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Race and Affect in Digital Media Cultures  

Donya Alinejad

Media has always been central to the social production and contestation of racial and ethnic difference. The politics of representation has formed the conceptual frame for much of the seminal scholarship examining the role of media in reproducing ideologies of race. Yet, with the advancement of digitally mediated communicative spaces, emerging experiences of interactive social encounters with racial difference compound people’s spatially proximous, “offline” encounters. And the circulation of controversy, together with the changing relationship between counterpublics and mainstream media, further complicates questions of race and media. From online hate speech to hashtagged antiracism movements, ideologies of race and practices of racial and ethnic ordering and discrimination are being reproduced, rethought, and, to some extent, reinvigorated in ways that are unique to the widespread uptake of digital technologies. Race and representation bear revisiting in light of these developments. In what has been called the “affective turn,” scholars have theorized “nonrepresentational” and affective communications as a way of explaining some of the important developments associated with digital media phenomena, such as online virality and digital attention economies. Affect has helped conceptualize the paracognitive and emotional dimensions of social life, as well as the spatial and material dynamics of mediated experiences of encounter and interaction. Through a discussion of literature at the nexus of affect, media, and race/ethnicity, this article maps and draws relations between longer-running debates on media, representation, and race and more current notions of digital affect and emotion. It suggests that the notion of representation has sustained relevance for understanding how emergent digital media forms produce ideologies of race and ethnic difference.The article also signals where the entwinement of affect and representation suggests productive directions for further understanding of race in relation to a changing range of digital-media technologies and practices.

Article

Queer Men’s Bodies and Digital Media  

Jamie Hakim

The politics of queer men’s bodies as they relate to digital media are fraught with ambivalence. A very narrowly defined body type is considered the ideal form of beauty in queer men’s cultures in the Global North: white, masculine, able-bodied, lean, muscular, youthful, and hairless. Other body types are also considered beautiful or desirable or both, but this ideal is the norm against which these other types are defined. The politics of this ideal change across contexts. In some, they render anyone who deviates from it less-than-human. In others, the ability to safely express the desire for this body has provided the basis for networks of belonging, pleasure, and experimentation in an otherwise homophobic and transphobic world. The various developments that digital media have undergone since the penetration of the internet into everyday life have not fundamentally altered the ambivalence of these politics. They have, however, rearticulated them anew in various ways. The exponential proliferation of networked spaces that the internet has provided for minorities to share information and to produce and consume culture has meant a number of different queer male beauty ideals have been given room to flourish. But so too have their related constraints and ambivalences. These ambivalences have intensified as the internet, once defined by amateurish user-generated content, has been captured by the interests of global capitalism. One result has been that its increasingly visual culture has become as normative and aspirational as possible in a bid to increase its profitability. However, room for critical or deconstructive body projects still persists. The hegemonic struggle over queer men’s body politics may have started long ago, but it continues, and digital media is now the terrain where much of it occurs.

Article

Representations of Drag Culture  

Niall Brennan

Drag may be understood as performing a gender other than one’s self-identified gender. Drag is therefore underpinned by the concept of gender performativity, or acts that naturalize constructs of gender, yet drag complicates gender performativity by imitating and parodying such “natural” performances of gender. Drag is also underpinned by camp, a sensibility combining incongruity, theatricality, and humor emanating from the 1960s gay liberation movement and more recently appropriated by heteronormative culture industries, bringing forth the need to differentiate queer (political) from gay (mainstream) camp deployment. In American popular culture, the focus of this entry, drag most closely approximates cross-dressing as a mainly humorous narrative trope involving a duplicitous cross-dresser (and knowing viewer) and a duped (and often amorous) “victim.” Cross-dressing therefore should be discerned from transvestism, which involves greater subjective investment in performing a gendered other, and from the antiquated terminology of transsexualism, which implies the desire to become a gendered other. In these differences, drag can invoke gender, race, and ethnicity with different levels of performative consequence, such that women and Black men performing drag assume historical and institutional significance differently from (white) men role-playing as women. Lastly, RuPaul’s Drag Race, the American reality/competition television series, has brought drag into global, commercial mainstream culture by establishing drag as a paradigmatic, professionalized set of performances. While Drag Race has moved queer politics into public discourse with greater visibility for LGBTQ+ peoples and communities, the reality series has circumscribed “winning” and “losing” versions of drag and, by consequence, versions of gender performativity, most notably by circumscribing the boundaries of drag between gender performativity and transgender identities.

Article

Ancient Rhetoric  

Susan C. Jarratt

In the Greek-speaking cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, effective and artful speech was highly valued: practiced and reflected upon from the time of Homer (ca. 8th-century bce), and conceptualized as “rhetoric” in the 5th and 4th centuries bce. At the moment of its emergence, rhetoric was bifurcated: the new discipline of philosophy denigrated it as a realm of mere opinion and potential deception while teachers and public figures began a process of building from its resources an elaborate edifice of training—a paideia—essential for success in political, legal, and cultural life. Consolidated as the queen of arts in the medieval curriculum, rhetoric was studied by European and Arabic scholars and remained at the center of elite learning for centuries, reaching a high point in the Renaissance, when significant texts of ancient rhetoric were revived. With the study of ancient Greek and Latin languages and literature at its foundation, this model of university education was adopted by colleges in the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. The rise of modern science and the utilitarianism of the Industrial Age eroded this classical foundation in the late 19th century. The rediscovery of ancient rhetoric in 20th-century U.S. university departments of speech communication beginning in the 1920s and 1930s and a decade or so later in the adjacent fields of English and composition studies has brought ancient rhetorical concepts and debates under new scrutiny. A story dominated by readings of Aristotle’s Rhetoric for most of 20th century has been transformed by revisionist reinterpretations from the 1990s onward emphasizing, among other changes, (a) a sophistic line of influence running from classical Athens through the Roman imperial period, (b) a revaluation of epideictic (ceremonial) rhetoric with its wide range of genres, and (c) a shift in periodization to take in late antiquity and the Byzantine era. Twenty-first-century scholars draw on ancient sources to generate new rhetorical conceptions of time, space, energy, and imagination, putting visual and material as well as verbal texts under analysis in this dynamic field of study.

Article

Race and Ethnic Stereotypes in the Media  

Srividya Ramasubramanian, Emily Riewestahl, and Anthony Ramirez

There is a long history of scholarship documenting the prevalence of racial and ethnic stereotypes in media and popular culture. This body of literature demonstrates that media stereotypes have changed over time across specific racial/ethnic groups, media formats, and genres. Historically, the bulk of this research has focused on representations in the U.S. mainstream media and on representations of African Americans in popular media. In the last few decades, media scholars have also examined media stereotypes associated with Indigenous groups, Latino/a/x populations, Arabs, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Recent work has gone beyond traditional media such as television and films to also examine other types of media content such as video games, microblogging sites such as Twitter, and media sharing sites such as YouTube. Emerging research addresses racial biases in AI, algorithms, and media technologies through computational methods and data sciences. Despite individual variations across groups and media types, the underlying social psychological mechanisms of how, why, and under what circumstances these stereotypes influence audiences has been theorized more broadly. Cultivation, social identity theory, priming, framing, social cognitive theory, and exemplification are popular theoretical perspectives used within media stereotyping literature. Several experimental studies have examined the effects of mediated racial/ethnic stereotypes on individual users’ attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. The lion’s share of these studies has demonstrated that negative stereotypes shape majority audiences’ real-world stereotypical perceptions, social judgments, intergroup emotions, and even public policy opinions. More important, media stereotypes can have negative effects on communities of color by affecting their self-concept, self-esteem, and collective identity in adverse ways. Recent studies have also parsed out the differences between positive and negative stereotypes. They demonstrate that even so-called positive stereotypes often have harmful effects on marginalized groups. Media scholars are increasingly interested in practical solutions to address media stereotypes. For instance, one content-based strategy has been to study the effects of counter-stereotypic portrayals that challenge stereotypes by presenting stereotype-disconfirming information. Other related measures are encouraging positive role models, implementing media literacy education, and supporting alternative media spaces that are more racially inclusive. The recent scholarship suggests that it is important to be intentional about centering social change, amplifying the voices of marginalized groups, and working toward reducing systemic racism in the media industry and research.

Article

Racial Culture Wars in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore  

Daniel P.S. Goh

Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are ethnically and religious diverse countries in Southeast Asia that had established postcolonial multiracial compacts to counter the legacies of colonial racism and pursued inclusive nation-building under authoritarian conditions in the early decades after independence. This contained the rise of political Islam among the majority Javanese and Malays in Indonesia and Malaysia, respectively, and secured racial harmony in Singapore despite the political and economic dominance of the Chinese majority. Political liberalization after the Asian financial crisis and the democratization of the public sphere with the Internet have led to the decline of the multiracial compacts and the emergence of culture wars between conservatives and progressives over the nation’s values and future. Renewed Islamization pits conservative against moderate Muslims in everyday life and new media spaces while putting heavy pressure on Chinese and Christian minorities as well as the secular state in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Singapore, the spread of conservative Christianity among the Chinese and conservative Islam among the Malays pits conservatives against progressives in the growing civil society sector championing secularism and liberalization in racial, gender, and sexual discourse, with all sides using new media for political mobilization. These trends intersect with the politics of race and racism unleashed by the decline of the multiracial compacts, engendering racial culture wars mixing race and religion. The recent pervasive spread of social media has intensified the conflicts of the racial culture wars, leading to intergroup violence, prosecution of individuals for insulting religious sensitivities, and heated accusations of racism and of religious and racial sensitivities being offended. Social media is also changing the dynamics of the racial culture wars, collapsing the boundary between the offline world of face-to-face interaction and the online world of viral realities, causing casual everyday remarks and actions to become national controversies. Efforts to promote antiracism and multiculturalism need to move into the social media space in creative and relevant ways to counter the racial culture wars.

Article

Diffusion of Innovations from the West and Their Influences on Medical Education in Japan  

Mariko Morishita and Miho Iwakuma

In the 19th century, Western medicine spread widely worldwide and ultimately diffused into Japan. It had a significant impact on previous Japanese medical practice and education; it is, effectively, the foundation of contemporary Japanese medicine. Although Western medicine seems universal, its elements and origins as it has spread to other countries show localized differences, depending on the context and time period. Cultural fusion theory proposes that the culture of a host and influence of a newcomer conflict, merge, or transform each other. It could shed light on how Japanese medicine and medical education have been influenced by and coevolved with Western medicine and culture. Cultural fusion is not assimilation or adaptation; it has numerous churning points where the traditional and the modern, the insider (indigenous) and the outsider (immigrant), mix and compete. In Japan, medicine has a long history, encountering medical practices from neighboring countries, such as China and Korea in ancient times, and Western countries in the Modern period. The most drastic changes happened in the 19th century with strong influence from Germany before World War II and in the 20th century from the impact of the United States after World War II. Recently, the pressure of globalization could be added as one influence. Since cultural fusion is ubiquitous in Japanese medical fields, examples showing how the host and newcomers interact and merge can be found among many aspects of Japanese medicine and medical education, such as curricula, languages, systems, learning styles, assessment methods, and educational materials. In addition, cultural fusion is not limited to influence from the West but extends to and from neighboring Asian countries. Examining cases and previous studies on cultural fusion in Japanese medicine and medical education could reveal how the typical notion that Japan pursued Westernization of its medicine and medical education concealed the traditions and the growth of the local education system. The people involved in medicine in the past and the present have struggled to integrate the new system with their previous ideals to improve their methods, which could be further researched.

Article

LGBTQ Youth Cultures and Social Media  

Olu Jenzen

Research has established that access to the Internet and social media is vital for many lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer + (LGBTQ+) young people. LGBTQ+ social media youth cultures form across platforms and are shaped by a range of media affordances and vernaculars. LGBTQ+ youth use social media for self-expression, connecting with other LGBTQ+ young people, entertainment, activism, and collecting and curating information. Through a digital cultural studies approach, the essay discusses themes of LGBTQ+ youth identity work, communities and networked publics, and youth voice to explore how digital and social media imaginaries and practices produce new forms of socialites. It situates LGBTQ+ youth social media practices in relation to the affective economy and algorithmic exclusion of platforms, as well as in relation to neoliberal paradigms of gender and sexuality and homotolerance.

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

Cinema, Ethnicity, and Nation-Building in the Sakha Republic (Russia) and Kazakhstan  

Adelaide McGinity-Peebles

In the post-Soviet era, ethnocultural identity and nationhood have been dominant themes in the cinemas of Kazakhstan and the Sakha Republic (officially known as the Republic of Sakha, or Yakutia). Despite their different sociopolitical contexts (unlike the Sakha Republic, which remains a federal republic within the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan has been an independent nation for 30 years), both were colonies within the Russian Empire and were later subjected to Soviet rule. Furthermore, both cinemas are keen to project their visions of collective identity to local, national, and global audiences. Sakha cinema seeks to consolidate and promote an ethnocultural Sakha identity against the encroaching presence of Russian culture in the republic, resulting in the manifest absence of Russian culture within its films. The growth, promotion, and success of Sakha art house cinema (which focuses on Sakha history, customs, and folklore) in recent years is a central part of its strategy to appeal to global audiences, allowing it to bypass the national (i.e., Russia), both offscreen and onscreen. Debates around post-Soviet nationhood remain an important aspect of the political discourse in Kazakhstan, which is reflected in the country’s cinema. Despite operating within an authoritarian regime, cinema remains one of the few areas in which sociopolitical discord can be articulated in Kazakhstan. Nation-building narratives have centered around Kazakhstan’s pre-imperial history and the Kazakh steppe, and these have likewise been a preoccupation of state-sponsored cinema and its alternative since the 2000s. While Russia is not such an overt “other” in Kazakh cinema as it is in Sakha film, the fact that debates around post-Soviet Kazakh nationhood and society continue to dominate Kazakh cinema three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union suggests that its colonial past nonetheless remains a significant context against which the Kazakh nation is imagined.