Channeling the State

Community Media and Popular Politics in Venezuela

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 18 illustrations Published: October 2018

Author: Naomi Schiller

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Andes, Media Studies > Communication

Venezuela's most prominent community television station, Catia TVe, was launched in 2000 by activists from the barrios of Caracas. Run on the principle that state resources should serve as a weapon of the poor to advance revolutionary social change, the station covered everything from Hugo Chávez’s speeches to barrio residents' complaints about bureaucratic mismanagement. In Channeling the State, Naomi Schiller explores how and why Catia TVe's founders embraced alliances with Venezuelan state officials and institutions. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research among the station's participants, Schiller shows how community television production created unique openings for Caracas's urban poor to embrace the state as a collective process with transformative potential. Rather than an unchangeable entity built for the exercise of elite power, the state emerges in Schiller's analysis as an uneven, variable process and a contentious terrain where institutions are continuously made and remade. In Venezuela under Chávez, media activists from poor communities did not assert their autonomy from the state but rather forged ties with the middle class to question whose state they were constructing and who it represented.


"This is a rich, timely and compelling piece of work that contributes significantly to debates about the state, press freedom, community media, class, gender and urban social movements. It will be of great value both to those interested specifically in Venezuela and those concerned with these themes in broader terms." — Matt Wilde, ERLACS

"In this engaging book . . . Schiller is able to buttress critiques of top-down approaches to state power and state-building, showing readers how most interactions and relationships on the ground cannot be neatly categorized as either from above or from below." — Anna Fournier, PoLAR

"Schiller’s book is a thorough description of how class and gender affect active citizenship and how these factors create constant conflict in everyday practices of meaning making." — Virpi Salojärvi, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

"This text is important because it so carefully recorded the explanatory principles of Catia TVe and the impact of media technology in the hands of the community desperate to affect state process and policy. . . . This study is quite timely, considering the events that took place in Venezuela in March 2019. It will help future researchers to see whether the theory of community TV and its ethos had a long-lasting impact on the people those stations were designed to serve." — Albert Tedesco, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

"This book joins a significant body of anthropological and theoretical work on the state and society in Venezuela. . . . This book is a highly useful aid to that project." — Daniel Hellinger, Journal of Anthropological Research

"Schiller’s book boldly unthinks commonsensical categories in the liberal episteme, namely 'the state' and 'society.' Doing so casts the popular classes not as victims of Western imperialism or of Chavista hegemony, but as activated agents who debated in what kind of state would be made. It is an important entry in the emergent field of Chavismo media studies." — Noah Zweig, International Journal of Communication

"Channeling the State is a much-needed contribution to the fields of community media and Latin American Studies. Its publication at this time when Venezuela is in the midst of a serious political and social crisis serves to nuance and balance one-dimensional and biased accounts of the situation in the country." — Paola Sartoretto, EIAL

"The book’s willingness to take the emancipatory project Chavismo represented seriously, while subjecting the process to a rigorous, unstinting, and often critical analysis is its great strength." — Gabriel Hetland, Anthropos

"We must read Naomi Schiller's Channeling the State, a compelling study of community media in Venezuela, with a sense of urgency.… The book offers a deep understanding of complex political and social processes occurring within social movements that established alliances with the state. What makes it so unique is the engrossing narrative that, benefiting from ethnographic detail, presents a tangible approach to difficult conceptual debates on state formation, populism, and subalternity."  — Luis Duno-Gottberg, NACLA Report on the Americas

"While Schiller considers statecraft and the role of poor people rather than the medium of media per se, I'd encourage anyone thinking about media as a channel for social justice to take up Channeling the State. I further recommend this book to anyone considering the relations between the marginalized and the state and the specifics of Venezuelan politics at a particular moment in time." — Amanda Daniela Cortez, American Ethnologist

"Scholars interested in Venezuela, press freedom or popular politics will find Naomi Schiller's book Channeling the State a carefully argued political ethnography of the transformation of the state in Venezuela.… The strength of [Schiller's book] is her reflexivity and textured treatment of popular politics in Venezuela." — Nadia Mosquera, Journal of Latin American Studies

"In this era of fake news and cascading global crises, Naomi Schiller's Channeling the State couldn't be more timely. Schiller, based on extensive fieldwork in Caracas barrios during the height of Bolivarianismo's popularity, has written the definitive account of the crucial role community television plays as the besieged Bolivarian state struggles to reclaim its original idealism. Schiller's analysis of everyday forms of 'free speech' is lucid, intelligent, and convincing. Channeling the State is a tour de force that provides a model for how to do holistic political ethnography, one that focuses not on social movements nor state bureaucracies but on the mutually constitutive relationship between the two." — Greg Grandin, author of The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World

"In this engrossing and lively ethnography, Naomi Schiller takes us deep into the world of community television production in the era of Hugo Chávez. She shows how barrio-based Catia TVe made available new ways for media producers to shape the Bolivarian project in the interests of poor people. Channeling the State is an important contribution to the literature on social change under Chávez and a valuable resource for understanding modes of popular participation." — Sujatha Fernandes, author of Who Can Stop the Drums? Urban Social Movements in Chávez’s Venezuela


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Naomi Schiller is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brooklyn College, City University of New York.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface  ix
Acknowledgments  xiii
Introduction  1
1. State-Media Relations and the Rise of Catia TVe  23
2. Community Media as Everyday State Formation  62
3. Class Acts  89
4. Channeling Chávez  128
5. Mediating Women  164
6. Reckoning with Press Freedom  196
Conclusion  227
Notes  241
References  251
Index  269
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0144-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0111-9
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