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Chinese Diaspora and Social Media: Negotiating Transnational Space  

Wanning Sun

The period since about the late 1980s has witnessed the phenomenal ascent of the People’s Republic of China as a political, economic, and military power on the global stage. China’s rise has engendered an earnest, if perhaps not well-executed, agenda to promote a more attractive image of the country. In this period China has also experienced a rapid escalation in outbound migration to various parts of the world, with a small number of countries in the global West emerging as the preferred destinations for Chinese migrants, and, in some cases, China becoming their biggest source of new migrants. In the United States, China replaced Mexico as the top sending country in 2018. In Canada, mainland China has taken over from Hong Kong and Taiwan as the largest source of Chinese immigration, while in Australia, China now has the second-largest migrant population behind the United Kingdom, and has only recently slipped into second position behind India as the nation’s leading source of new immigrants. These developments have made China’s diaspora the biggest in the world. In the eyes and minds of the Chinese government, Chinese migrants are important potential assets in its efforts to push its global soft power agenda. The period of accelerated outbound migration from China coincided with the emergence of first the internet, and then digital media—in particular, the most popular Chinese social media platform, WeChat (Weixin in Chinese). Against the backdrop of these developments at the macro level, the topic of social media and the Chinese diaspora becomes a question of considerable significance. Some analysts argue that the dramatically enlarged mainland Chinese diaspora has effectively become an instrument of China’s soft power agenda, while others point out the positive role that members of this group play in their host communities. In particular, they highlight the potential of Chinese-language social media—and in particular WeChat, which is widely used by Chinese people both within and outside China—to have a beneficial impact on Chinese immigrants’ prospects for social integration in the countries where they now reside. The pursuit of these questions entails a brief foray into a number of research areas, including the Chinese diaspora, the history and transformation of Chinese-language diasporic media, the infrastructural and regulatory framework of WeChat, and public diplomacy via diaspora. Addressing these questions also has the benefit of broadening, and possibly enriching, the concepts of digital diaspora, on the one hand, and digital citizenship, on the other.

Article

Postcolonial Media Theory  

Juan Llamas-Rodriguez and Viviane Saglier

The postcolonial intellectual tradition has proved crucial to articulating cultural, film, and media formations from the geographical and theoretical perspective of (formerly) colonized people and countries. The object of media studies has expanded significantly beyond the screen in the past decades, including a renewed attention to non-visual media and an emerging attention to the material conditions of possibility for media representations. In this new mediascape, postcolonial theories and concepts potentially repoliticize media theory by questioning Western assumptions about technological progress and innovation. Postcolonial theories of media force a rethink of the tenets of traditional media theories while, at the same time, media theories demonstrate the centrality of media, in all its forms, to understanding the postcolonial condition.

Article

Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Industries  

John Sinclair

The term cultural industries was first coined in the 1980s as a comprehensive means to understand production, distribution, and consumption in the traditional information and entertainment industries—press, radio, and television—and others such as film and recorded music. Closely related industries, such as advertising, marketing, and public relations, were also included. With the subsequent popular embrace and commercialization of the internet, especially the social media platforms, the concept was necessarily expanded to incorporate such “new” media of the digital age. The relevance of these cultural industries for racial and ethnic groups living within the nations of the developed world is significant in at least two contexts: national and transnational. Within the frame of the nation, the issues concern the status of these groups as minorities; and in a global perspective, the groups come to be seen as members of transnational communities, with ties both to a putative nation of origin and to their counterparts in other nations. Most theoretical and research attention has focused on media representations—that is, on how racial and ethnic minorities are portrayed in the content of the cultural industries’ outputs, seen both in a national context, such as the perpetuation of stereotypes in news and television series, and globally, as in film. Yet such a focus on representations tends to position minorities as passive victims of the media. Less common is research in which minorities are viewed as active agents producing their own information and entertainment, as they do, with local, national, and even transnational distribution. Minorities’ own media can range from local community radio to globally available television channels and internet platforms serving vast diasporas, the largest of these being those of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and the Chinese-speaking world (the “Sinosphere”). Each of these provides a case in which the industrial structure of the huge home media market provides the basis for far-flung consumption in all those countries in which members of the respective ethnicities have settled. In situations in which they attain a certain critical mass, such racial and ethnic minorities form a market for the cultural industries and consumer goods industries more broadly. Also to be taken into account is the phenomenon of racial and ethnic minorities having an impact on the cultural industries of the dominant cultures of the nations in which they dwell. The most striking case in that regard is how African American popular music made the profound cross-over from segregated radio stations and live venues to infuse the commercial mainstream of music recording and performance in the United States and, ultimately, the world. Although such creativity is valued, there remains a diversity issue about the actual participation of racial and other minorities in executive, management, and production roles in the major cultural industries.

Article

Cultural Productions of Queer Asia  

Shinsuke Eguchi

Queer Asia, which critiques the multidimensional flows of power (e.g., globalization, market capitalism, state capitalism, and/or Western queer formation), is a process of reimagining historically specific and culturally saturated nuances of minoritized sexualities and genders in and across Asia and Asian diasporas. This process redirects attention to cultural productions of Queer Asia as disjunctive modernities. By this means, contemporary global capitalism enables a paradoxically contested space of temporality through which new geopolitical imaginaries of minoritized sexualities and genders can emerge. Consequently, Queer Asia troubles, remixes, and remaps how the logic of Whiteness that operates as a global, colonial, imperial, and capitalist power homogenizes culturally heterogeneous paradigms of minoritized sexualities and genders through LGBTQIA+ identities, discourses, and politics. Three topics—identifications and affinities, relationalities and spatialities, and media and popular culture—represent indefinite and unlimited possibilities of Queer Asia. Accordingly, examining these topics in light of the cultural productions of Queer Asia provides possible pathways to expand the current circumferences of queer studies in communication, which is known as a very White, Western, and US-American discipline.

Article

Postcolonial Approaches to Communication and Culture  

Rashmi Luthra

The decolonization of nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the late 20th century made possible the arrival of postcolonial academics who engaged in a critical and thoroughgoing analysis of the ways in which colonial histories have affected and continue to influence not only our understanding of phenomena, such as culture, but have influenced the very frames and processes of the creation and dissemination of knowledge about phenomena such as culture. While this work was initiated by postcolonial scholars of literature, postcolonial theory and frameworks have been adopted by several allied fields, including the communication field. Since the 1990s, communication scholars have been using postcolonial frameworks to deconstruct the colonial and neocolonial representations and tropes present in news and popular culture discourses. They have also brought communication theory to bear upon key concepts within postcolonial study, such as hybridity and diaspora. In the mid-1990s communication scholars joined the larger debate on the continued relevance of the postcolonial framework, and as with postcolonial scholars in other fields, they have continued to insist that the interruptive and political impetus of postcolonial theory provides an important entry point for the study of a world still shot through with colonial and neocolonial power relations. Although there is still a lot of scope to make the postcolonial approach more central to the communication field and its subfields, communication scholars have continued to use postcolonial theory to shed important insight on several vital communication issues. Feminist scholars of communication have been at the forefront of the effort to increase awareness and use of postcolonial frameworks for the study of communication.

Article

Pacific Media  

Tara Ross

Pacific media are viewed here as the media of the Pacific region, an area that covers vast cultural, economic, and geographic differences. Like the region, Pacific media are diverse, ranging from large media systems in the bigger island groups to little more than government-produced newsletters in smaller island states. Pacific media face unique challenges, with their small yet diverse and often scattered audiences, which, inevitably, influence both their media practices and content. Like all media, they also face the contemporary challenges of rapid technological change and shifts in audience tastes. There has been relatively little research on Pacific media (at least compared with media elsewhere), but what there is demonstrates a range of media systems, where radio is important and web and social media are growing in influence. Checks on media freedom have been an issue in some Pacific states, as has the influence of foreign ownership and content. Cultural norms around community and social obligation appear to be influential in shaping both the structure of some Pacific media (which are notable for their commercial/community hybridity) and a close relationship with their audiences. In terms of academic scholarship, there is a need for more empirical research to build on earlier works—to fill gaps in understanding about Pacific audiences and their evolving transnational media practices, and the mediascapes of underexplored island states, and to map contemporary media practices in the face of rapid change. There is also a need for more research that can build local theory about Pacific media, particularly research by Pacific researchers that is grounded in Indigenous Pacific perspectives.

Article

Queer Migration and Digital Media  

Andrew DJ Shield

Migration—whether international or internal, forced or voluntary—intertwines with digital media, especially for sexual minorities and trans people who seek out platforms catering to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) people. Online networks foster transnational flows of ideas and information, which can enable international travel. The ways that queer people interact on digital media in the 21st century have emerged not only from decades of online subcultures—such as 1990s chatrooms and profile sites—but also from predigital media cultures, such as printed personal ads in gay and lesbian journals. The internet accelerated the growth of media platforms and queer international networks, both of which continued to develop with the advent of mobile phone apps and the proliferation of social media. Online media—from blogs to hashtags to “hook-up” apps—can relate to all aspects of the migration process. Before, during, and after a move, queer migrants access online media for information about LGBTQ laws and norms or for help with the logistics of migration. When in a new country, queer migrants use online media to try to connect with locals. During these interactions, migrants might encounter forms of xenophobia, racism, and exclusion. In spite or because of these experiences, queer migrants utilize digital media to build new networks, such as queer diasporic communities aimed at social or political activities.