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El Dia de los Muertos American-style: Communicating with the Living
Unformatted Document Text:  El Dia de los Muertos - American Style: Communicating with the Living Tracking # ICA-14-11115 Introduction: Associated with a pre-industrial past that is seemingly unrelated to the modern world, ethnic folk rituals practiced in the United States are often dismissed as apolitical activities that serve only to entertain. As a result, ritual as a medium for critiquing dominant systems of power has generally been neglected within the fields of Communication and Cultural Studies in favor of analyses of mass media cultural production. However, cultural scholars such as Olivia Cadavál, José Limón and George Lipsitz suggest that folk rituals are not merely substitutes for politics, but communicate important messages about identity and social struggle that help shape individual and collective practice. 1 Much current thinking about the political importance of folk rituals is influenced by the work of Antonio Gramsci and EP Thompson. Gramsci discouraged the conceptual separation between modern culture and popular folk culture, believing that folk practices had the potential to challenge hegemonic beliefs and “bring about the birth of a new culture.” 2 Thompson felt that folk practices were contexts in which individuals could define and express their own values which could be “antagonistic to the overarching system of domination and control.” 3 Working from the premise that ethnic celebrations in the United States represent a “public sphere” where conversations about identity and politics occur, this paper focuses on the communication of political messages during Day of the Dead celebrations in the United States. 1 Cadavál, Creating a Latino Identity in the Nation’s Capital: The Latino Festival; José Limón, Dancing with the Devil: Society and Cultural Poetics in Mexican-American South Texas; George Lipsitz, Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture. 2 Antonio Gramsci, An Antonio Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings 1916-1935, ed. David Forgacs, p. 362.

Authors: Marchi, Regina Miriam.
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El Dia de los Muertos - American Style:
Communicating with the Living

Tracking # ICA-14-11115
Introduction:
Associated with a pre-industrial past that is seemingly unrelated to the modern world,
ethnic folk rituals practiced in the United States are often dismissed as apolitical activities that
serve only to entertain. As a result, ritual as a medium for critiquing dominant systems of power
has generally been neglected within the fields of Communication and Cultural Studies in favor of
analyses of mass media cultural production. However, cultural scholars such as Olivia Cadavál,
José Limón and George Lipsitz suggest that folk rituals are not merely substitutes for politics, but
communicate important messages about identity and social struggle that help shape individual
and collective practice.
1
Much current thinking about the political importance of folk rituals is
influenced by the work of Antonio Gramsci and EP Thompson. Gramsci discouraged the
conceptual separation between modern culture and popular folk culture, believing that folk
practices had the potential to challenge hegemonic beliefs and “bring about the birth of a new
culture.”
2
Thompson felt that folk practices were contexts in which individuals could define and
express their own values which could be “antagonistic to the overarching system of domination
and control.”
3
Working from the premise that ethnic celebrations in the United States represent a
“public sphere” where conversations about identity and politics occur, this paper focuses on the
communication of political messages during Day of the Dead celebrations in the United States.
1
Cadavál, Creating a Latino Identity in the Nation’s Capital: The Latino Festival; José Limón, Dancing with the
Devil: Society and Cultural Poetics in Mexican-American South Texas; George Lipsitz, Time Passages: Collective
Memory and American Popular Culture.
2
Antonio Gramsci, An Antonio Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings 1916-1935, ed. David Forgacs, p. 362.


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