Armand Mattelart

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Armand Mattelart (b. 1936) is a Belgian sociologist who working for the French Catholic church was sent to Chile where he lived from 1962 untile 1973. He later became one of the better known left (French) intellectuals, but is particularly well known in Spanish speaking countries. His childhood was greatly affected by the Second World War when he spent his youth in a Catholic institution where he did his secondary schooling. Thereafter he joined Catholic youth movements to be sent out to missions in poor countries. (this text is liberally translated and edited from [1])

After finishing his undergraduate studies Mattelart joined a community of secular monks in Brittany for one year, but went on to study Law and Political Science at the Catholic University of Louvain. Afterwards he studied demography at the Institute of Demographic Studies in Paris (founded by the influential left intellectual Alfred Sauvy -- who in 1952 coined the term Third World). Upon finishing his studies he is appointed as an expert on the politics of population by the Vatican, and in 1962 is sent to the Catholic Univ. of Chile. While in Chile he married Michèle Mattelart.

While in Chile Mattelart was appointed to confront from a catholic spiritual perspective the strategic models for family planning which were at the time being pushed by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and the Alianza para el Progreso (Alliance for Progress -- a US official aid program). The US family planning model aimed to limit the natality to "improve the lives of the inhabitants of the continent" and of course in conflict with the Catholic teachings. The revolutionary transformations in Latin America post-1960 require that the Church enter the ideological fray and develop communication strategies applied to "ideological, political and social struggles" to create ideological and political alternatives to atheist communism or the "protestant North American imperialism".

While always based at the Catholic Univ. of Chile, Mattelart initiated a collaboration with the Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Nacional (CEREN) (Center for the Study of the National Reality), founded in 1968 under the auspices of the Catholic Univ. Jacques Chonchol was CEREN's director (also an important ideolog with MAPU -- a left offshoot of the Christian Democrats which was also part of the Unidad Popular government). CEREN's first research conducted by Armando Mattelart, Michèle Mattelart, Mabel Paccini, et al., had to do with an structural left analysis of the liberal press, the "celebrity" publications, the pseudo-amorous magazines. Mattelart primarily studied El Mercurio, the principal liberal newspaper.

The Cuadernos de la Realidad Nacional (Notebooks of the National Reality), CEREN's publication, became the principal ideological generators and emiters during the social democratic government of Allende (1970 - 1973). The journal was similar to the French post-structuralist model, and it was primarily aimed to analyze the political economy of the mass media. Under this rubric, Mattelart and Ariel Dorfman published in 1971 the famous pamphlet: Para leer al Pato Donald, manual de descolonización antinorteamericana (To read "Donald Duck", a manual for American de-colonization), where they provided an structural analysis (supposedly Marxist) where they denounce the "yankee media penetration" via Disney comics. The book analyzed the celebrated family of ducks and presented them as nasty agents of the North American cultural imperialism. This book was banned in the United States lending it great publicity and it became one of the best-selling books in Latin America during the 1970s.

After the 1973 coup in Chile, Mattelart returned to France where (at age 37) he had to restart his academic career -- he was became a visiting scholar a Univ. Pris VIII Saint-Denis. He later became a full professor of Science of Information and Communication -- a topic on which he became a theoretician, ideolog. In 1974, he worked on La Espiral, a film justifying the Chilean route to socialism.

In 2004, a documentary about the life of Mattelart, appropriately titled Armand Mattelart, was directed by Hoari Chiong Muñoz and Luis Leonel León.

References and Publications


  1. ^Armando Mattelart, (undated, accessed: 3 Aug. 2007)


Mattleart's list of articles is several pages long -- in the hundreds, in several languages... a few are provided below:



  • Armand Mattlelart and Seth Siegelaub (editors), Communication and class struggle, 2 volumes 1979 and 1983.
  • Armand Mattlelart, La comunicación masiva en el proceso político latinoamericano, 1974
  • Armand Mattelart, Xavier Delcourt and Michele Mattelart; translated by David Buxton; International image markets: in search of an alternative perspective; introduction by Nicholas Garnham; 1984
  • Armand Mattelart, Xavier Delcourt, Michèle Mattelart, La culture contre la démocratie?: l'audiovisuel à l'heure transnationale, 1984.
  • Armand Mattelart, Advertising international: the privatisation of public space; translated by Michael Chanan, 1991
  • Armand Mattelart, Mass media, ideologies and the revolutionary movement; translated by Malcolm Coad, 1980
  • Armand Mattelart, Multinational corporations and the control of culture: the ideological apparatuses of imperialism; translated from the French by Michael Chanan, 1979
  • Armand Mattelart, Hector Schmucler, Communication and information technologies: freedom of choice for Latin America?; translated by David Buxton, 1985
  • Ariel Dorfman, Armand Mattelart, How to read Donald Duck: imperialist ideology in the Disney comic; translation (Para leer al pato Donald, 1974) and updated introduction by David Kunzle; with appendix by John Shelton Lawrence; 1991.
  • Armand et Michèle Mattelart, Penser les médias, 1986.