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Mediating Multiculturalism in Postcolonial Southeast Asia  

Jason Vincent A. Cabañes

A nuanced understanding of how media matter in the diverse articulations of multiculturalism across the globe requires one to have a transnational sensibility. This is a scholarly disposition that entails being attuned to the role that different media platforms and genres play not only in how racial hierarchies of different societies are articulated, but also in how these hierarchies get entangled with each other. Although the literature about media and multiculturalism is already well established, it is often situated in the context of the West. These works understandably tend to be concerned with the mediation of multicultural issues that are most relevant to their situation, such as the legacies of empire and of settler colonialism. A transnational sensibility consequently necessitates an expansion of current discussions about media and multiculturalism beyond the West. Doing so can allow for a better understanding of how media get entwined with the distinct issues of cultural diversity that have emerged from a wider range of contexts. It also opens up an important vista from which to explore how the mediation of multicultural issues in different parts of the world might be linked to each other, and sometimes intimately so. A productive site to think through such a transnational sensibility to media and cultural diversity is the global cities of the Southeast Asian region. These places are exemplary of postcolonial multiculturalisms that are distinct from the kind of multiculturalism that can be found in the global cities of West. This article consequently juxtaposes two urban contexts that represent divergent approaches toward the mediation of colonially rooted cultural diversity. One is the city-state of Singapore, where there are overt public policies about managing plurality. The second is the Philippines capital of Metropolitan Manila (henceforth, Manila), where there is a general elision of public talk about plurality. The article takes a comparative lens to these two cities, assessing how their different mediations of postcolonial multiculturalism are entangled with broader global dynamics, including with each other.

Article

Perceptions of the Childfree  

Elizabeth A. Hintz and Rachel Tucker

Being voluntarily childless (i.e., “childfree”) is a growing trend in the United States and around the world. Although most childfree people know early in life that they do not wish to become parents, the decision to forgo having children is an ongoing process that requires childfree people to construct a life that deviates from the normative family life cycle. Increasing rates of voluntary childlessness is a trend spurred by a variety of shifting social, economic, and environmental factors. Yet despite the increasing normalcy of voluntary childlessness, childfree people (and especially childfree women) face social sanctions for deciding not to become parents, being broadly perceived more negatively than childless people (who do not have children but want them) and parents. Such sanctions include social confrontations in which others (e.g., family members) question or contest the legitimacy of their childfree identity. Media coverage of voluntary childlessness forwards the notion that motherhood and femininity are inseparable and that voluntary childlessness is an issue that primarily concerns and affects women. Furthermore, childfree people face discrimination in health care contexts when seeking voluntary sterilization and in workplace contexts when “family-friendly” policies create unequal distributions of labor for those without children. Members of the childfree community use the Internet to share resources and seek support to navigate challenging interactions with outsiders. Beyond this, although some studies have begun to interrogate the roles of geographic location, race, and sexual orientation in shaping the experience of voluntary childlessness, at present, a largely White, wealthy, able-bodied, cisgender, heteronormative, and Western view of this topic is still perpetuated in the literature.

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

Conflict and Newspapers (De)-Escalation of the North-South Polarization of Polio-Eradication in Nigeria: Implications for Sustainable Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding Initiatives  

Olusola Oyeyinka Oyewo and Ayanfeoluwa Oyewo

Since Nigeria’s inception as a nation in 1914, Nigerian society has been deeply polarized along a north-south dichotomy. This divide has resulted in a lot of conflicts between the north and the south. This divide manifested in various sectors of Nigerian society, including the media. The current media, especially the print media in Nigeria, are produced and published predominantly in the south, with a few in the north. As a result, the media constantly reproduce social norms, stereotypes, and prejudices from southern Nigeria to the chagrin of the North. Media researchers contend that the Nigerian media heighten the current pressure in the country through one-sided reporting dependent on religious, political, and social inclinations. Of the many conflicts that have plagued the nation, the focus here is the polio eradication crisis of 2013, which resulted in the deaths of health worker volunteers during a routine polio vaccine exercise. This violence was a direct result of vaccine refusals on religious grounds by people in northern Nigeria. These refusals were informed by claims that polio vaccines contained anti-fertility properties that were designed by the “West” to reduce the Muslim population of the world, beginning with northern Nigeria. Based on the peculiarities of the Nigerian print media, the coverage of the polio eradication controversy by two newspapers—Punch and Daily Trust—following the killings of the health workers is worth studying. Daily Trust is situated in northern Nigeria, while Punch is situated in the South. The decisions of these newspapers depend on the contention that the Nigerian press has been blamed for raising pressure in the country, since they see numerous parts of the Nigerian reality from the focal points of religious, political, and cultural biases. The locations of the newspapers determined their positioning in the struggle between the federal government and northern Nigeria related to the polio eradication initiative. Although Punch and Daily Trust newspapers are based in the South and North, respectively, by emphasizing the negativity of the North’s vaccine refusals and the killings of the health workers, they both contribute to the animosity between North and South in their representations. A study of the two may be useful to extrapolate the wider news media operations in Nigeria.

Article

Dark Participation: A Critical Overview  

Thorsten Quandt and Johanna Klapproth

The profound sociopolitical transformation processes that characterize the second decade of the 21st century have also led to a focus on new topics and a reconsideration of previously established approaches in communication studies. In particular, the academic discussion of online communication has drastically changed in tone and focus. While the new possibilities of online participation were initially described from a predominantly optimistic perspective stressing the high potential for deliberative democracy, work in communication studies at the end of the second decade of the 21st century paints a rather dystopian picture of the online world. The growing attention paid to problematic forms of user participation has led to various new concepts describing phenomena such as toxicity, disinformation, or hate speech. The concept of “dark participation” introduced by Thorsten Quandt takes up the profound change in perspective with a systematization of negative forms of participation in a unifying umbrella model. This generalistic model delineates the variants of dark participation according to five dimensions: the actors, the reasons for their behavior, the targets or objects of their participation, the intended audiences, and the structure of the process. In addition to this systematic categorization of negative participatory forms, the term dark participation also serves as a rhetorical device for commenting on the observable change in perspective: The original publication encourages a process of critical reflection on normativity in the discussion of participation and, by calling for more balance in the analysis of online participation, warns against reducing complex social communication phenomena to a one-sided positive or negative perspective. Since its initial publication, the concept of dark participation has served as a theoretical point of reference for various empirical studies. Due to its use as a rhetorical device and the critical examination of previous participation approaches, the original publication also stimulated an intensive discussion about the proposed concept. In addition to the critique regarding the theoretical assumptions and the distinction between “dark” and positive participatory forms, some authors also demand an extension, a different contextualization, or an elaboration of specific details. As a universal concept with a deliberate openness to such further delimitations, dark participation can serve as a starting point for theoretical extensions, especially in the research field of (digital) journalism and social media, and as an impulse for transfers to other related fields.

Article

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.

Article

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 Anthony 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.