SPECTACLES OF SEXUALITY: Televisionary Activism in Nicaragua:

CYMENE HOWE

ABSTRACT

This article develops the concept of "televisionary" activism—a mediated form of social justice messaging that attempts to transform culture. Focusing on a locally produced and very popular television show in Nicaragua, I consider how social justice knowledge is produced through television characters' scripting and performance. The ideological underpinnings aspire to a dialogic engagement with the audience, as producers aim to both generate public discourse and benefit from audiences' suggestions and active engagement. Several levels of media advocacy interventions are considered including the production, scripting, and translation of transnational material into local registers. Televisionary activism offers challenges to several conservative social values in Nicaragua by placing topics such as abortion, domestic violence, sexual abuse, homosexuality, and lesbianism very explicitly into the public sphere. At the same time, sexual subjects on the small screen must be framed in particular ways, as, for instance, with the homosexual subjects who are carefully coiffed in normalized human dramas. Finally, many of these televisionary tactics draw from and engage with transnational tropes of identity politics, and "gay" and "lesbian" subjectivity in particular, confounding the relationship between real and idealized sexual subjects in Nicaragua. That is, these televisionary tactics "market" transnational identity politics but derive legitimacy through their very "localness."

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