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Rezension: Media Cultures in Latin America. Key Concepts and New Debates

Pertierra, Anna Cristina & Salazar, Juan Francisco (eds.) (2019): Media Cultures in Latin America. Key Concepts and New Debates. New York: Routledge. 208 pages. ISBN 9781138353954

 

Augusto Santos, Universität Erfurt
Regina Cazzamatta, Universität Erfurt

 

This publication revises and broadens the current global comprehension of Latin America media and cultural research, pointing out how scholars in the region have developed a Cover: Media Cultures in Latin Americadistinctive way to approach media practices. The book is an invitation to deepen our knowledge of historical and epistemological approaches from the Latin American research tradition, in which the interchange between media and culture takes the centre stage. Chapters one to four, the first part of the volume, present the theoretical concepts that will permeate the following sections, focusing on the critical mediation’s idea while offering perspectives beyond traditional positivist views. The second part explores media activism cases related to decolonial thinking based on more hermeneutic and anthropological approaches.

Several developments have shaped the international academic community’s understanding of Latin American media research – e.g. the consolidation of cultural studies around the 1980s; the movement for social change of the 1990s, and the spread of community and alternative media at the dawn of the new millennium, as clearly pointed out by Pertierra, Salazar and Valdez in their introductory chapter. The authors lay the groundwork by discussing how and why Latin America set in motion such a particular method to approach media and cultural studies. They highlight the thematic interconnections among the chapters, along with presenting important intellectual considerations from the region. However, despite a growing interest in Latin American conceptual developments such as the notion of mediation proposed by Martín-Barbero or the idea of García Canclini’s hybrid cultures, the authors claim that the broader range of Latin America intellectual production is still not reasonably recognised in other world regions. Among other reasons, such as the prevalence of Western perspectives in the field, this is because most of these studies have not been published in English but in Spanish, which restricts access to academic discussions in Latin America.

The vital concept of mediation pervades the entire volume. Grounded in the Latin American tradition, it does not present the phenomenon solely as intermediation, mediatisation or an attempt to create a more mediated society. Nor does it explain mediation as a link between producers and viewers, as observed by Rincón and Marroquín (chapter 2). The scholars open the book with an analysis of the mediation notion from a regional stance (i.e. strongly marked by authors such as Manuel Martín Serrano, the Spanish-Colombian Jesús Martín Barbero and the Mexican Guillermo Orozco Gómez). The cornerstone of this chapter is the concept of mediation proposed by Barbero, a crucial reference for the field of media and cultural studies inside and outside Latin America. In particular, the authors accurately observe that debates on mediation tend to overlook the fact that this concept is also rooted in the realm of politics. In this vein, based on Barbero’s perspective, they suggest that “mediation is the articulation of the mass-mediatised on three levels—with popular, ancestral, and Indigenous cultures—from a perspective that enables political activists, social movements, and territorial disputes” (p.29).

The notion of hybridity, another crucial theoretical aspect that marks the Latin American research tradition, is critically reviewed by Heriberto Yépez (chapter 3), who explores the historical origins of the concept, later developments and discusses its critical neo-colonial characteristics. The author criticises the apprehension of the postmodern and neoliberal contextualisation of Néstor García Canclini’s prominent theory of hybrid cultures for disregarding circumstances of colonial relations, ignoring the processes of violence, deprivation or even the official appropriation of the transcultural. Based on analyses of contemporary border aesthetic in Tijuana, on the US-Mexico border, the author proposes a shift from hybridity to what he describes as ‘garbology’, an approach oriented no longer to the register and classification of the diversity of cultures and identities but the “management of the waste and ruins of others” (p.34).

Also oriented toward Canclini’s theory of hybrid cultures – in which artists may find opportunities for their productions without necessarily surrendering to the elite prospects and capitulating to the capitalist logics – Radakovich and Pertierra (chapter 4) reconsider the meaning and usage of the notion of popular culture in a profoundly transformed Latin America. Their chapter is equally an example of mediation as a framework for better comprehension of the articulation between types of culture, i.e. mass, popular and political cultures. Popular culture evolved due to the interplay between cultural managers, audience, cultural organisations, elites, the cultural industry and regional groups. Nowadays, popular culture is not exclusively associated with popular classes anymore since all social strata have enthusiastically accepted and welcomed it. However, the author demonstrates how adjustments and compromise were necessary to obtain the higher classes’ esteem in popular expressions such as carnival, cumbia funk or tango.

From chapter 5, the main thread of the collection is media activism. Against a backdrop of long-standing structures of oppression and systemic exclusion in the region, communication technologies have enabled the creation of various forms of resistance. Coupled with this, Latin America’s media cultures are significantly developed in response to the public invisibility of marginalised groups. This is because, in many countries, media systems are characterised by the dominance of media oligopolies and the prevalence of elite-oriented discourses. Consequently, mainstream media fail to represent the region’s diversity of voices. Rodríguez and Alfaro (chapter 5) illustrate this scenario by bringing to light the case of radio soap operas in Pamplona Alta, Peru, which have enabled women from poor communities to exchange knowledge. The author relates this project to the liberating education concept developed by the Brazilian philosopher and pedagogue Paulo Freire. According to him, marginalised citizens are deprived of their cultures in that they assimilate the voice of dominant classes and discredit their own communities. Thus, communication should act as an antidote against this process, helping people triumph over alienation, segregation and voicelessness.

The construction of counter-hegemonic spaces of communication also encompasses media practices centred on memory activism. As Kaiser (chapter 6) discusses, communication and artistic movements have produced memorials to bridge past and present from a decolonised perspective. Hence, they focus on personal accounts, usually ignored by official narratives and mainstream media, to recall episodes of exploitation and injustice, such as the human rights violations committed by authoritarian regimes in power in the majority of Latin American countries throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Also essential in this context of resistance is the indigenous people’s struggle to make themselves heard and seen. Magallanes-Blanco and Treré (chapter 7) rightly stress that digital platforms have enabled them to extend the reach of their demands and to form transnational networks of activism. In this vein, Salazar and Córdova (chapter 8) draw our attention to the cross-border networks of indigenous producers engaged in creating and distributing movies and documentaries to echo demands for territorial and cultural recognition. Another case in point is the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). As Ferron (chapter 9) argues, after enjoying constant and positive attention from the Mexican press, the radical movement lost its ‘newsworthiness’ in response to constant criticism from the EZLN’s spokesperson regarding the lack of pluralism within the country’s media sphere. Therefore, this led to, first, the creation of their own media outlets and, second, the development of a transnational network of activists committed to distributing the group’s messages. Ferron pertinently observes the contribution of supporters, who were not part of the state of Chiapas, the indigenous cradle, in bringing the Zapatistas’ agenda overseas. These outsiders helped by offering their ‘cultural capital’ – e.g. intercultural and linguistic competence – to intermediate the cross-national communication and elevate the global visibility of the movement.

Citizens engaged in alternative media practices in Latin America also tackle imposed Western understandings of the world. In other words, these citizens oppose colonised knowledge. As Coryat (chapter 10) debates, this is visible in the ‘eco-territorial turn’ promoted by social movements whose actions are infused, for instance, with the concept of ‘Buen Vivir’. This notion derives from the Quechua culture and, in essence, emphasises the centrality of nature for the common good. Indeed, the types of knowledge that constitute the ‘eco-territorial turn’ draw on Southern epistemologies as they challenge traditional/colonial/destructive models of extractions.

In sum, as the editors themselves acknowledge, the book of course does not cover the broad diversity of media cultures in Latin America. However, this does not diminish its valuable contribution. In particular, the collection helps catalyse the de-Westernisation and decolonisation of media and communication studies. For example, the book assembles updated perspectives on theoretical frameworks developed in Latin America. Besides this, it brings a compilation of remarkable media practices developed in the region, which have given rise to regional, national and transnational alternative spaces of public debate, representation and collective learning. Moreover, considering that media and communication literature produced in Latin America is published largely in Spanish and Portuguese, it matters a great deal that this book is available in English. In fact, this helps to popularise Latin American media studies/media concepts outside Latin America. Lastly, we agree with Nick Couldry when he writes in the afterword that this compilation represents “a different way of listening to the world and its complexities, one that instead of starting from the narratives of big institutions and what ‘ordinary people’ do with the productions of large-scale power, listens for other voices and forces in the social terrain” (p. 186). Thus, the unique intersection of theory and practice presented throughout the chapters is an invitation to rethink the directions of our field of study. :]

Rezension: Race and Media: Critical Approaches

Lori Kido Lopez (ed.) (2020): Race and Media: Critical Approaches. New York: New York University Press. 344 Pages. ISBN: 9781479895779

 

Angharad N. Valdivia, Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, USA

 

Race and Media: Critical Approaches offers an unparalleled, inclusive, and intersectional collection of original research presented by 22 scholars in four sections and twenty chapters. This book is unique in its scope and to my knowledge there is no other book on the market that addresses studying race and media like this book. Focusing on a wide range of media through the classic media studies categories of production (“producing and performing race”), representation (“representing race”), and audiences (“consuming and resisting race”), this collection also adds a section on “digitizing race” as digital cultures are so often all of the other categories combined. Moreover, Race and Media highlights the research of a diverse group of scholars whose work deserves wide recognition singly and as a group. Too often our field largely relies on a small set of foundational scholars, many of whom never really wrote about media, thus ignoring the excellent work produced by scholars such as every contributor to this book. In sum, Race and Media is a clarion call to the maturity of this field—we now have foundational, second, third, and fourth generation media scholars whose work on race cannot be ignored.

The book begins with a brief yet powerful section “On Terminology.” Lori Kido Lopez explains that authors were “allowed to choose their own terms.” Given the extensive debates within and between ethnic and racial categories about names and terms, this section sets the tone for a relational, respectful and heterogeneous collection. As well, this section proves to be an invaluable resource to any students and scholars not schooled in the culturally dynamic area of race and media studies. In the introduction Kido Lopez courageously cuts to the chase: US media are racist and let’s begin to see how. Chapters are brief, easy to read (no doubt the result of careful editing on the part of Kido Lopez), and helpfully articulated to keywords in media studies. This book has been edited to be accessible to undergraduate readers, and also provides a tremendous resource to scholars in the area of race and media.

Although difficult to attempt, this book makes a valiant effort to include a broad range of US racial and ethnic categories. While consciously focusing on US racial formations, there is the unavoidable and occasional reach into other countries and diasporas. Both Wolock’s “Diaspora and Digital Media” and Brady’s “Media Activism in the Red Power Movement” expand into Canada to trace the centuries old flows from South Asia and indigenous communities whose nations pre-exist the national border. As well, the book features chapters on media and African Americans, Latinas/os/x, Indigenous populations, Asian Americans, mixed race peoples, Afrolatinidades, and Arab Americans. The readings do not treat these as static categories. Indeed, one of the strengths of this book is the insistence by all authors that within the ethno-racial categories they write about, there are further nuances. For example, both Castañeda and Báez remind us of the need to attend to Afro-Latinas/os/x and indigeneity in Latina/o Studies research. Similarly, Okada covers a wide range of Asianities in her excellent chapter on independent media. Chapters on issues that address race and media generally, as Jason Kido Lopez’s contribution on “Branding Athlete Activism” and Sturgis and Joseph on “Visualizing Mixed Race and Genetics” provide a backbone to understanding contemporary iterations of visibility and ocularity of race in neoliberal cultures.

The book includes work on television, in which Beltrán’s historical work on Latina/o TV provides a taste of her forthcoming book entirely on this subject and Feng’s work explores the concept of the burden of representation which applies across the board of race and ethnicity. Always welcome is the work on radio and listening as a method of analysis written by Casillas and Stoever. Legacy media such as film and documentaries (Okada and Villarejo), and news (Clark) are examined alongside work on podcasting (Florini), digital gaming (Land and Gray), Twitter (Maragh-Lloyd), and intersectional digital distribution (Christian). Issues of fandom (Noh), consumption mosaics (Báez), participatory culture (Zidani), and resistance (Gray) speak to the need to include audiences as part of our analytical framework.

The book contains a healthy combination of overview chapters (e.g. Báez), methodological histories with an illustrative case study (e.g. Beltrán), new research (e.g. Casillas and Stoever), and innovative semi-auto-ethnography (Villarejo). I especially love the editor’s decision to use a robust combination of emerging and canonical scholars, thus demonstrating the richness of the field. I only hope the fields which this book informs will make use of such a valuable resource instead of lazily going back to readings which fail to address the complexity of the contemporary race and mainstream media in the US.

I am personally glad for the chapter on Marie Kondo by Noh, especially as it includes the Barbara Ehrenreich controversy that I have been teaching in my classes. In fact, there are many chapters here that help me in my research and teaching. I value highly a chapter that systematically, theoretically, and methodologically identifies what “mixed” actually composes in brief accessible strokes (Sturgis and Joseph). Likewise, the Casillas and Stoever chapter on sonic racism in the Zimmermann trial is amazing in scope (if not incredibly frustrating in terms of what it meant for the outcome of the court case). Feng’s chapter on the burden of representation historicizes the concept while anchoring it through Asian American television. I appreciate its conclusion: it cannot please anybody.

In sum, this is a book that was put into use in the classroom and in my research as soon as it arrived. I recommend it most highly not only to race and media scholars but to all scholars of media because media studies needs to be carried out intersectionally, and this book provides a template for that task.

Communicating the Environment in Laos

Manfred Oepen | PDF

Abstract: This article reflects experiences and results from an environmental education and communication strategy (EECS) as part of a Lao-German development project of Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) over a 10-year period from 2011 to 2021. The article is divided into four parts. First, an overview of the project context and the media landscape in Laos is provided. Next, the conceptual framework of the communication strategy at the GIZ policy and project management level is presented. Subsequently, major features of the wide variety of environmental education and communication media productions and educational materials are highlighted. Another chapter summarizes the results of Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) surveys related to environmental awareness. Finally, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and impact assessment results conclude lessons that can be learned from the project’s communication strategy.

Towards Cosmopolitanism in German Academia? Shedding Light on Colonial Underpinnings of Communication Research in a Globalized World

Camila Nobrega Rabello Alves & Débora Medeiros | PDF

Abstract: Coloniality is a notion that has been key in many disciplines for addressing power relations and  their embeddedness in continuous colonial hierarchies. This essay contributes to the reflections on the notion of cosmopolitanism in German academia, focusing on Communication Studies as a starting point. The possibility to develop research at a university in the Global North is usually presented by the hosting countries as a door to productive exchanges among colleagues from different backgrounds. Nevertheless, many hierarchies and pre-established concepts on knowledge production produce forms of epistemic silencing and other forms of violence and limits in these exchanges. The present essay proposes a process of dialogue with decolonial theories to trace roots on the meaning of cosmopolitanism, its borders and possibilities.

Do YouTubers Hate Asians? An Analysis of YouTube Users’ Anti-Asian Hatred on Major U.S. News Channels during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Yang Yu, Chanapa Noonark & Donghwa Chung | PDF

Abstract: The outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) has been widely covered on major U.S. media. “Chinese Virus” or “Wuhan Virus” became media buzz words especially at the beginning stage of the outbreak, which was feared to fuel anti-Asian hatred both in the U.S. and worldwide. This study examines the news coverage about COVID-19 in relation to Asians, mainly Chinese and China, on YouTube channels of major U.S. media outlets, and explores the relationship between the media framing and anti-Asian sentiments embedded in the comments beneath the news video. By content analyzing 50 news videos covering COVID-19 and Asians from 5 U.S. media organizations and 5000 comments, the findings suggest that attribution of responsibility and conflict are the most frequently used frames by the news reporting. The results also reveal that suspicion of conspiracy, rather than blaming, emerged as the most frequent theme embedded in hateful comments. One promising finding is that the frequency of hateful comments is significantly lower than that of non-hateful comments across all news frame categories.

A Global Communication M.A. Double Degree Program: Conceptualizing and Working Through Diversity

Byron Hauck & Joseph Nicolai | PDF

Abstract: At a time when diversity and de-westernization are current buzz words for injecting social justice into the future of communication studies, we must address how we conceptualize and confront these concepts in practice. Academic Cosmopolitanism has been proposed as one way forward, but it remains in the trenches of cosmopolitan theory’s difficulty of dealing with diversity in political systems. Simon Fraser University and the Communication University of China’s Global Communication MA Double Degree Program embodies many of the core values of academic cosmopolitanism. Grounded in a transcultural political economy framework however, it embraces some of the kinds of conflicts that cosmopolitanism sets up as barriers. Via autoethnographic accounts from the program’s first teaching assistant and an alumnae from its first cohort, we explore how the conflicts involved in conceptualizing and confronting diversity are experienced on the ground. We conclude by highlighting the ways in which transcultural political economy enriches discussions on diversity and inform efforts to de-colonize communication studies.

COVID-19 from the Margins: Crafting a (Cosmopolitan) Theory

Silvia Masiero, Stefania Milan & Emiliano Treré | PDF

Abstract: Voicing systematically marginalised communities is a problem historically posed in the media and communications field, in terms of de-Westernisation and, more radically, cosmopolitanism. Such a problem has been magnified in the COVID-19 pandemic, with narratives from systematically devoicedcommunities – ranging from migrants to informal workers, ethnic minorities, economically poor people, and survivors of domestic violence – remaining untold. Recognising the need for a conceptual apparatus to voice the silenced narratives of the pandemic, this paper conducts two tasks: first, it crafts a theoretical apparatus of three devices (data at the margins; data poverty; and the datafication of anti-poverty programmes) to conceptualise COVID-19 stories from the margins. Second, it applies such a theoretical apparatus to a map of five problems (counting in the pandemic; new inequalities and vulnerabilities; datafied social protection; data injustices; solidarity and resistance from below) opened by discussion on COVID-19 from the margins. By doing so it offers a conceptual lens responding to the call for cosmopolitanism in media and communications, applying it to the study of COVID-19 narrations from the globe.

Rezension: The Routledge Companion to Local Media and Journalism

Agnes Gulyas & David Baines (Eds.) (2020): The Routledge Companion to Local Media and Journalism (1st ed.). London: Routledge. 522 Seiten. ISBN: 978-1-351-23994-3

 

Anna Litvinenko, Freie Universität Berlin

 

The Routledge Companion to Local Media and Journalism offers a multifaceted picture of today’s local media Cover: The Routledge Companion to Local Media and Journalismlandscapes across the globe presented by 65 scholars. Local media is one of the fundamental pillars of any media system, and yet its current challenges and transformation in the digital age have remained understudied by communication researchers. Nationwide media outlets traditionally attract more attention of scholars, especially when it comes to comparative studies. The impact and the importance of local news in media ecosystems are often overlooked.

The Companion seeks to close this gap by offering a comprehensive overview of history, practices and challenges of local journalism and local media in different parts of the world. Although the majority of the studies included in the book are dedicated to the Western world – which reflects a general disproportion in geography of journalism studies – the volume takes a big step towards diversifying research on local media. Thus, it includes studies on Brazil, China, Ghana, Kenya, and Russia, and some of these studies even put these contexts in comparative perspective with established democracies.

The studies presented in the Companion use different methodological approaches, from surveys and interviews to ethnographic field studies. Despite the diversity of approaches and aspects tackled by the authors, the 522-page volume has a well thought-through structure and the collection is made up of seven parts.

The Introduction: Demarcating the field of local media and journalism written by Agnes Gulyas and David Baines is an important contribution to mapping and conceptualizing research on local media in today’s world. The authors scrutinize the basic terms “local” and “media”, putting them into perspective of different contexts, and reflect on their transformation in the digital age. They also highlight similarities that can be traced across the presented studies. For instance, problems of state interventions are often experienced by local media not only in authoritarian contexts, but also in democratic ones. The same applies to the problems with de-professionalization of local journalists, with monetization of digital content, or with “local news deserts” (p. 14), a concept which refers to communities with no or only limited access to qualitative local news coverage.

The first part of the Companion is devoted to history and legacy of local media, and presents case studies from the US, Norway, Japan, the UK, Brazil and Caribbean Islands. Several studies here raise an important and understudied question of the role of colonial legacy for local media ecologies.

Part Two is dedicated to local media policies and looks not only at the nationwide media policies, as in the cases of the US, Australia, Kenya and Poland, but also at the so-called sub-states, such as Catalonia and Scotland.

Part Three, Local media, publics and politics, focuses on political macro contexts and dynamics of power struggles on local media landscapes. It starts with a comprehensive analysis by C.W. Anderson, who conceptualizes the topic on the example of local journalism in the US. Other studies in this part explore the cases of India, Sweden, Russia and Australia.

Part Four is dedicated to business practices and to local media ownership, which undergoes significant transformations with the rise of hyperlocal news und the increasing importance of global platforms such as Facebook. The main challenge for local journalism in these circumstances is to find a sustainable business model using innovative approaches and at the same time to remain more or less independent. As Bill Reader and John Hatcher mention in their article Business and ownership of local media: An international perspective, when it comes to innovations in local media business, “one size does not fit all” (p.205). Studies from the Czech Republic, Britain, France, Netherlands and New Zealand show different approaches to innovations in local media businesses.

Part Five looks at journalistic practices and role perceptions of local news providers in different types of local media in the US, the UK, Bulgaria, Colombia, New Zealand. An intriguing study by Jaana Hujanen, Olga Dovbysh, Carina Tenor, Mikko Grönlund, Katja Lehtisaari and Carl-Gustav Lindén compares hyperlocal media practitioners in democratic and non-democratic settings (Finland, Sweden and Russia). They find similarities and differences that one would not expect when looking at the national media systems. For instance, Finnish and Russian hyperlocal media practitioners aim at contributing to the local community on a voluntary basis, while their Swedish colleagues see themselves more as entrepreneurs (p.273). Yennué Zárate Valderrama’s article on training of local journalists in armed conflict areas in Colombia stands out in this row of studies as it highlights a topic of education of local media practitioners, which otherwise remains out of the scope of the Companion.

Part Six discusses communities and audiences of local media. Interestingly, it is the only part of the edited collection, which is completely dedicated to Western countries. This might indicate an important gap in research of media audiences beyond the Western World.

Finally, Part Seven, Local media and the public good, presents case studies of local media coverage from Japan, the US, the Pacific Islands, Ghana and Northern Ireland. It poses an important question, which runs like a golden thread through the volume: what exactly is public good in local journalism? The answer is multidimensional, and as the Companion shows us, it depends to a large extent on the given context. In this chapter, this idea is illustrated with different examples of local news coverage, such as disaster reporting in Japan, or agricultural broadcasts in Ghana, as well as with the examples of public service journalism in Western countries and the Pacific region.

The Companion can serve not only as a guide into the topic, but also as an inspiration for researchers, who would like to explore this area of study. The volume is rich on up-to-date information (many studies contain references to the year 2019) on the current state of local journalism in different regions of the world, and it offers a multitude of perspectives, through which scholars look at local media landscapes.

The Companion is a successful example of taking context into account while researching universal trends. The authors have managed to find a hard-to-achieve balance between conceptualizing the complexity of the field and highlighting its diversity. As mentioned above, the attempt of the volume to cover under-researched regions of the world is applaudable. Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement on this aspect. Thus, future edited collections on local media would certainly benefit from including studies from the Middle East and North Africa.

As the Companion features a big number of case studies from journalistic practice, it might be useful not only for researchers, but comes in handy also for media professionals who would like to deepen their understanding of media trends and to see what innovations work or do not work in certain contexts.

This collection of studies reveals that despite the differences in economic development and political regimes, the digital age poses very similar challenges for local media across the globe as they all seek to re-invent themselves and to find new creative ways to monetize content and to stay useful for their communities. Reading the Companion makes one think that these communities would for sure benefit from international networking and an exchange of experiences and ideas among local media professionals.

Rezension: Media and Transformation in Germany and Indonesia. Asymmetrical Comparisons and Perspectives

Anne Grüne & Kai Hafez & Subekti Priyadharma & Sabrina Schmidt (Eds.) (2019): Media and Transformation in Germany and Indonesia. Asymmetrical Comparisons and Perspectives. Berlin: Frank & Timme. 346 Seiten. ISBN 978-3-7329-0579-9

 

Florian Meissner, Macromedia University of Applied Sciences, Cologne

Twenty years ago, a book published by Curran and Park paved the way for a “De-Westernization” discourse in media and communication research. It has often been misunderstood as a simple call to include more non-Western countries in international studies. But in fact, the criticism of a Euro-American bias went deeper. It included the uncritical application of Western-centric theory and methodology to non-Western Cover: Media and Transformation in Germany and Indonesia: Asymmetrical Comparisons and Perspectivessocieties. This book stands in the tradition of the “De-Westernization” discourse, aiming to juxtapose “asymmetrical” perspectives on media and communication from two geographically and culturally distant countries—in this particular case Germany and Indonesia.

Before looking at the content in greater detail, it is important to note that the book documents the proceedings of an academic conference based on the collaborative project “Media Systems and Communication Cultures—Germany and Indonesia in Comparative Perspective”. The project was jointly conducted by the University of Erfurt, Germany, and Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia, and funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The book assembles a series of manuscripts, several of which are instructive and potentially useful for further research. However, the connection between the individual contributions is rather loose. Some chapters even hardly relate to the overall topic of the book. Therefore, one should not expect an overarching, coherent methodology nor an in-depth comparative analysis in this book. Instead, each section closes with a brief documentation of a roundtable discussion that followed each panel of the conference, often highlighting similarities and differences between the analytical perspectives on German and Indonesian media landscapes.

The first section centers around the theme of Media and Political Transformation. Mira Rochyadi-Reetz and Martin Löffelholz start with a systematic comparison of the media systems in both countries. Their main theoretical references are the “Four Theories of the Press” study by Siebert, Peterson and Schramm (1956) as well as “Comparing Media Systems” by Hallin and Mancini (2004). The choice is surprising because at least the former is outdated and the latter is characterized by a clear Euro-American focus. An alternative would have been the approach by Blum (2014) who created a useful categorization of media systems that explicitly involves non-Western societies. Nevertheless, the chapter provides some interesting descriptive insights on major differences between both media systems, for instance regarding pluralism, professional autonomy, and media concentration. A more in-depth analysis of the Indonesian media system since 1945 is provided in the following chapter by Ade Armando. It outlines how various attempts to establish a liberal media system were effectively thwarted by authoritarian governments until 1998, when dictator Suharto resigned and a new democratic era (“reformation”) began. However, the Indonesian media system remains deeply marked by the oscillation between media control and media freedom. The last contribution to this section is an analysis by Oliver Hahn and David Liewehr of the German federal election campaign in 2017. The chapter entails a concise summary of key aspects such as the successful communication strategy of the right-wing populist party AfD and the imploding campaign of the once promising social-democratic candidate Martin Schulz. However, due to its narrow focus, the contribution this chapter makes to the overall theme of the book remains relatively limited.

The second section focuses on Media Representation and Racism. It is opened by Sabrina Schmidt who discusses the connection between racism theory and the Habermasian public sphere. While the analysis is quite instructive from a theoretical point of view, it is also lengthy and not closely connected to the comparative perspective on German and Indonesian media systems. In her analysis, Schmidt makes a disputable claim stating that the Habermasian theory of the public sphere is universal and therefore can be meaningfully applied on democratic societies beyond the western world. Even for the case of Japan, another Asian country that has a much longer democratic tradition than Indonesia, scholars have voiced very serious doubts on the Habermasian concept being applicable on the Japanese media system. The theoretical analysis is followed by two empirical contributions that are among the most insightful pieces in this book. First, Ratna Noviani analyzes cinematic representation of “Chineseness” in Indonesia. The analysis is highly interesting because it is the first contribution to the volume that provides a qualitative understanding of how one of the many conflict lines in this multiethnic and multi-religious country is portrayed by Indonesian filmmakers, ranging from othering to admiration. In a similar vein, Margreth Lünenborg offers an intriguing analysis of migrants’ visual representations in German media. For instance, the author is able to demonstrate how different visual means are used to portray migrants as either anonymous or as visible human beings, respectively as an overwhelming mass of people vs. human beings that the viewer can empathize with.

In section three, Internet and Counter Public Sphere, Subekti Priyadharma compares the German/Indonesian online public spheres. His analysis shows some substantial differences, for instance concerning social media usage (despite lower internet access, Indonesia by far exceeds Germany with regard to social media usage). However, it also demonstrates striking similarities between both countries regarding the spread of disinformation and the rise of right-wing populism in online public spheres. In the next chapter, Jeffrey Wimmer discusses the participatory and thus democratic potential of the internet, in particular social networks, from a generic perspective. Unfortunately, his insights are not directly linked to the cases of German and Indonesian public spheres.

The fourth and last section centers around the interrelation between Popular Culture and Democracy. The first chapter by Randa Aboubakr is an analysis of popular culture as a venue for representation and participation of minorities—with a focus on Egypt, which is surprising given the fact that the book title promises comparative perspectives on Germany and Indonesia. Anne Grüne’s analysis provides insights on how popular culture can be used as a venue for democratic transformation, but also be misused for anti-democratic tendencies. Lastly, Yasraf A. Piliang provides a sharp analysis of current problems and shortcomings of the political debate in Indonesia, describing an increasing shift from ideals such as coexistence and cooperation towards extreme personalization and self-glorification of political actors—a concerning tendency indeed being somewhat reminiscent of prominent populist actors in the Western world.

To conclude, several contributions to this book offer compelling analyses concerning different aspects of the media systems in Germany and Indonesia. However, only in some cases a meaningful level of comparison between both is achieved. Some chapters do not even have a convincing connection to the overall theme. Of course, conference proceedings are not comparable to a classical edited volume, but it would still have been helpful if some key insights of this book would have been integrated in a concluding chapter. Regardless of this, for readers interested in international media systems and/or transformative contexts, the work offers some valuable insights as well as starting points for future research.

Cairo-Berlin Return: Early Arab-German Cooperation in Film – The Egyptian-German Example

Irit Neidhardt | PDF

Abstract: The Arab-German cooperation in film began after World War I in 1919/1920 when the first Egyptians came to learn the then brand new art in Germany, and has been continuing with different Arab partners ever since. Yet there is neither a public nor a professional awareness of this history. When Arab and German film professionals meet at international co-production platforms today, they practically get together as strangers. Despite its richness, the common history does not serve as a point of reference. It is not written. This paper, therefore, attempts to shed light on this forgotten period of cooperation. It looks at how and why such a collaboration was initiated. Moreover, it describes its different formats and also why the Egyptian-German encounter eventually came to an end.

 

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You are invited to send full paper submissions addressing any topic relevant to international or transcultural communication and media to gmj[at]uni-erfurt.de.

Please check our styleguide D / ENG.

Affiliation

The Global Media Journal - German Edition (GMJ-DE) is part of a network of academic peer-reviewed open-access journals around the world

GMJ Network.

The German Edition is edited by Prof. Dr. Carola Richter and Dr. Christine Horz and hosted at Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Erfurt.

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