative Art of inSITE 287

Conclusion 338

Notes 363

Works Cited 391

Index 453
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3168-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3180-3
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