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Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Racism in Soviet and Post-Soviet Ideology, Communication, and Practice  

Victor Shnirelman

A racist stance in contemporary Russia is rooted in the Soviet period. Yet, a favorable climate for its blossoming has emerged since the 1990s. Seemingly obsessed with a social class approach, Soviet Marxism’s attitude shifted over the last Soviet decades from social class to ethnicity, that is, from social and economic inequalities to cultural differences. Ethnic groups were viewed by both officials and scholars as well-defined entities with their original cultures and languages as well as “national characters.” They were commonly ascribed with special behavioral stereotypes including negative ones, which were perceived by the general public as inherent attributes of any ethnic person. These beliefs perfectly served the totalitarian regime established in the 1930s, which viewed social–political organization as a hierarchy of peoples–ethnoses. Whereas racial theory associated the fate of both a person and an entire people with race, this fate was mainly a function of ethnicity in the Soviet social practice. Yet, this was veiled by an official internationalism. The Soviet media espoused an anti-racist and anticolonial attitude. Notably, peoples were viewed as ethnic bodies rather than a civil society. The collapse of censorship and promotion of freedom of speech in the very late 1980s opened a door for an explicit manifestation of xenophobic, racist, and anti-Semitic sentiments that were hidden earlier. A view of ethnic groups as closed entities with particular outlooks and behavioral stereotypes carved out an image of their cultural incompatibility, which engendered an idea of a natural ethnic inequality and even a “conflict of civilizations.” All these views are inherent in the contemporary cultural racism, which, in contrast to the traditional one, emphasizes culture rather than blood. Cultural racism views an ethnic culture as an inherent one—as though humans appropriate it by birth—that accompanies them unchangeably up to death. Hence, humans appear hostages of the imposed ethnic culture, who are unable to cross its strictly established borders. Adherents of this view believe that a person’s ethnic identity can reveal their mentality and behavior.

Article

The Ethnic Heritage of Party Politics and Political Communication in Lusophone African Countries  

Susana Salgado and Afonso Biscaia

The processes through which ethnicity becomes visible are varied, and its impacts have not always been the same throughout history. Investigating the roles ethnicity played in Angolan, Mozambican, Cape Verdean, and São Tomé and Principean histories makes clear that colonizers themselves placed different emphases on the relevance and the role of ethnicity in these countries. Currently, partly due to the traumas engendered by decades of conflict in Angola and Mozambique, ethnicity is mostly a silent factor, operating in the ways people interact with one another but not overtly mentioned by politicians. The insular nations’ (Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe) history with ethnicity is different from that of their continental counterparts, – partly due to the influence of Creoleness – but is not devoid of tensions; nevertheless, politicians from both archipelagic countries tend to downplay the influence of ethnicity, even if its effects can also be occasionally but subtly felt. More recently, mainstream political discourses focused on the idea of the “unitary nation” are being paired with those of spontaneous movements advocating the valorization of local cultures and languages, which are being boosted by the use of social media.

Article

Race and Ethnic Stereotypes in the Media  

Srividya Ramasubramanian, Emily Riewestahl, and Anthony Ramirez

There is a long history of scholarship documenting the prevalence of racial and ethnic stereotypes in media and popular culture. This body of literature demonstrates that media stereotypes have changed over time across specific racial/ethnic groups, media formats, and genres. Historically, the bulk of this research has focused on representations in the U.S. mainstream media and on representations of African Americans in popular media. In the last few decades, media scholars have also examined media stereotypes associated with Indigenous groups, Latino/a/x populations, Arabs, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Recent work has gone beyond traditional media such as television and films to also examine other types of media content such as video games, microblogging sites such as Twitter, and media sharing sites such as YouTube. Emerging research addresses racial biases in AI, algorithms, and media technologies through computational methods and data sciences. Despite individual variations across groups and media types, the underlying social psychological mechanisms of how, why, and under what circumstances these stereotypes influence audiences has been theorized more broadly. Cultivation, social identity theory, priming, framing, social cognitive theory, and exemplification are popular theoretical perspectives used within media stereotyping literature. Several experimental studies have examined the effects of mediated racial/ethnic stereotypes on individual users’ attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. The lion’s share of these studies has demonstrated that negative stereotypes shape majority audiences’ real-world stereotypical perceptions, social judgments, intergroup emotions, and even public policy opinions. More important, media stereotypes can have negative effects on communities of color by affecting their self-concept, self-esteem, and collective identity in adverse ways. Recent studies have also parsed out the differences between positive and negative stereotypes. They demonstrate that even so-called positive stereotypes often have harmful effects on marginalized groups. Media scholars are increasingly interested in practical solutions to address media stereotypes. For instance, one content-based strategy has been to study the effects of counter-stereotypic portrayals that challenge stereotypes by presenting stereotype-disconfirming information. Other related measures are encouraging positive role models, implementing media literacy education, and supporting alternative media spaces that are more racially inclusive. The recent scholarship suggests that it is important to be intentional about centering social change, amplifying the voices of marginalized groups, and working toward reducing systemic racism in the media industry and research.