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Dennis de Oliveira analyzes peripheral cultural collectives in São Paulo

by Richard Meckien - published Jul 25, 2019 10:05 AM - - last modified Sep 02, 2019 04:57 PM
Rights: Original version in Portuguese by Mauro Bellesa.

Dennis de Oliveira - 2018
Dennis de Oliveira: ''The collectives express criticism of the dominant model and enhance proposals for another sociability''

Based mainly on community ties and experiences of political resistance to the social oppressions that occur in the peripheries, cultural collectives "reinvent forms of productive organization, constituting local arrangements based on other logics, distinct from the neoliberal productive paradigm," according to Professor Dennis de Oliveira, from the Department of Journalism and Publishing at USP's School of Communications and Arts (ECA), a participant in IEA's Sabbatical Year Program in 2019.

From July to December, he will develop the project "Insurgent Outskirts: the Culture and Communication Collectives in the Peripheries of São Paulo," in which he will map the performance of these groups and analyze three aspects:

  • the experiences of the collectives in relation to the role of communicative processes as guiding axes of their organizational perspectives;
  • the resignification processes of the peripheral territories from the collectives' action;
  • the relations maintained by the collectives with government agencies, companies, universities, and other institutions.


For him, the peripheral cultural collectives constitute a form of organization that expresses criticism of the dominant model and enhances proposals for another sociability. "Their motivations, organization, and achievements make up what is called a 'potentially counter-hegemonic popular culture,' especially because it repositions subjects historically separated from the public political sphere and gives them visibility," says Oliveira.

The delimitation of the scope of study to collectives funded by government funding programs is due to Oliveira's interest in investigating the tensions, conflicts, and negotiations that occur in the process of relationship between the collectives' organizational experiences and the State's institutional structures.

"We understand that the potentialities expressed in these experiments are not exempt from permanent conflicts, mechanisms of co-optation, and resistance."

Regarding the local impact of the collectives, the territories where they are inserted are resignified, "ceasing to be just places with needs and becoming an empowered locus, giving voice to the subjects of these territories and visibility to their actions," he says.

As for the role of communicative processes as guides of the collectives' organization, Oliveira explains that this is due to the fact that the organization is based on the flows of information and communication, "retrieving the historical experience of social networks (which is different from network platforms) existing in the traditions of popular cultures." The appropriation of technologies of existing social networking platforms currently enhances this organizational experience, according to the researcher.

Concerning the insertion of the collectives' artists and producers in the predominant cultural market in society, Oliveira defends the hypothesis that it is a product of significance tensioning, "because the predominant cultural market has a logic and objectives distinct from the meanings given by peripheral cultural practices."

"It is necessary to observe how this insertion keeps or empties the senses of each structure, always remembering that the conception of market culture is hegemonic. To this end, we have reconstructed Gramsci's concept of 'transformism,' when the Italian thinker was dealing with co-optations of workers' leadership within the State apparatus."

But as hegemonic culture takes place within the cultural industry, to what extent does the aforementioned insertion not point to a "cultural transformism?" Oliveira replies that, at first, he does not have a closed position on this, given the dynamism of cultural processes, "more complex than the institutional structures of the stricto-sensu State," which were the basis for the construction of this concept in Gramsci. He intends to develop this issue in the course of his research project.

Photo: Jornal da USP