Moving from cantaleta to encanto or challenging the modernization posture in communication for development and social change: A Colombian case study of the everyday work of development communicators
The field of international development communication has given scant attention to the role of communication practitioners who are critical players in facilitating participation and community engagement in development. Despite growing demand for the training of these practitioners internationally, most of them work informally at the grassroots in ways that are poorly understood. This study aims to illuminate development communication practice by examining the everyday work of a freelance team of practitioners in Colombia. The study uses feminist ethnographic methods to describe and analyze the ways practitioners deal with professional dilemmas and power dynamics intrinsically present in development interventions. It focuses on the interactions and the narratives of these practitioners, and contrasts them against the major conceptual traditions of the field: modernization-related perspectives and critical/participatory views of social change. The analysis shows that the study's participants engage in self-reflection of their professional dilemmas, choices and understandings of communication. This self-reflection recognizes the opportunities, limitations, and failures of both alternative and protest-oriented media in the Latin American contexts, as well as the shortcomings of social marketing/behavior change models. The ethnography of this team's experience in the making of communication projects provides insight into their work conditions, the reasons for their "impure" mixing of theories and models, and their struggle to advance their long-term agendas of social change, even within short-term modernization-oriented programs. The main findings of the study are the principles used by these Colombian communicators: the aesthetic principle they call encanto (a sensuous, body-connected and poetic component that permeates language and communication encounters); and an ethical principle of trust-building, called confianza . Both principles represent an alternative to counterbalance the power asymmetries characterizing the development-as-modernization logic and particularly the modernization posture (called cantaleta) that permeates and hinders communication encounters.
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