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Case studies

We investigate entertainment media

We investigate entertainment media

Case studies

Case studies

People in Latin America learn about the history of their countries nowadays mainly through the consumption of popular culture, usually through telenovelas. In the last decade, many series have been produced dealing with aspects of contemporary history, including human rights violations during the military regimes in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, as well as the Colombian armed conflict, the fight against drug trafficking in Colombia and Mexico, or the emergence of Chavism in Venezuela. Some of these productions caused great commotion and provided the impulse for the development of new series on streaming platforms such as Netflix. This type of telenovela is known as telenovela de la memoria ("telenovela of memory"). These telenovelas focus on historical events of the recent past that a large part of the audience can remember directly, or which remain in family memories through the stories of relatives. The narrative significance of these telenovelas for viewers is largely determined by the nature of memory, where historical narratives and historical consciousness meet.
Given this background, the project investigates the transfer of historical knowledge, the construction of memories through entertainment media, and the latter's reception. Brazil, Chile, and Colombia were selected as countries for case studies, although not only the national, but also the transnational reception of telenovelas, for instance in migrant communities, is a central part of the research projects. More directly, the question is how the historical consciousness of viewers is influenced by the representation of contemporary history in these formats and what consequences this has for the development of political education in different population groups. The three countries being studied are currently undergoing political upheaval in which the negotiation of their recent past is at the center of the discussion. In Chile and Brazil, the dispute over the memory of military dictatorships is the focus of serious domestic political disputes. In Colombia, the peace process that took place between 2012 and 2016 is repeatedly being challenged by recent violent excesses.

During the first project phase of GUMELAB, the focus will lie on the following five case studies:


Pablo Escobar, El Patrón del mal (2012)

Tres Caínes (2013)

Narcos (seasons 1-3, 2015-2017)


Los 80, más que una moda (2008-2014)

Dignity (2019)

Further literature

Contreras, M. 2017. “Narcotráfico y telenovelas en Colombia: entre narconovelas y «telenovelas de la memoria»” Hispanorama 157: 26–31.

Erlick, J. 2018. Telenovelas in pan-latino context. Nueva York: Routledge.

Rüsen, J. Hg. 1997. „Historisches Erzählen“. In: K. Bergmann et al. (comp.), Handbuch der Geschichtsdidaktik. Seelze.Velber: Kallmeyer, 42–44.