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Amazon Town TV

Amazon Town TV: An Audience Ethnography in Gurupá, Brazil

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  • Book Info
    Amazon Town TV
    Book Description:

    In 1983, anthropologist Richard Pace began his fieldwork in the Amazonian community of Gurupá one year after the first few television sets arrived. On a nightly basis, as the community's electricity was turned on, he observed crowds of people lining up outside open windows or doors of the few homes possessing TV sets, intent on catching a glimpse of this fascinating novelty. Stoic, mute, and completely absorbed, they stood for hours contemplating every message and image presented. So begins the cultural turning point that is the basis ofAmazon Town TV, a rich analysis of Gurupá in the decades during and following the spread of television.

    Pace worked with sociologist Brian Hinote to explore the sociocultural implications of television's introduction in this community long isolated by geographic and communication barriers. They explore how viewers change their daily routines to watch the medium; how viewers accept, miss, ignore, negotiate, and resist media messages; and how television's influence works within the local cultural context to modify social identities, consumption patterns, and worldviews.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-74518-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Performing Arts, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Richard Pace and Brian P. Hinote
  4. CHAPTER 1 Cross-Cultural Television Studies
    (pp. 1-26)

    In the darkness of the Amazon night, afloat on a small tributary of the Amazon River, I sat in the middle of a wooden canoe as it glided gracefully through the blackened waters.¹ Moonlight showed the way, but just barely. Despite the tropical humidity the night air felt cool on the skin. The only sounds were the background buzz of insects along the bank, an occasional cry from some nocturnal creature in the rain forest canopy, and the plopping of the paddles as they dipped into slow-moving water. Paddling behind me was my friend and consultant, Benedito,² a forty-year-old subsistence...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Brazilian Television
    (pp. 27-49)

    In terms of delivering messages to the largest number of people possible, television is by far the most accessible, most widely consumed, and most influential of all the forms of mass media in Brazil. The nation’s largest television network, Globo, has reached over 99 percent of the national territory since the 1990s (Mader 1993: 67). In 2000 census takers estimated that 87 percent of households in Brazil have at least one TV set, adding up to some 39 million television households (Machado-Borges 2003: 6; IBGE 2001). Public access to television in shops, restaurants, bars, and even neighbors’ homes expands this...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Setting
    (pp. 50-79)

    Gurupá is the name of a town and its surrounding municipality located on the lower Amazon River in the state of Pará (see Map 3.1 and Figure 3.1). The town and municipality are situated 1° south of the equator, 353 kilometers west of Belém. The municipality of Gurupá encompasses 9,309 square kilometers and has a rural population estimated at close to eighteen thousand (IBGE 2010). The town of Gurupá is located near the center of the municipality on the southern bank of the Amazon River. It has a population estimated to be seven thousand (IBGE 2010).

    Gurupá falls within the...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Arrival of Television
    (pp. 80-107)

    In June 1982 three families in Gurupá had twenty-inch black-and-white television sets in their living rooms. The families purchased the TV sets in the port city of Belém, had them shipped by riverboat to Gurupá, and then connected them to antennas set atop ten-meter towers, complete with reception boosters. For this costly endeavor the families were rewarded with fuzzy but discernible images. They considered the effort a great success, timed as it was to coincide with the opening of the World Cup soccer finals in Spain. For the first time in Gurupá these three families along with their kin, friends,...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Heeding Interpellation
    (pp. 108-149)

    Since the 1980s the television viewers of Gurupá have been exposed to a steady stream of messages interpellating them to accept and submit to sets of social identities and worldviews presented in programming. As discussed in Chapter 2, the messages call upon viewers to join in national unity, adopt a pan-Brazilian lifestyle and worldview, and consume products advertised on television. They show viewers the virtues of modernization and progress, warn of the corresponding problems of crime and violence, tell of the possibility of class mobility, depict women as active and as the equal of men as well as sexualized objects,...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Missing, Ignoring, and Resisting Interpellation
    (pp. 150-176)

    As shown in the previous chapter, even the most straightforward heeding of television’s messages can leave room for viewer interpretation. In Gurupá we found that people are apt to indigenize the national and, on occasion, nationalize the local as they accept and integrate televisual messages into their lives. Beyond the category of heeding, where the positive correspondence between intended and received message is the highest, we identified three other categories in which television messages regularly miss their mark. In these cases the messages may go unnoticed, awry, or backfire as people miss, ignore, or resist them. Here we focus on...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 177-190)

    In the preceding chapters we documented the range of changes associated with the introduction of television to the Amazonian community of Gurupá. Employing an ethnographic approach and three surveys spanning a twenty-seven-year period, we analyzed the arrival and subsequent spread of the medium. Using a middle-ground theoretical approach, we gauged the relative strength of television influence vis-à-vis viewers’ ability to mediate it. We observed and delineated patterns of viewers’ responses in terms of behavior, social identity, and worldview while situating changes—and resistance to changes—in the greater sociocultural context of Gurupá. The results are a comprehensive analysis of televiewing...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 191-194)
  12. References
    (pp. 195-206)
  13. Index
    (pp. 207-210)