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The Hierarchy of “Othering”: Belarusian Media Practitioners’ Accounts  

Galina Miazhevich

Belarus—a western periphery of the former Soviet Union—remains overlooked by the scholarly research. Regarded as the periphery to an integral Russian imperial state, rather than a colony proper, Belarus remains a blind spot in post-Soviet identity studies. Generally overlooked or overshadowed by the two larger neighboring states of Ukraine and, especially, Russia it attracts attention for the type of governance established by its current president, Lukashenka, or its “undeveloped” national identity. However, this article goes beyond this formulation of Belarusian identity in negative terms, which views the country as a “denationalized nation” or emphasizes its anachronistic “Sovietization” or Sovietness . It advocates repositioning “Belarusianness” at the core of the post-Soviet experience as a unique case illuminating the dilemmas of post-Soviet nationhood and the enduring legacies of Soviet multiculturalism. Belarusian multiculturalism is a complicated notion because it largely draws on the imperial/Soviet legacy of a multipeopled state (mnogonarodnoe) in a relatively homogenous Belarusian society and “a tolerant nation” mythology, devoid of links to western liberalism. Consequently, it is expected that the “hierarchy of othering” will include prejudices toward prime “post-imperial targets” such as Roma and Caucasians (in contrast to more distant foreigners). Pro-Western sentiment will be primarily associated with homosexuality. There will be a complex relationship with a “significant” other—Russia—which has more pronounced grassroots ethnic tensions. The tension between the state’s nation-building project and Belarusian revivalism (frequently treated as oppositional nationalism) will contribute to auto-xenophobia or “othering” of a (part of) titular Belarusian nation. The country’s particular multicultural context informed by the Soviet legacy and its current nation-building strategies can (a) illuminate broader trends also applicable to other neighboring states such as Russia, as well as (b) inform a wider discussion on the mediated populist othering in the post-Soviet region. By drawing on 15 interviews with the sub/editors of the key Belarusian state and independent media outlets, the article introduces an original “hierarchy of othering”—a distinct order of mediated populist othering where certain groups or differences are seen as more or less acceptable. The high level of the state’s involvement in media and the establishment’s mantra of “tolerant” Belarus make the mediation of populist othering problematic. In a situation of “weak hegemony”, the Belarusian establishment had to artificially instill a consensual power balance from above. As a result, media practitioners’ narratives combine a rigid reiteration of the establishment’s line of multicultural “tolerance” together with the contradictions and inconsistencies that expose grassroots xenophobia.

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

Media Literacy Education for Diverse Societies  

Annamária Neag, Çiğdem Bozdağ, and Koen Leurs

Since the 1980s, media literacy has been a central topic in the field of communication, media, and education studies as a result of a parallel growth of polarization between societal groups and use of digital technologies for self-representation. In this article, we present a brief overview of the evolvement of media literacy and other competing terms and discuss emerging approaches that incorporate issues related to the politics of difference, representations and voice of marginalised groups. Although existing concepts and projects focus on singular aspects such as representation and media production by minorities, they do not commonly integrate concerns of diversity and media literacy education from a critical and holistic perspective. Building on critical pedagogy, feminist and decolonial theory, there is a need for a more inclusive and intersectional approach to media literacy education. Such an approach should focus not only on marginalized groups but also on society as a whole, it should advocate a critical understanding of the mediated construction of reality and offer grounds to successfully challenge dominant representations, and it should equip people with the skills not only to participate and raise their own voices but also to pay more attention to practices of listening to work toward a level playing field between mainstream and marginalized groups.

Article

Race and Ethnicity in US Media Content and Effects  

Dana Mastro

Research empirically investigating the influence of media exposure on issues of race and ethnicity has long documented that media use meaningfully impacts the cognitions, emotions, and behaviors of audience members. Certainly, media are only one among a number of factors that contribute to perceptions regarding (and actions toward) one’s own and other racial/ethnic groups. However, theory and empirical evidence consistently demonstrate that the manner in which racial/ethnic groups are characterized in the media can harm or benefit different groups, depending on the nature of these depictions (alongside other social and psychological determinants). Consequently, it is both practically and theoretically important to both identify how and how often different groups are portrayed across the media landscape as well as to assess the ways in which exposure to this content influences media audiences. What quantitative content analytic studies have revealed is that there is variation in depictions of race/ethnicity in US media depending on the group, the medium, and the genre. Thus, whereas Blacks have achieved a degree of parity when it comes to the quantity of depictions on primetime U.S. television, there is variation in the quality depending on the genre. Further, the same advances have not been seen for Blacks in news, in film, and across other media forms and platforms. For Latinos, little has changed across decades when it comes to numeric representation in the media. When it comes to the quality of these portrayals, although some of the more egregious media stereotypes have faded, other long-standing media definitions of Latinos remain persistent. For other racial/ethnic groups, few images are presented. Within these infrequent images, a constrained set of characterizations often predominates, such as spiritual American Indians, tech-savvy Asian Americans, and terrorist Muslims. Exposure to these representations has consequences. Consuming the images and messages associated with racial/ethnic groups in the media contributes to the formation, activation, and application of racial/ethnic cognitions. For racial/ethnic majority group members (i.e., whites), unfavorable media depictions can mean the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes: this can lead to outcomes ranging from unsympathetic policy positions to active or passive harming behaviors. When media characterizations are favorable, more auspicious outcomes emerge. For the racial and ethnic groups being depicted, the effects of exposure again depend on the quantity and quality of portrayals. Negative characterizations prompt shame, anger, and other undesirable emotions and lead to esteem problems. On the other hand, some research indicates that favorable characterizations can serve as a source of group pride, which boosts esteem.

Article

Media Constructions of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity  

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

The Invention of Race in Turkey  

Matthew deTar

Racial thinking in the late Ottoman Empire and Turkey emerged out of a vast global network of hegemonic discourses. Modernity, colonialism, nationalism, and racism are mutually constitutive discourses with respect to their historical emergence in Europe, but they are also mutually constitutive as they emerge in other specific locations. Racisms that emerge subsequent and analogous to European racism help indicate the specific necessary connections among these kinds of broad overlapping discourses. The exploration of racism in Turkey holds significant potential for communication scholars as a means of refining theories of racism that do not typically focus on non-Western racism. The historical emergence of racism and racial thinking in Turkey also shaped the structure and content of Turkish nationalist history, making certain chronologies and “history-of-ideas” approaches to Turkish historiography fraught scholarly pursuits. Even explorations of the origins of the term Turk reflect this racial thinking, because the Turk concept only began circulating in the late Ottoman empire and early Turkish Republic alongside race science as the name of an ancient race. Race science is, however, only one domain of knowledge production and human experience, and it is not solely responsible for the invention of Turk as a race. Rather, modernization narratives of the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, a catastrophic series of wars in the Balkans, and contact with European nationalisms all uniquely helped establish racial thinking as a hegemonic discourse prior to the foundation of the Turkish Republic. More significantly, the horrors of the Armenian Genocide, the massive Greek population exchange, and policies of forced migration and assimilation toward Kurds during and after World War I materially established the hegemony of Turkish racial discourse and the presumed reality of a Turkish race itself. In the context of these events, Turkish nationalism must be understood not simply through its own idealistic lens as a project of civic republicanism, but instead as a discourse that emerged in connection with colonialist logics, racism, and modernity. Just as scholars have argued that European modernity is constitutively linked to colonialism and racism, Turkish nationalism embarked on a “modernizing” project beholden to colonialism and racism. Communication scholars interested in both the constitutive dimensions of discourse and the knowledge-producing effect of “universalization” as it appears in discourses like modernity, colonialism, racism, and nationalism will find that the Turkish historical encounter with these discourses offers important insight into the operation of universalization itself.