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Article

Martha Augoustinos and Simon Goodman

The recent emergence of discursive psychological approaches has challenged the dominance of cognitive and structural models of language that theorize it as an abstract and coherent system of meanings. Epistemologically informed by social constructionism, discursive psychological approaches examine how language is actually used in everyday formal and informal talk or discourse. Discourse (both written text and talk) is treated as a social practice that is both central to understanding and constructing social reality and oriented to the practical concerns of everyday life. Discursive psychological approaches to intergroup communication have produced a large body of research examining everyday informal talk and institutional discourse on intergroup relations in liberal democratic societies. This work has focused primarily on the text and talk of majority group members and powerful elites about matters pertaining to race, immigration, ethnicity, and gender. How speakers attend to and account for group differences in discourse is perceived to be intimately related to the reproduction and legitimation of social inequalities in liberal democratic societies. This body of research has identified common and pervasive patterns of talk by majority group members that are seen as contributing to the continued marginalization and social exclusion of minorities. These discursive patterns include: positive self and negative other presentation, denials of prejudice, discursive deracialization, and using liberal arguments to justify and legitimate inequality.

Article

Education in society occurs across both formal and informal spheres of communication exchange. It extends from schools to diverse cultural apparatuses such as the mainstream media, alternative screen cultures, the Internet, and other spaces actively involved in the construction of knowledge, values, modes of identification, and agency itself. The modern era is shaped by a public pedagogy rooted in neoliberal capitalism that embraces consumer culture as the primary mechanism through which to express personal agency and identity. Produced and circulated through a depoliticizing machinery of fear and consumption, the cultural focus on the pursuit of individual desires rather than public responsibilities has led to a loss of public memory, democratic dissent, and political identity. As the public sphere collapses into the realm of the private, the bonds of mutual dependence have been shredded along with the public spheres that make such bonds possible. Freedom is reduced to a private matter divorced from the obligations of social life and politics only lives in the immediate. The personal has become the only sphere of politics that remains. The rise of the selfie as a mode of public discourse and self-display demands critical scrutiny in terms of how it is symptomatic of the widespread shift toward market-driven values and a surveillance culture, increasingly facilitated by ubiquitous, commercial forms of digital technology and social media. Far from harmless, the unexamined “selfie” can be viewed as an example of how predatory technology-based capitalism socializes people in a way that encourages not only narcissism and anti-social indifference, but active participation in a larger authoritarian culture defined by a rejection of social bonds and cruelty toward others. As with other forms of cultural and self-expression, the selfie—when placed in alternative, collective frameworks—can also become a tool for engaging in struggles over meaning. Possibilities for social change that effectively challenges growing inequality, atomization, and injustice under neoliberalism can only emerge from the creation of new, broad-ranging sites of pedagogy capable of building new political communities and drawing attention to anti-democratic structures throughout the broader society.

Article

Alexander Sink and Dana Mastro

The media have long been criticized for the manner in which racial and ethnic groups have been (and continue to be) represented in its content. Characterizations of Latinos are no exception. Issues regarding portrayals of Latinos in the media have garnered considerable attention over the decades, prompting the establishment of the National Latino Media Council in 1999. The self-stated mission of this conglomeration of 12 Latino civil rights and advocacy groups has been to increase Latino employment in media industries and reduce the stereotypical depictions that harm Latino communities. If current social scientific evidence is any indication, the objectives of this organization remain as timely and socially important today as they were when the organization was formed. Existing quantitative research concerning the prevalence and quality of portrayals of Latinos in the media, as well as studies examining the effects of exposure to this content, reveal predominately harmful patterns of results (which, of course, depend on the quality and nature of the content). Content analyses that have documented representations of Latinos in media across various platforms conclude that Latinos are underrepresented in the media and frequently presented in stereotypical ways, though blatant stereotypes appear to be declining in the most recent examinations of these portrayals. Empirical investigations into the effects of exposure to these characterizations (on both Latino and non-Latino audiences) demonstrate that media images can influence audience members in terms of numerous cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral outcomes. Importantly (and unsurprisingly), there appear to be substantive differences in how Latino and non-Latino audiences react to such messages. Although many studies of media effects in this context are focused on the harmful implications of exposure (e.g., stereotyping, discrimination, the exacerbation of interethnic tensions), a small body of work also demonstrates that pro-social outcomes can emerge based on media exposure, especially (but not exclusively) in the contexts of health, education, and political decision-making.

Article

Tenzin Dorjee

Refugees and diasporas are part and parcel of today’s accelerating global diversity and domestic diversity changes that we encounter in social interactions. These terms conjure up images in our mind of individuals who belong to certain social groups in host environments. Basically, their social identities define who they are and how they are treated by others in social interactions. While there is extensive research on refugees and diasporas in three separate but interrelated domains—refugee studies, diaspora studies, and immigrant studies, less scholarly attention has been paid to the conceptual distinctions between refugees and diasporas, among other things. The complexity of refugees and diasporas is explored along with some implications. Most studies are atheoretical in nature, and an intergroup perspective can provide insights into how they engage in identity negotiation and intergroup communication adaptation to host environments. Thus, a theoretical discussion is provided of how refugees and diasporas face the challenges to preserve, maintain, and further their distinctive social identities, and also adapt to the new environment by way of negotiating their social identity complexity using intergroup communication strategies.

Article

At the heart of cancer communication research is an effort both to increase knowledge and to identify practical strategies for improving cancer communication and for improving prevention and control of cancer, as well as for addressing cancer care issues from theoretical and applied communication perspectives across the continuum of cancer care. One important theoretical approach to consider in cancer communication science is taking an intergroup approach to cancer care. The challenge moving forward is to develop cancer communication research programs that combine important theoretical and applied perspectives, focusing on prevention strategies that can help reduce cancer risk, incidence, morbidity, and mortality, and to promote the highest quality of life for people of every age and every background.

Article

Death is inevitable: We witness the death of others and eventually face our own. However, people in general view death as taboo and tend to avoid discussing their own or others’ mortality. A cultural shift has been taking place in the developed world so that dying has become an increasingly medicalized process, where death is viewed as something to be stopped or delayed instead of accepted as part of a natural life cycle. As family members are less responsible for the dying process, communication about death and dying becomes a sensitive topic and is often ignored or avoided. Lack of this meaningful communication can lead to stereotypes about the dying person, conflict among family members, and fear of death. Talking about death and dying, if done correctly, can have a positive impact on health-care delivery and the bereavement process. Incorporating knowledge of intergroup communication with a lifespan approach can deepen communication effectiveness about death and dying. People’s group identities can play important roles in the conversation about death and dying. As children and adolescents, people can encounter the death of older family members (e.g., grandparents) and the communication here can be intergenerational. Due to age differences, younger adults may feel uncomfortable to react to older adults’ painful disclosure of death and the bereavement process. During adulthood, people deal with the death uncertainty for themselves and their loved ones. The communication in this period can be intergenerational and inter-occupational, especially when there are third parties involved (e.g., medical providers or legal authorities). Death and dying communication tend to happen mostly, albeit not always, during the later lifespan, as time of death approaches, among older adults, family members, and medical providers. These conversations include advanced care planning (i.e., arrangements and plans about the dying process and after death), medical decision making, palliative care, and final talks. Increasing the awareness of death and dying can help to normalize the dying process.

Article

Travis L. Dixon, Kristopher R. Weeks, and Marisa A. Smith

Racial stereotypes flood today’s mass media. Researchers investigate these stereotypes’ prevalence, from news to entertainment. Black and Latino stereotypes draw particular concern, especially because they misrepresent these racial groups. From both psychological and sociological perspectives, these misrepresentations can influence how people view their racial group as well as other groups. Furthermore, a racial group’s lack of representation can also reduce the group’s visibility to the general public. Such is the case for Native Americans and Asian Americans. Given mass media’s widespread distribution of black and Latino stereotypes, most research on mediated racial portrayals focuses on these two groups. For instance, while black actors and actresses appear often in prime-time televisions shows, black women appear more often in situational comedies than any other genre. Also, when compared to white actors and actresses, television casts blacks in villainous or despicable roles at a higher rate. In advertising, black women often display Eurocentric features, like straight hair. On the other hand, black men are cast as unemployed, athletic, or entertainers. In sports entertainment, journalists emphasize white athletes’ intelligence and black athletes’ athleticism. In music videos, black men appear threatening and sport dark skin tones. These music videos also sexualize black women and tend to emphasize those with light skin tones. News media overrepresent black criminality and exaggerate the notion that blacks belong to the undeserving poor class. Video games tend to portray black characters as either violent outlaws or athletic. While mass media misrepresent the black population, it tends to both misrepresent and underrepresent the Latino population. When represented in entertainment media, Latinos assume hypersexualized roles and low-occupation jobs. Both news and entertainment media overrepresent Latino criminality. News outlets also overly associate Latino immigration with crime and relate Latino immigration to economic threat. Video games rarely portray Latino characters. Creators may create stereotypic content or fail to fairly represent racial and ethnic groups for a few reasons. First, the ethnic blame discourse in the United States may influence creators’ conscious and unconscious decision-making processes. This discourse contends that the ethnic and racial minorities are responsible for their own problems. Second, since stereotypes appeal to and are easily processed by large general audiences, the misrepresentation of racial and ethnic groups facilitates revenue generation. This article largely discusses media representations of blacks and Latinos and explains the implications of such portrayals.

Article

Sik Hung Ng and Fei Deng

Five dynamic language–power relationships in communication have emerged from critical language studies, sociolinguistics, conversation analysis, and the social psychology of language and communication. Two of them stem from preexisting powers behind language that it reveals and reflects, thereby transferring the extralinguistic powers to the communication context. Such powers exist at both the micro and macro levels. At the micro level, the power behind language is a speaker’s possession of a weapon, money, high social status, or other attractive personal qualities—by revealing them in convincing language, the speaker influences the hearer. At the macro level, the power behind language is the collective power (ethnolinguistic vitality) of the communities that speak the language. The dominance of English as a global language and international lingua franca, for example, has less to do with its linguistic quality and more to do with the ethnolinguistic vitality of English-speakers worldwide that it reflects. The other three language–power relationships refer to the powers of language that are based on a language’s communicative versatility and its broad range of cognitive, communicative, social, and identity functions in meaning-making, social interaction, and language policies. Such language powers include, first, the power of language to maintain existing dominance in legal, sexist, racist, and ageist discourses that favor particular groups of language users over others. Another language power is its immense impact on national unity and discord. The third language power is its ability to create influence through single words (e.g., metaphors), oratories, conversations and narratives in political campaigns, emergence of leaders, terrorist narratives, and so forth.

Article

How can one sustain a conversation, let alone maintain effective communication, in a country whose residents speak numerous languages? India defies the conventional wisdom of the monolithic model of communication—one language, one nation—which views linguistic pluralism as problematic and counterintuitive. The monolingual mindset equates multingualism with linguistic, societal, and political fragmentation and, consequently, a serious threat to national unity and economic prosperity. Based on an in-depth study of language and communication in India, it is argued that such a narrow and unnatural mindset is outmoded. In particular, a reconceptualization of multilingual realities in India provides ample evidence in support of communication accommodation theory. The approach adopted to capture the dynamics of Indian multilingualism centers on the tools and mechanism of natural pluralism, which hold a key to intergroup and intercultural communication. Four linguistic networks of communication are described, following both the top-down and bottom-up approaches to multilingual communication. Additionally, it is revealed that three giant languages, the linguistic pillars of India—Sanskrit, Persian, and English—played, and continue to play, a central role in determining the salient feature of Indian multilingualism—its vitality and sustainability is achieved through diffusion of diverse languages and sociocultural contexts of communication. Additionally, literature and other forces, such as globalization (precolonial and postcolonial trade), powerful media and entertainment (e.g., Bollywood films and regional film media), internal migration, and education policies, among other factors, further strengthened the foundation of multilingualism and language accommodation. Various manifestations of multiple identities are described in the context of language naming and language reporting in the census. Finally, the salient linguistic and social contexts of Indian multilingualism are identified, while focusing on speakers’ language choices and language use grounded in individual/family, social, and political multilingualism, which ensured an uninterrupted tradition of plurilingualism. The complex interplay between bilingual verbal behavior—including language shifting and language mixing—with language attitudes and language rivalry is instructive in gaining insights into both language maintenance and language death. In that process, it is revealed that one of the salient features of Indian multilingualism is its natural and sustainable character, rather than a transient trend leading to language death. What is even more remarkable is that it is not imposed by language ideology and rigorous language planning by the government. To best characterize the multifaceted dimensions of multilingual communication in India, this chapter focuses on the contemporary and historical study of Indian languages and their spread in diasporic contexts, both intranational (e.g., from North to South India) and international. An attempt has also been made to uncover dimensions of multilingualism that have been neglected in the communication landscape of India (e.g., empowering of rural varieties of speech). For comparison and contrast purposes, other countries are also referred to.