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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

Ethnic Media: A Reflection and Outlook on Ethnic Media Research  

Sherry S. Yu

Ethnic media have been studied consistently across various regions since the early 1900s. This chapter reflects on ethnic media research in the digital age, specifically focusing on research published in the past two decades. The purpose is to understand how ethnic media have been conceptualized and researched, and to suggest future research directions. This reflection identifies the persistent conceptualization of ethnic media as “media for the Other,” with increasing attention to the broader role of ethnic media as “media beyond the Other.” This reflection also identifies three approaches to ethnic media research: assimilationist/pluralist, journalistic/media-centric, and interdisciplinary approaches. Among these approaches, the journalistic/media-centric and interdisciplinary approaches were notable. As attempts to move beyond the assimilationist/pluralist binary, the journalistic/media-centric approach tends to explore the production, consumption, and content of ethnic media within or in relation to the broader societal context of social, economic, political, policy/regulatory, and technological factors, while the interdisciplinary approach tends to emphasize hybrid diasporic identities of migrants and their sense of belonging and media practices in a transnational context. Future research requires more attention to ethnic media in the Global South, the diasporic nature of ethnic media, and the intercultural role of ethnic media.

Article

Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Communication in Africa: An Intersectional Perspective  

Kristin Skare Orgeret

When examining diversity in mediated spheres of communication, crucial questions to be asked would be whose stories are told and through which voices, to be relevant for the widest spectrum of a society and secure an informed citizenry. Approaching questions of access and representation in media and communication, it is valuable to allow for intersecting perspectives. Instead of the binary terms associated with power relations and oppression the intersectional model references the ability of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation (oppressions) to mutually construct one another and ensures a broader scope of relevant representations and mediated stories. Hence it is necessary to combine knowledge from several sources, such as the Négritude movement, feminism, and queer theories. An intersectional approach proves relevant when discussing African contexts where specific historical, cultural, and economic/political contexts play together and the populations are often complex and manifold, as, for example, the Rhodes Must Fall campaign and the media coverage of athlete Caster Semenya show.

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

Ethnicity, Race, and Journalism  

Lynette Steenveld

“Ethnicity,” “race” and “journalism” are each problematized in this article on the relationship among them. They operate in diverse discourses relating to particularity and difference, and are used as both “analytical and folk concepts.” As race and ethnicity have different trajectories, racism has taken different forms: “scientific,” “institutional,” and “cultural” or “new racism.” While Northern/Western scholarship acknowledges the foundations of race and ethnicity with modernity, arising with 15th-century European colonization, they are nevertheless understood as “aberrations” in Western journalism—itself a practice of modernity. But critical Southern scholarship has challenged the hegemonic narrative of modernity, pointing to its “darker side,” and thus its production of the coloniality of knowledge, power, and being worldwide. It explains European colonization as the source of “modernity,” nascent capitalism, and the control of labor—including its gendered racialization. This accounts for the dominance of both the content and the perspective of European research. Sports and crime journalism are the most popular news forms which sustain the mythic concepts of racial superiority and inferiority, expressed through scientific racism. But journalism on transnationalism has led critical theorists to question its underpinning of institutional, cultural, and new racism, and increasingly, marginalized subaltern groups are producing their own media to challenge the hegemonic media framings of them. The “Southern” theoretical approach poses a fundamental challenge to contemporary, hegemonic, and gendered understandings of journalism, race, and ethnicity.