United and fragmented: Communication and media studies in Latin America


  • Silvio Waisbord George Washington University


Fragmentation, Latin America, Media Scholarship, Global Community


Scholars have lamented the state of fragmentation in communication scholarship for it undermines its consolidation as a distinct and coherent field of study. My interest in this article is to assess whether this diagnosis applies to communication and media studies in Latin America.  My argument is that the field remains united yet fragmented in the region. Unlike communication scholarship in the United States and some European countries, it is grounded in common theoretical and analytical roots laid down in the 1960s and 1970s. Foundational studies produced made original and important contributions to the field at large, most notably, the study of media/cultural imperialism, innovations in communication/media policies, and the intersection between media and cultural dynamics. Since then, the field has become consolidated and expanded with the proliferation of research and universities and the development of various lines of research. The result is the empirical fragmentation of the field in multiple, parallel lines of research. Although fragmentation has produced rich empirical studies on myriad issues, it has yet to produce path-breaking, ambitious arguments that once were distinctive of the “Latin American” tradition of communication and media scholarship. What is needed, I argue, is to adopt an analytical position that places theoretical questions at the center, engages with arguments produced in different settings, and participates in broad debates in the global community of communication and media scholars.Keywords: Fragmentation; Latin America; Media Scholarship; Global Community