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The Ethnic Undercurrents in the Ethiopian Media  

Terje Skjerdal

The ethnic aspect of Ethiopian media development can be described in four phases: During the Ethiopian empire, a lasting media policy was established reflecting Amharic hegemony. In the years of the communist Derg regime (1974–1991), cultural origin was suppressed for the sake of political control. With the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) (1991–2018), the media sector developed through emerging ethnic representation and regional self-governance. After Abiy Ahmed came to power and transformed the EPRDF into the Prosperity Party (2018–), media markets became freer and ethnic frictions surfaced. Ethnicity transpires as an undercurrent in all of Ethiopia’s media history as well as in newsrooms. The situation is reflective of a society of more than 80 ethnic groups and a similar number of languages. The political history of the country can be read as a contestation between different regions and peoples and between ethno-nationalistic and unitarian preferences. Fault lines in the media sector can be understood in similar terms. Ethnification of the media augmented after 2018, witnessed not least by the rise of ethno-nationalistic media channels established by the returned digital diaspora. The armed conflict which broke out between the federal government and the Tigray region in 2020 amplified the ethnic discord in the media. The media in Tigray pledged allegiance to its region, while the federal media remained loyal to the central government. Various newsrooms and departments in Ethiopia news organizations appear as professional monocultures where groups among staff have a similar ethnic background. The identity question has gained little attention in Ethiopian media analysis, but recent studies have put the issue on the research agenda.

Article

The Impact of Televangelism on Christian Beliefs and Cultural Values in Tanzania  

Kaanaeli Kaale and Joyce Bazira

Religion is a collection of beliefs and rituals derived from societal and cultural norms and practices to create a bond with God. Africans practiced traditional religions before the 19th century, adopting modern Christian beliefs that spread via radio and newspapers. The development of information and communications technology enabled Christians in Africa, especially in Tanzania, to use the media to increase religious freedom and start modern African Traditional Religion (ATR) churches. the past two decades, African scholars have observed the proliferation of the media landscape from a more holistic perspective to understand both the positive and negative relationships between religions and the media, generally used to promote ATR. ATR combines beliefs from different African cultures, such as worshipping spirits, the sun, trees, stones, and other things based on their location. Televangelists, which mainly include prophets and apostles, have used the media extensively to persuade people to become more religious in traditional ways. Televangelism’s contribution to promoting ART beliefs among Christians has given rise to cyber churches, which have contributed to changes in church shape, structure, textual content, and social behavior. Scholars use culture and critical theories to understand the unique ways in which televangelists use the media to develop neo-Pentecostal groups that depart from the Protestant and Catholic Churches. Three critical concepts relate to a better understanding of televangelists’ media use: (a) televangelism’s promotion of African Indigenous religion among Christians, (b) televangelism’s influence on modernist changes in churches, and (c) Christians’ perception of the consequences of televangelism among Christians. In general, discussing the media’s impact brings ethnically diverse groups together to solve social–economic issues and advance ATR in Jesus Christ’s name.

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Media and Ethnolinguistic Minorities: Framing the Tonga and Nambya in Selected Zimbabwean Mainstream Newspapers  

Albert Chibuwe and Phillip Mpofu

Studies that focus on the framing of ethnolinguistic minorities in Zimbabwe’s mainstream media are scarce. These ethnic groups—among them the Tonga and Nambya—are generally marginalized in everything. Not only are they geographically located on the margins of Zimbabwe but they are also located on the fringes of political, economic, sociocultural, and economic development. The Tonga are located in Kariba, Binga, and parts of Gokwe, while the Nambya are located around the Hwange area and areas around Victoria Falls. Prior to the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act of 2013, Tonga, Nambya, and other indigenous languages were classified as “minority languages,” while Ndebele and Shona were the two national languages, and English was the official language. In the new constitution, the formerly marginalized languages are now accorded the same status as the officially recognized languages of English, Shona, and Ndebele. Hence, the status of Nambya and Tonga shifted from “minority” to “previously marginalized” languages. Though the terms officially recognized languages and previously marginalized languages are somewhat vague and indecisive, the enactment of the new constitution increased interest in the so-called previously marginalized ethnolinguistic minorities. For instance, Tonga was elevated to an examinable subject in public examinations at Grade 7, Ordinary level and Advanced level. Similarly, Nambya, Kalanga, Venda, and Tonga were introduced at the degree level at some Zimbabwean universities, while in the mainstream media, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation introduced news in some previously marginalized languages. However, this did not alter the framing of Tonga and Nambya ethnolinguistic minorities in mainstream media. Whereas the Tonga received more coverage in The Chronicle and The Herald than Nambya, the quality of coverage was the same for both ethnic groups in both newspapers. Four broad frames were utilized and these are: the education frame, the culture frame, the not-so-subtle marginalization frame, and the development frame. These frames perpetuate long-held stereotypes about the Tonga and Nambya. Furthermore, the stories about the two ethnic groups were mainly categorized as opinion, local, and entertainment. This creates the illusion that no Tonga story is worthy to be categorized under national news, business news, or political news. It builds into and reinforces the marginalization of the Tonga and Nambya as backward and stuck in the past. Implied is that the Tonga and Nambya are insignificant to the national developmental agenda in Zimbabwe.

Article

Media Depictions of Sexual Attitudes  

Keren Eyal

Over the last 3 decades, content analyses have documented large amounts of sexual content in mainstream entertainment media, on television and streaming services as well as in films, music, and video games. Most sexual content is conveyed through conversations about sex and, to a somewhat lesser extent, through the portrayal of sexual behaviors, primarily passionate kissing and suggestive actions. Attitudes—evaluations linking attributes to objects—are often presented in the media and may also be the outcomes of media exposure to sexual content. In the context of sexuality, some commonly studied attitudes include attitudes toward casual or extrarelational sexual encounters, attitudes toward contraception use, and attitudes toward sexual abuse or the acceptance of rape myths. Among the most prominent theoretical perspectives examining the links between media exposure and audience outcomes are theories of script building and activation, theories of a worldview cultivation, and theories of cognitive learning of social behaviors, and the attitudes and emotions that underlie them. Sexual attitudes can be conveyed through mainstream entertainment media content in diverse ways. First, the mere presence of certain topics in the content (e.g., casual sexual encounters) might convey an attitude about the behavior’s importance and relevance to people’s lives. At times, such inclusive depictions can empower audience members. The opposite—the exclusion of certain sexual topics from media content (e.g., sexual minority characters) might undermine the serious attitude with which they should be addressed. Second, attitudes may be conveyed through the focus placed upon them in the mediated content. Sexual health, recognized as intrinsically associated with sexual behaviors in the real world, is largely missing from media depictions. The rise in the prevalence of sexual crime storylines, especially in television law-and-order crime drama series, has introduced diversity in the attitudes conveyed toward this topic in the media. Sexual consent is another topic that has received more attention in entertainment media in the last couple of decades; the attitudes most commonly depicted about sexual consent seem to be the minimization of its importance through the portrayal of either altogether absent or implicit and nonverbal consent cues. Third, sexual attitudes in mainstream entertainment content may be depicted through the portrayal of consequences of sexual references and behaviors and through the depiction of the emotions associated with them. Research finds that portrayals of sexual consequences are relatively rare in entertainment narratives but when present, they tend to focus on the emotional and negative outcomes of sex. Fourth, sexual attitudes are often depicted in the media in the context of humor. Humor in its many forms may communicate a lighthearted, discomfort-easing attitude toward sex, but it might also trivialize the behavior and endorse a less serious attitude toward the decisions it entails. Finally, sexual attitudes are often depicted through stereotypes in media content. Common stereotypes in entertainment media include the narrow and biased presentation of sexual minority characters, which tends to marginalize their sexuality and support a heteronormative attitude. Other stereotypes include sexual gender roles and the sexualization of female characters, both communicating demeaning and nonvalidating attitudes toward women and their sexuality.

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

North Korean Migration, Communication, and Identity  

Jay Song

For a multitude of economic, social, and environmental factors, a large number of North Koreans explored various migratory routes into and outward from China. An increasing number of these migrants eventually choose to settle in South Korea. Consequently, this development has led to significant ramifications individually and across South Korean society with regard to identity transformation, coethnic dynamics, and contemporary conceptualizations of nationhood, which ultimately affect potential reunification scenarios between the Koreas. This article critically reviews how North Korean migrants have transformed their identities through various interactions and communication with the Korean-Chinese, South Koreans, and Korean-Americans during their journeys from North Korea through China and Southeast Asia to South Korea, as well as the South Korean and Western media portrayals of North Koreans. The study utilizes existing literature on the topic, official statistics of North Korean arrivals in South Korea, and public polls on unification as well as the author’s own interviews of approximately 500 North Korean migrants in China and South Korea since 1999. It argues that while North Koreans in South Korea have successfully transformed their legal identity from the socialist northern to the capitalist southern citizenship, their socioethnic identities are still in the making. Coethnic tensions among Koreans with different nationalities have formed a kind of hierarchical nationhood among them and placed them in a certain socioeconomic order. This hierarchy and othering among ethnic Koreans based on birthplace and residence has important policy implications for any future unification scenario. Younger South Koreans have ambivalent attitudes toward North Koreans, taking a pragmatic economic approach to reunification as peace, rather than an ethnocentric national unity and political union.

Article

Queer Melodrama  

Cora Butcher-Spellman

Queer melodrama utilizes and reimagines the conventions of melodrama to tell stories by, for, and/or about queer people. Melodrama has been studied by scholars of communication, especially scholars of media and rhetoric. Itis also a transdisciplinary area of study with scholars in film, literature, media studies, cultural studies, and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies as well as disciplines associated with specific languages, cultures, geographies, and identities. The scholarship of queer melodrama coalesces around two primary areas of inquiry and research. First, queer melodrama scholarship engages substantially with the taxonomization and theorization of the genre. As a storytelling genre, melodrama appears in various types of media and rhetoric including film, television, literature, theater, and music. Scholars conceptualize the genre of queer melodrama in three main ways: generically in terms of characteristics, formulaically in terms of plot, and stylistically in terms of affect and aesthetic. Most definitions of melodrama focus on the portrayal of extreme emotions paired with a tragic climax—one ultimately resolved with a sudden, simple happy ending. Second, queer melodrama scholarship regularly grapples with the purposes, impacts, and weaknesses of the genre. Queer melodrama’s central purposes are storytelling, disruption, and critique. The genre has the potential to impact audiences by facilitating or encouraging emotional responses, awareness, empathy, hope, and imagination. While much queer melodrama scholarship focuses on defending the genre against dismissive, sexist criticism, scholars also critically examine the potentially negative and harmful political work of certain aspects or examples of queer melodrama. These scholarly critiques have established various problems with queer melodrama including exclusion, normativity, and assimilationism. Taken together, these areas of inquiry attest to the richness of queer melodrama for scholarly inquiry, audience consumption, and political work. Queer melodramas are vital sources for queer communication and rhetoric scholarship about media, affect, aesthetics, and genre.

Article

Race and Ethnicity in Post-Colonial Zimbabwean and Zambian Cinema  

Oswelled Ureke and Basil Hamusokwe

The article develops a postcolonial history of the cinemas of Zambia and Zimbabwe by examining the political economy of the countries’ screen media industries, as well as how issues of race and ethnicity are portrayed in their cinematic corpora. It employs race and ethnicity lenses to examine Zimbabwe’s and Zambia’s cinema economies. The chapter maps the racial and ethnic composition of the two countries’ cinema economies post–Central African Film Unit (CAFU) when indigenization, Africanization, and decolonization impetuses began taking root in economic enterprises. Informed by political economy and national cinema theories, this study utilizes a review of literature and archival material on post-independence film in Zambia and Zimbabwe, focusing on both structural issues and content. Neighbors Zimbabwe and Zambia are former British colonies that share cross-cultural commonalities, with some of the ethnic groups populating them, for instance the BaTonga, only being separated by the Zambezi River. The film histories of the two countries also have common foundations. During the colonial era, the CAFU operating in the two countries as well as Nyasaland (Malawi), produced films that were shown to “natives.” The films were produced by White officers and shown to Black Africans with the intent of making them subservient to the colonial project. Post-independence, the film industries in the two countries have taken different development trajectories in response to their respective postcolonial social, economic, and cultural specificities. Beyond 1964, the Zambian Information Services carried over the work of the CAFU in Zambia, while in post-1980 Zimbabwe, the Production Services had a similar mandate. However, the international growth of video-based production characterized by affordable technology has democratized the countries’ cinema economies and ushered in numerous experimental and sometimes community-based production initiatives. Those previously marginalized on economic, racial, or ethnic grounds from participating in cinematic production can now produce and disseminate their own art. Yet, the appeal of this demotic turn masks the racial and ethnic diversity (and sometimes inequality) in the countries’ screen media industries, which, in turn, have a direct influence on representational agency. The article also shows that film production endeavors have grown parallel to urban development, such as was the case in Zambia’s Copperbelt region and Harare in Zimbabwe, or sometimes along regional and ethnic lines, although such productions are often unproblematically grouped as national cinemas. The article further explains how racial and ethnic dynamics of the Zambian and Zimbabwean screen media industries influence the focus of their cinemas.

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

Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Communication in Africa: An Intersectional Perspective  

Kristin Skare Orgeret

When examining diversity in mediated spheres of communication, crucial questions to be asked would be whose stories are told and through which voices, to be relevant for the widest spectrum of a society and secure an informed citizenry. Approaching questions of access and representation in media and communication, it is valuable to allow for intersecting perspectives. Instead of the binary terms associated with power relations and oppression the intersectional model references the ability of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation (oppressions) to mutually construct one another and ensures a broader scope of relevant representations and mediated stories. Hence it is necessary to combine knowledge from several sources, such as the Négritude movement, feminism, and queer theories. An intersectional approach proves relevant when discussing African contexts where specific historical, cultural, and economic/political contexts play together and the populations are often complex and manifold, as, for example, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign and the media coverage of athlete Caster Semenya show.