Gabriel Hetland, Schiller, Naomi: Channeling the State. Community Media and Popular Politics in Venezuela. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018. 275 pp. ISBN 978-​1-​4780-​0144-​7. Price: $ 25.95 in:

Anthropos, page 274 - 275

Anthropos, Volume 115 (2020), Issue 1, ISSN: 0257-9774, ISSN online: 0257-9774,

Browse Volumes and Issues: Anthropos

Bibliographic information
stories about cultural traits they do not possess (20), among other things the art of writing. Yet instead of suf‐ fering from a trauma – as is indicated strongly by Mi‐ chael Oppitz (Die verlorene Schrift. Zürich 2008; mainly based on Scherman’s material from northern Burma) for the peripheral societies towards the “ad‐ vanced” central societies – Mentawaians seem to take the situation just as it is. Notwithstanding these few remarks, Reimar Schefold is to be congratulated on this book. He has given us not only a thorough and dense description and interpretation but also an insight into what it means to be full of em‐ pathy for the people with whom one is working. It should also be mentioned that Schefold is the author of a considerable number of publications, just as a hint for those who like or even may be bewitched by the present book or the author’s character. On the back cover of the book, Redmond O’Hanlon, travel writer, is quoted with saying “Reimar Schefold is one of the last great ethno‐ graphers … .” He also could have said: “Reimar Schefold is one of the last Moralists in the line of Mon‐ taigne and Herder.” To me, Reimar Schefold’s “Toys for the Souls” is one of the most beautiful and moving books ever in anthropology. Wolfgang Marschall ( Schiller, Naomi: Channeling the State. Community Media and Popular Politics in Venezuela. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018. 275 pp. ISBN 978-1- 4780-0144-7. Price: $ 25.95 The mainstream media narrative about contemporary Venezuela is neat and (profoundly) negative. According to this narrative, Venezuela is an economic disaster and a political nightmare. The full extent of Venezuela’s economic debacle has become abundantly clear in re‐ cent years, as Venezuela has been wracked by hyperin‐ flation, chronic shortages of basic goods, and debilitat‐ ing poverty amidst the worst economic collapse in mod‐ ern Latin American history. This has translated into a migration crisis that threatens to bring political instabili‐ ty to countries throughout the region. It has also ce‐ mented Venezuela’s descent into ruthless authoritarian‐ ism. Yet, if these problems have worsened under the regime of Nicolás Maduro, it is his predecessor Hugo Chávez, the failed putschist-turned-president, who bears ultimate blame for turning Venezuela into hell on earth. This narrative is matched by a counter narrative, which is also neat but (largely) positive. Per this counter story, Chávez’s election set Venezuela on a path towards democratic socialism. On this revolutionary path, Venezuela doubled social spending, cutting poverty in half and dramatically reducing inequality, and embarked on an ambitious and heroic attempt to build a “partici‐ patory and protagonistic democracy” in which the peo‐ ple would truly rule, not by taking part in periodic elec‐ tions, but by directly taking control of the decisions shaping their lives. This counter story acknowledges (at least in some iterations) the crisis gripping Venezuela, but assigns blame not to Chávez but to the destabilizing effects of U.S.-imperial aggression and the far-right do‐ mestic opposition. One of the great merits of Naomi Schiller’s stellar book, “Channeling the State” (CTS), is that it resolutely rejects both of these narratives, neither of which comes close to doing justice to the messiness of the “Bolivari‐ an Revolution.” CTS, by contrast, does just this by shin‐ ing a spotlight on the hopes, possibilities, and contra‐ dictions of the Chávez years. In addition to making for fine reading, the book is profoundly important because of the clear and present dangers simplistic portrayals of Chávez-era Venezuela pose, in the form of the non-negligible possibility of a U.S. invasion, civil war, and the quieter-but-also-deadly maintenance of an untenable status quo. Averting these dangers requires many things: sensible (i. e., non-impe‐ rialist) U.S. foreign policy; negotiation and dialogue; better government policies; and understanding of the complex reality of the Chávez years. This last is what CTS provides, in the form of a bril‐ liant ethnography of community media during the Chávez years. The book begins with the question main‐ stream analysts of Venezuela pose: Can community me‐ dia criticize the government? And if not, does that not prove the authoritarianism of the Chavista project? This question, Schiller tells us, is the wrong one, in part be‐ cause it fails to register that the state in the Chávez years was not a fixed, monolithic thing, but an openended process, riddled with ambiguity and contradic‐ tion. Recognizing this is the first step to understanding the Chávez years. One of Schiller’s central goals is to show the every‐ day statecraft through which ordinary Venezuelans sought to make and remake the state, indeed to “take the state” as one of the community media producers at Ca‐ tia TVe, the main site of the book, tells us. For commu‐ nity media producers, the idea of being fully outside and autonomous from a state engaged in the revolutionary transformation of society makes no sense. Their re‐ sponse is not, however, blind allegiance to the state. Rather, it is a complex and never-ending process of give-and-take in which community media producerscum-grassroots activists negotiate and renegotiate the terms of their strong-but-contingent support for the state. Schiller fully recognizes, and sympathizes with, the support her interlocutors have for Hugo Chávez and the process of transformation and empowerment he over‐ saw. Yet this does not blind her, or her interlocutors, to the challenges inherent in this relationship. CTS is filled with details of the mutual constitution of state and soci‐ ety that occurred in the Chávez years. This was not a smooth process. It involved community media produc‐ ers reluctantly agreeing to film state-institutional events that were not their priority, because of the difficulty of saying no to the institutions providing their funding. Community media producers also were careful to por‐ 274 Book Reviews Anthropos 115.2020 tray the state in a positive light during key moments, such as the 2006 election, when Chavista activists feared the opposition would engage in violence and destabilizing provocation. Yet, community media pro‐ ducers regularly and vocally criticized the government, and pushed back against “the institutions.” This giveand-take is central to what Chavismo has been about, and CTS does a wonderful job of providing detailed glimpses into this complex reality. The book also does a stellar job of highlighting fault lines related to class and gender. The former is the sub‐ ject of a chapter titled “Class Acts,” which documents the stereotypical way middle-class professionals from the state-owned television station, ViVe TV, interacted with working-class community-media producers from Catia TVe. Schiller shows how these “class injuries” contradict the Chávez state’s official commitment to popular-class empowerment. She also shows how work‐ ing-class community media producers negotiated these processes, at times managing to forge successful and productive cross-class collaboration, and at other times reinforcing negative stereotypes about popular culture and the poor. The chapter on “Mediating Women” may be the book’s finest, with Schiller zooming in on a joint ViVe TVe–Catia TVe event to show how gendered hierarchies were often reproduced even by “revolutionaries” pur‐ portedly committed to radical equality. In this chapter, as throughout the book, Schiller does a fine job of rec‐ ognizing the shortcomings, as well as the possibilities and openings, towards popular empowerment, social‐ ism, and (in a much less realized way) gender egalitari‐ anism, which existed in the Chávez years. The book’s final substantive chapter examines one of Chávez’s most controversial decisions, to not renew the public broadcast license of the private station Radio Caracas Television (RCTV) in 2007. This act is regular‐ ly seen as the definitive proof of the threat Chávez posed to free speech. Schiller uses this decision as a lens for exploring how workers and volunteers at Catia TVe thought about the issue of press freedom. She shows that they had multiple, overlapping, and conflict‐ ing views, at times upholding liberal notions of media autonomy and at other times voicing support for a more “socialist” position rejecting any idea of absolute auton‐ omy of the media from the state. (An earlier chapter brilliantly shows that the history of media-state relations in Venezuela has long been complicated, exploding the myth that tensions and “problems” only existed in the Chávez years.) The chapter also uncovers an unexpect‐ ed dimension of the decision to close RCTV: a revolu‐ tionary working-class Venezuelan’s sadness at “the loss of her Telenovela,” which she watched on RCTV before it was shut down. The analysis presented in CTS does not fit neatly into the contrasting boxes – of one-sided criticism and ro‐ mantic support – through which the Chávez years are all too often glimpsed. 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. In so do‐ ing, Schiller models the type of messy analysis of Chávez-era Venezuela we so badly need. Go buy the book and read it carefully! Gabriel Hetland ( Schröder, Peter: Os índios Xipaya. Cultura e língua. Textos de Curt Nimuendajú. (Org. e trad. Peter Schrö‐ der.) Campinas: Editora Curt Nimuendajú, 2019. 295 pp. ISBN 978-85-99944-48-6. Preço: R$ 60,00 Kurz nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg (1914–1918), der “Urkatastrophe des 20. Jahrhunderts” (George F. Kennan) erschienen in der 1906 von Pater Wilhelm Schmidt SVD (1868–1954) gegründeten ethnologischen Fachzeitschrift Anthropos (die damals noch in Mödling bei Wien herausgegeben wurde) fünf Arbeiten eines brasilianischen indigenista mit dem Namen Curt Nimu‐ endajú, den bis heute im deutschsprachigen Raum kaum jemand kennt, obwohl er in deutschsprachigen Fachzeit‐ schriften publizierte, der in Brasilien jedoch zu den Gründungsvätern der etnologia brasileira gehört. Ei‐ gentlich hieß dieser ungewöhnliche Mann Curt Unckel (1883–1945), war Vollwaise, wuchs in Jena auf, erhielt eine Ausbildung bei Zeiss (Jena) und wanderte im Jahre 1903 nach Brasilien aus. Ab 1905 beginnt er mit jahr‐ zehntelangen Feldforschungen zunächst im Süden Bra‐ siliens bei den Guaraní (Apapocúva) und Kaingang und später von Belém aus in Amazonien. Er stirbt im Jahre 1945 unter nicht ganz geklärten Umständen (möglicher‐ weise wurde er ermordet) während einer Feldforschung bei den Tucuna am Rio Solimões (Santa Rita do Weil). Seinen indigenen Namen “Nimuendajú” erhielt er 1906. Nimuendajú bedeutet so viel wie “Der aus der Fremde zu uns kam, um bei uns eine Wohnung zu haben” (vgl. G. F. Dungs, Die Feldforschung von Curt Unckel Nimu‐ endajú und ihre theoretisch-methodischen Grundlagen. Bonn 1991; E. M. Welper, Curt Unckel Nimuendajú. Um capítulo alemão na tradiҫão etnográfica brasileira. Rio de Janeiro 2002; H. Stubbe, Nimuendajú (17.4.1883–10.12.1945) in der Geschichte der Ethnolo‐ gie Brasiliens. In: J. Born (Hg.), Curt Unckel Nimuen‐ dajú – Ein Jenenser als Pionier im brasilianischen Nord(ost)en. Wien 2007:35–58; P. Schröder, Curt Un‐ ckel Nimuendajú – Um levantamento bibliográfico. Tel‐ lus 13.2013.24: 39–76). Durch den verheerenden Brand des Museu Nacional (RJ) am 8. September 2018 wurde leider der gesamte sich dort befindende Nachlass Nimu‐ endajús vernichtet. Die kenntnisreichste Expertin über Leben, Werk, Feldforschungen und der reichhaltigen Korrespondenz Nimuendajús ist gegenwärtig Frau Dr. Elena Monteiro Welper. Der Rezensent (2007) hat mehrfach gefordert, dass das Gesamtwerk Nimuendajús zweisprachig endlich von einer deutsch-brasilianischen Forschergruppe herausgegeben werden sollte. Bei den bereits erwähnten in Anthropos erschienenen Arbeiten handelt es sich um folgende Aufsätze Nimuen‐ dajús: a) Bruchstücke aus Religion und Überlieferung Book Reviews 275 Anthropos 115.2020

Chapter Preview



Anthropos is the international journal of anthropology and linguistics, founded in 1906 by Wilhelm Schmidt, missonary and member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Its main purpose is the study of human societies in their cultural dimension. In honor of Wilhelm Schmidt‘s legacy, the cultivation of anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, and religious studies remain an essential component oft he Anthropos Institute – the organizational carrier of the journal.


Anthropos - internationale Zeitschrift für Völkerkunde wird vom Anthropos Institut St. Augustin seit 1906 zweimal jährlich herausgegeben. Ursprünglich als Sprachrohr für katholische Missionarsarbeit geplant, gilt sie heute als wichtige Fachzeitschrift der allgemeinen Ethnologie. Sie behandelt sowohl kulturelle als auch sprachliche Themen in mehreren Sprachen, mit Schwerpunkt auf den Völkern des gesamtamerikanischen und afrikanischen Kontinents.