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date: 06 December 2022

Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Industrieslocked

Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Industrieslocked

  • John SinclairJohn SinclairSchool of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

Summary

The term cultural industries was first coined in the 1980s as a comprehensive means to understand production, distribution, and consumption in the traditional information and entertainment industries—press, radio, and television—and others such as film and recorded music. Closely related industries, such as advertising, marketing, and public relations, were also included. With the subsequent popular embrace and commercialization of the internet, especially the social media platforms, the concept was necessarily expanded to incorporate such “new” media of the digital age. The relevance of these cultural industries for racial and ethnic groups living within the nations of the developed world is significant in at least two contexts: national and transnational.

Within the frame of the nation, the issues concern the status of these groups as minorities; and in a global perspective, the groups come to be seen as members of transnational communities, with ties both to a putative nation of origin and to their counterparts in other nations. Most theoretical and research attention has focused on media representations—that is, on how racial and ethnic minorities are portrayed in the content of the cultural industries’ outputs, seen both in a national context, such as the perpetuation of stereotypes in news and television series, and globally, as in film. Yet such a focus on representations tends to position minorities as passive victims of the media. Less common is research in which minorities are viewed as active agents producing their own information and entertainment, as they do, with local, national, and even transnational distribution.

Minorities’ own media can range from local community radio to globally available television channels and internet platforms serving vast diasporas, the largest of these being those of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and the Chinese-speaking world (the “Sinosphere”). Each of these provides a case in which the industrial structure of the huge home media market provides the basis for far-flung consumption in all those countries in which members of the respective ethnicities have settled. In situations in which they attain a certain critical mass, such racial and ethnic minorities form a market for the cultural industries and consumer goods industries more broadly.

Also to be taken into account is the phenomenon of racial and ethnic minorities having an impact on the cultural industries of the dominant cultures of the nations in which they dwell. The most striking case in that regard is how African American popular music made the profound cross-over from segregated radio stations and live venues to infuse the commercial mainstream of music recording and performance in the United States and, ultimately, the world. Although such creativity is valued, there remains a diversity issue about the actual participation of racial and other minorities in executive, management, and production roles in the major cultural industries.

Subjects

  • Critical/Cultural Studies
  • Communication and Culture
  • International/Global Communication
  • Mass Communication
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Communication

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