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Decolonization and Globalization in Communication Studies  

Sinfree Makoni and Katherine A. Masters

Decolonial scholars are guided by alternative ways of thinking about language and communication that have existed for millennia but have gone unnoticed in scholarship. An approach to communication underwritten by the decolonial approach must be grounded in concepts that expand the repertoires of social emancipation that can constitute alternatives to neoliberalism through emancipatory scripts or social emancipation tropes. There are recent pockets of research in communication studies already working within or advocating decolonial, but such engagement with decoloniality within communication still lies at the fringes of the discipline, even though decolonial approaches can add rich lines of analysis to communication studies. The decolonial turn has the main goal of not only moving beyond, but also inviting relationality with the Western epistemological tradition, putting the Western canon into dialogue with non-Western epistemologies, and decolonizing the assumption of one single epistemic tradition from which to arrive at truth or universality. The decolonization of knowledge is active scholarship (praxis) that seriously considers subaltern racial, ethnic, gendered, and sexual spaces and bodies from the Global South to stop indigenous and subaltern epistemicide. To clarify, decolonial scholars of language and communication do not propose a decolonial universal truth against a modern/colonial one, nor do they adopt varying epistemologies and ontologies into theirs. Instead, they have the goal of building understanding across geopolitical relations. A non-ethnocentric decolonization of communication, then, would require engaging with the processes and products of globalization as entry points into acknowledging the communicative integrity of all positions held by humans within these processes.


Critical Perspectives on Humanitarian Discourses  

Marouf Hasian Jr.

Critical studies of humanitarian discourses involve the study of the arguments, claims, and evidence that are used to justify intervention or non-intervention in key local, regional, national, or international contexts. These discourses can take the form of arguing over whether we should practice isolationism and not intervene in the sovereign affairs of other countries, or they can take the form of deliberations over the transcend needs of populations that cope with myriad disasters. In some cases these discourses are produced by foreigners who believe that the less fortunate need to be rescued from their misery, while at other times humanitarian discourses can be used in discussions about the human rights of the disempowered. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), nation-states, celebrities, medical communications, and militaries are just a few of the rhetors that produce all of these humanitarian discourses.


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.”