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Article

Journalism of the Populist Movement  

Timothy Vest Klein

In the 1880s and 1890s working class Populists from the American South and Midwest started approximately 1,000 small newspapers in support of the Populist movement. Populist journalists, such as Henry Vincent, Mary Elizabeth Lease, Thomas E. Watson, Charles W. Macune, Ignatius Donnelly, and James “Cyclone” Davis, saw themselves as writing on behalf of the nation’s struggling farmers and working poor. They attempted to unite the economic suffering of sharecroppers and indebted farmers with the despair of wage laborers and the declining fortunes of independent craftsmen, who were being put out of business by massive corporations. Populist journalists focused on economic suffering along with the political and social isolation of life on the geographic periphery. They contrasted the wealth and power of industrialists and political elites in the boardrooms and exclusive social clubs of the Eastern seaboard with life in the slums of urban metropolises and in rural America. Out of the Populists’ isolation came a form of journalism that was full of intensity for their cause and a certainty in their moral superiority. For instance, Populists did not simply advocate for increasing the nation’s money supply through the free coinage of silver—they declared that “free silver will save us” and “God will raise up a Moses to lead us out” of the bondage of the gold standard. Although free silver may be the most widely remembered Populist plank, its emphasis in 1896 was seen at the time, and by later historians, as a strategic miscalculation that split the Populist movement and played a major role in the movement’s downfall. Nonetheless, the fervor and moral certitude that Populists expressed around free silver was also evident in their advocacy for the sub-treasury agricultural loan program, farming cooperatives, the graduated income tax, postal savings banks, regulation (or public ownership) of the nation’s monopolies, and numerous other Populist policies. The boldness of Populist communication gave farmers and political outsiders the confidence to enter the political arena and fight for their ideas, but it also created intense hostility against the movement. Many Populist journalists preached the superiority of rural areas over urban areas, of the South and Midwest over the East Coast, of manual labor over office work, and of the “plain people” over political and economic elites, and in the process they made many powerful enemies who were committed to defeating the Populist movement. Populist journalism was sandwiched between two broader journalistic trends. With the rise of the yellow press in the 1890s, journalism was moving toward a hypercommercialization, where newspapers were attracting a mass audience and news was becoming a big business. At the same time, journalism was also moving toward greater professionalism, with the rise of journalism education and the flourishing of Progressive journalism in the decades following the Populist movement. Populist journalism did not fit into either of these conflicting trends, and it was instead a vestige of the partisan press era of personal attack journalism that was common in the United States in the early 19th century.

Article

The Ethnic Heritage of Party Politics and Political Communication in Lusophone African Countries  

Susana Salgado and Afonso Biscaia

The processes through which ethnicity becomes visible are varied, and its impacts have not always been the same throughout history. Investigating the roles ethnicity played in Angolan, Mozambican, Cape Verdean, and São Tomé and Principean histories makes clear that colonizers themselves placed different emphases on the relevance and the role of ethnicity in these countries. Currently, partly due to the traumas engendered by decades of conflict in Angola and Mozambique, ethnicity is mostly a silent factor, operating in the ways people interact with one another but not overtly mentioned by politicians. The insular nations’ (Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe) history with ethnicity is different from that of their continental counterparts, – partly due to the influence of Creoleness – but is not devoid of tensions; nevertheless, politicians from both archipelagic countries tend to downplay the influence of ethnicity, even if its effects can also be occasionally but subtly felt. More recently, mainstream political discourses focused on the idea of the “unitary nation” are being paired with those of spontaneous movements advocating the valorization of local cultures and languages, which are being boosted by the use of social media.

Article

Alternative Media and Ethnic Politics in Kenya  

Susan M. Kilonzo and Catherine Muhoma

The history of the use of alternative media in Kenya’s politics shows evidence that it was in use in 2007, when the country came into the brink of a genocide; and, prominently in use, in the recent 2022 general elections. The development of fiber optic cable, and availability of Internet connection, with expanded use of mobile telephony in the country, is a direct link to the change in political dynamics, and increased use of social media. Subsequently, the availability of alternative media has revolutionized political engagements by enhancing participatory approach while connecting marginalized populations to the political elite. The new wave of alternative media also strengthens the arguments that politics and political processes are no longer for the elite. Further, the new wave of social media can also be used to explain changes seen in the use of ethnicity as a card for mobilization as well as demobilization in political processes surrounding elections. Campaigning and canvasing is no longer bounded by geographical spaces. Ethnic coalescing is not just a physical phenomenon. Mobile telephony and the Internet, which facilitate connection to alternative media platforms allows for virtual spaces for ethnic meetings and discussions. Anyone, even in remotest areas of the country, is able to participate in political debates and forums so long as they can afford a smart phone, and/or Internet connection. The former physical political processes and engagements, especially during campaigns, elections, tallying and acceptance or rejection of results, and which were perceived to be highly sensitive given the ethnic politics that has characterized the country for several decades, are now neutralized through virtual representation of facts as well as propaganda. The vibrancy of these activities present the research arena with a rich field of vignettes from alternative media accounts in the form of Twitter, Facebook and Blogs, to exemplify how ethnic groups align to their preferred candidates, specifically the Presidential contestants. This kind of approach allows for unveiling of an era of e-democracy and e-politics, developments that were otherwise impossible a few years back. Such platform allows for an exposé of a discourse that shows that, social media platforms may be possible tools for reducing physical violence and neutralizing extreme ethnicity as seen in the surprising calmness witnessed after the Supreme Court of Kenya upheld the contested 2022 election results.

Article

National Identity and Inter-Ethnic Relations in Madagascar  

Faniry Ranaivo Rahamefy and Nhamo A. Mhiripiri

In Madagascar, race- and ethnicity-based thinking is marked by a paradox: it is at the same time ubiquitous and elusive. Day-to-day communications are permeated with racial stereotypes based on ethnicity and class, yet they are so ingrained that they are hard to capture. Moreover, those stereotypes jar with the idea of national unity that is projected by official and readily accessible communications. To begin to understand this paradox between the projected national identity and the plurality of ethnic identities, it is necessary to grasp Madagascar’s unique ethnic predicament. Malagasy interethnic relations are negotiated through the dichotomy Merina/Côtiers. This othering dichotomy, which sets one ethnic group, the Merina, against the Others, the Côtiers, had been constructed and mobilized by the colonial power to serve its interests. Indeed, “Côtiers” is not an ethnic group per se, but an assemblage of all the ethnicities which are non-Merina. There are 18 ethnic groups in Madagascar, 16 of which are discursively regrouped in the category “Côtiers,” with one group geographically close to the Merina being assimilated with them. An essentialization of the Côtier group is therefore operated, as the latter is not an ethnicity in the conventional sense of the word. An effective way to investigate those layers of identification, as well as discursive practices around them, is to subject a corpus made up of purposively chosen speeches by the president of the Republic and of posts from official Facebook dating pages to critical discourse analysis. Such analysis reveals that public speeches are geared toward nation-state building through creation of national heroes, mobilization of history and national artifacts/symbols, and engineering a sense of “common good” around public infrastructures. Those communications are marked by structured absence of ethnic and racial markers. Even if they are aimed to foster a sense of belonging to one nation, they may have the opposite result, as they are predicated on a negation and co-optation of local, racial, ethnic, and classed identities. Such structured absence can also be found in the lonely hearts posts. They contain little reference to ethnic identities. Instead, the most prevalent research criteria for a life partner are skin color (white or light-brown) and religion (Christianity). Despite the absence of clear references to a specific ethnicity, those criteria connote belonging to ethnic groups from the central highlands of Madagascar. Moreover, the high prevalence of Christianity as a search criterion leads one to interrogate the correlation between color and religion, and to determine whether such correlation is indicative of cultural hegemony of specific ethnic groups. Lack of representation of other religions and races reveals deeper systemic exclusion of non-dominant groups, that is, those who are not white or light-skinned Christians. Despite being rooted in the private sphere, those dating posts are therefore symptomatic of deeper structural dynamics which are at the heart of nation-building. Indeed, at least in the Malagasy context, the family, and more specifically the Mother, is at the core of the nation. Ethnic, racial, and classed thinking is therefore scripted in the very foundation of the Malagasy nation.

Article

Race and Political Communication in Brazil: The Afro-Brazilian Electorate of Salvador  

Antonio José Bacelar da Silva, Adelmo dos Santos Filho, Marieli de Jesus Pereira, and Eduardo Joselito da Costa Ribeiro

Historically, Black candidates running for elected office in Brazil, a country that purports to lack racial divisions, have not been able to pitch to Black voters with a clear racial justice message. The city of Salvador (Bahia), where over 80% of the population is brown or black, is an interesting case in point. In his critique of racial liberalism, Charles Mills repeatedly argued for the importance of engaging with race and racial justice in the political field dominated by white supremacy. Only by making determined effort to deal with white dominance can we fight anti-Black sentiment in specific cultural manifestations. This is a crucial task in the struggles to correct historical racial injustices in democratic governance. For the past thirty years, Blackness and the rights of the Black population have decidedly reemerged as a political emblem throughout Brazil, with an important role in the electoral debate. However, Black candidates who use a racial appeal in their political commnication have obtained comparatively fewer votes. This has been a serious challenge in Black struggles' attempts to reduce the inequality between Blacks and non-Blacks in the electoral field. As a rule, this situation across the country has not been different, since there is no tradition of electoral support for Black politicians among the Black population (Blacks and Browns), even with a majority of demographic representation. In addition to the increased number of Black candidates, compared to the past, recent campaigns by Black candidates have worked to broaden the electoral discourse of defending and promoting social equity, rather than adopting explicit racial appeals. All this to achieve what, Charles Mills has defended as the Blackening of politics in the context of racist liberal politics.

Article

Propaganda and Rhetoric  

John Oddo

Propaganda was first identified as a public crisis following World War I, as citizens discovered that their own governments had subjected them to deception and emotional manipulation. Today, it seems no less disturbing. Accusations swirl decrying fake news, spin, active measures, and, again, propaganda. But with nearly every accusation there is also a denial and, more important, a counteraccusation: that propaganda is merely a label applied to messages one dislikes, a slippery word that says more about the accuser’s politics than it does about supposed defects in communication. The slipperiness surrounding propaganda has fascinated scholars for over a century, as they have grappled with whether and how it can be distinguished from other kinds of rhetoric. One crucial sticking point concerns propaganda’s means of persuasion. It is commonly supposed that propaganda relies on falsity, emotion, and irrational appeals. However, adjudicating what is true and reasonable is not as clear-cut as it may seem, and much work attempts to differentiate manipulation from legitimate persuasion. Another key concern is the morality of propaganda. Some theorize that it is intrinsically wrong because it seeks its own partisan agenda. But others argue that partisanship is characteristic of all advocacy, and they wonder whether propaganda can and should be employed for worthy democratic purposes. Finally, scholars propose different models for how propaganda works. One model features a propagandist who deliberately targets a passive audience and attempts to move them for selfish ends. But other models see propaganda as a more collective activity, something that audiences pass around to each other, either purposefully or without any design. Difficult as it is to define propaganda, however, scholars do agree on two things: It is enormously powerful, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Article

Multiculturalism, Ethnicity, and Prisons: Russia, Georgia, and Estonia  

Costanza Curro, Judith Pallot, and Olga Zeveleva

Ethnic difference and ethnic identity constructions are examined in prison settings. While a vast academic literature examines prisons as sites of ethnic and racial identity constructions in the United States and Europe, studies of Soviet and post-Soviet prisons have not been included in this scholarly dialogue. Thus, ethnic identity negotiations in prisons in the former Soviet Union are examined. Soviet legacies in policies and practices toward ethnic and religious difference in prison services and the contrasting trajectories away from the Soviet penal model in different jurisdictions after 1991 are considered. Examination of Russia focuses on Muslim prisoners and official and popular responses to moral panic about “prison jihad.” Subsequent analysis turns to elements of Soviet legacies in two other post-Soviet countries: Georgia and Estonia. New trends and reforms unique to each case (including the architectural and spatial organization of incarceration) are identified, the role of prison subcultures is discussed, and analysis is provided as to how these prison systems reflect or refract overall trends of ethnic discrimination and marginalization in each country.

Article

Becoming Chinese: Sinicization, Nation, and Race in Xinjiang, China  

David O'Brien and Melissa Shani Brown

“Chineseness” is often depicted in public discourses within the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as an identity that blurs together varied notions of shared cultural heritage, as well as common descent, within discourses of a unified national identity. This combines what might be called “ethnicity” (as cultural heritage), “race” (as common descent, physical or intrinsic characteristics), and “nation” (as territory and political state) in complex ways. And yet, a standard position within Chinese discourses (and often replicated in non-Chinese scholarship) is that historically informing the present, Chinese notions of “ethnic difference” are based on differences in “culture,” thus precluding “racism.” This characterization in part derives from the narrative that Chinese history was an ongoing process of “sinicization”—namely “backwards,” “barbarian” ethnic groups eagerly assimilated into the “more advanced” Han “civilization,” thus becoming “Chinese.” However, there are numerous scholarly challenges to this narrative as historically inaccurate or overly simplistic, as well as challenges to the positioning of this narrative as not “racist.” The idea that an emphasis on civilization versus barbarism is “cultural” and not “racial” delimits racism to a narrow definition focusing on “biophysical” difference. However, wider scholarship on race and racism highlights that the latter rests on diverse articulations of hierarchical difference; this includes and mobilizes cultural difference as an active part of racist discourses predicated on the acceptance of ideas of the “inferiority” versus “superiority” of peoples, as well as notions of “purity” within discourses of homogeneous imagined communities. Increasingly, “being Chinese” is being conceptualized in PRC official rhetoric as a culturally, and racially, homogeneous identity. That is, not only is Han culture being positioned as emblematic of “Chinese culture” generally but also it is being asserted that all ethnic groups are descended from the Han and are thus genetically bound by “Chinese bloodlines.” Such discourses have repercussions for ethnic minority groups within China—most clearly at the moment for Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities who are positioned as “infected” by “foreign influences,” namely their religion. This is particularly clear in the contemporary sinicization campaign in Xinjiang (XUAR: Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region), a region in northwest China that has gained increasing international attention due to the government’s use of “re-education” camps in a program it argues is designed to eliminate terrorism. The accompanying sinicization campaign involves a combination of propaganda emphasizing “Chinese socialist characteristics” and “core values” that should be adopted, an emphasis in the media on Uyghurs engaging in Han cultural practices as a demonstration of their loyalty to the state, as well as the removal of many visible signs of Chinese Islamic history and Uyghur culture. The turn toward politically policing culture is hardly new in China; however, the increasing emphasis on racial notions of identity—foregrounding physical appearance, genetics, lineage, and metaphors of “bloodlines”—is an attempt to turn a national identity into a “natural” one, something that raises urgent questions with regard to how China deals with the diversity of its population and the stakes in being, or becoming, “Chinese.”

Article

Political Agenda Setting  

Marcus Maurer

Political agenda setting is the part of agenda-setting research that refers to the influence of the media agenda on the agenda of political actors. More precisely, the central question of political agenda-setting research is whether political actors adopt the issue agenda of the news media in various aspects ranging from communicating about issues that are prominently discussed in the news media to prioritizing issues from the news media agenda in political decision making. Although such effects have been studied under different labels (agenda building, policy agenda setting) for several decades, research in this field has recently increased significantly based on a new theoretical model introducing the term political agenda setting. Studies based on that model usually find effects of media coverage on the attention political actors pay to various issues, but at the same time point to a number of contingent conditions. First, as found in research on public agenda setting, there is an influence of characteristics of news media (e.g., television news vs. print media) and issues (e.g., obtrusive vs. unobtrusive issues). Second, there is an influence of characteristics of the political context (e.g., government vs. oppositional parties) and characteristics of individual politicians (e.g., generalists vs. specialists). Third, the findings of studies on the political agenda-setting effect differ, depending on which aspects of the political agenda are under examination (e.g., social media messages vs. political decision making).

Article

Homonationalism and Media  

Alexander Dhoest

Homonationalism, as defined by Jasbir Puar, refers to the growing embrace of LGBT rights by (mostly Western) nations, as well as the parallel complicity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals and associations with nationalist politics. First developed in the context of the U.S. “war on terror,” where the United States presented itself as exceptionally LGBT-friendly in contrast to “homophobic” Muslim others, the concept of homonationalism was quickly adopted by authors across the world and in different disciplines, writing on a number of LGBT-friendly in-groups in contrast to a number of homophobic out-groups. Besides the United States, other Western countries figure prominently as in-groups in this literature, particularly Western and Northern European ones, but also larger regions such as the European Union (EU) as well as subnations such as Catalonia and Québec. Muslims constitute the most prominent out-group in homonationalist discourses, although other groups and regions also appear, in particular, African countries and, in the European context, Central and Eastern Europe as well as Russia. In each case, a simplistic opposition is set up between a homogeneously modern and LGBT-friendly “us” and an equally homogeneous antimodern homophobic “them.” These discourses are prominent in (often right-wing) politics but are equally replicated across a range of media, which play a crucial role in the spread of homonationalist discourses but remain underexplored to date.