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Review: The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender

Carter, Cynthia; Steiner, Linda; McLaughlin, Lisa (eds.) (2014): The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender. Routledge. 672 pages. ISBN: 978-0-415-52769-9 (hbk), ISBN: 978-0-203-06691-1 (ebk)

Christine Horz, Frankfurt

The research field of gender and media today is well established in communication studies. For those studying and teaching in undergraduate courses, however, it could be difficult to find accessible and up-to-date- reading material from the various fields of Gender Media Studies (GMS), across media, texts and genres.
The editors of the Routledge Companion to Media and Gender succeeded to present a comprehensive and impressive overview on five different themes with 59 contributions on 670 pages. The compendium shows to be extremely useful for students and lecturers in international courses with English-speaking undergraduates in non-English countries, i.e Germany, because of the scarcity of academic English literature about gender and media in many university libraries. The articles in the book are mostly condensed on ten pages. For some subjects this seems to be pretty short. Few articles lack some basic information, charts or data, which would make it easier to comprehend without previous knowledge. However, the critical perspective of most articles helps to open up particular research arenas and stimulate interest, which is an opportunity for a more detailed consideration. Moreover, a strength of the book are the transnational and transcultural perspectives on GMS. It comprises articles and topics from various cultural and national backgrounds.

The compendium is structured into five parts. Part I begins with „Her/histories“. This chapter offers an overview of various approaches and important topics of GMS. The first article can be seen as an introduction into this chapter. In „Media and the representation of gender“ Margaret Gallagher (23) gives examples of historic milestones in GMS such as Tuchman’s study about images of men and women in the media, the links of media image and ideology, when it comes to the representation of women of colour, and also feminist discourses and feminist media activism.
In „Redescovering twentieth-century feminist audience research” (Hermes, 61) for example the author argues that multi-platform media and increasing interactivity today tends to blur media production with media consumption (67). In this context ethnographic audience research relating to audio-visual popular cultures of the 1980s and 90s needs to be rethought, in order to understand the existing power relations, still valid in a prosumer culture. As such, this is not a particulary new observation, but still offers a starting point for further investigation of more recent studies.
The strong point of Part I is its inclusion of current theoretical approaches like intersectional feminist media studies (Molina-Guzman/Cacho, 71). Their article provides a literature review „on women of colour feminism and queer of colour critique“ (72) in European and US research. A useful definition of intersectionality and its theoretical foundations is followed by case studies in the field. As such the authors makes clear how gender inequality and racialisation build a dynamic interplay of „symbolic colonization“ in media content (77). The first part of the compendium also refers to recent topics like trans-identities in the 21st century, i.e. „Sexualities/queer identities“ (Yue, 81) and „Gender, media, and trans/national spaces“ (Hegde, 92).

Part II picks up subjects around „Media industries, labor, and policy“ (103). Carolyn M. Byerly (105) explores the important matter of the missing female representation in media control and the macro-level as such. Using the example of big transnational corporations such as Time Warner or Disney she provides data of the number and percentage of women involved on the policy level in the boards of the companies (108). Whereas in Disney four out of ten board-members are female, in the Germany-based Bertelsmann AG only five out of twenty-one members are women. The author unveils also the reason why or why not companies tend to accept women in their highest control and decision body.

In “Gender inequality in culture industries“ Denis D. Bielby explores the „unequal distribution of employment and earnings between men and women in the culture industries of film, television, and music, among others such as video games“ (137). Bielby goes back to the beginning of Hollywood to show how the studio system, where women played major roles, transformed into a centralized industry where female writers and actors became marginalized. The commercial aspect is once more considered in Dafna Limish’s „Boys are… girls are…“(179). She explains how children’s media and merchandising construct gender, i.e by exploiting female bodies for sexualized representations – even in movies for kindergarden-kids. This part clearly shows the socio-political dimension of gender inequality and a neoliberal market economy. It also becomes obvious that the editors strove to acquire articles that put an emphasis on comparative research about women and men/girls and boys.

Part III – „Images and representations across texts and genres“ (257) – presents mainly case studies from different parts of the world like a piece about a South-African miniseries, Society (Bradfield, 280). Other than Western television series, Society „offers a unique perspective on the feminine possibilities available to women in post-apartheid South-Africa“ (ibid.). Also beauty regimes in India, that are inflicted by European and US-American beauty norms (Parameswaran, 363) and a gendered perspective on Islamophobia implied by the representation of the Islamic veil in Western media are discussed (Eltantawy, 384). The transnational perspective of the compendium shows its potential here, because the signs of intersectionality and the erosion of solidarity in Western feminism with women from other parts of the world, their different beliefs and socio-economic status could best be encountered with a de-westernized research focus.

Part IV concentrates on „Media audiences, users, and prosumers“ (407) and as the title promises research about all types of media, from TV to radio to social media and also digital games is presented here. Da Viault’s and Schott’s article for example tackles the issue of gender portrayal within gaming (440). The hot topic of cyberfeminism is set against the events, known as Arab Spring (Khamis, 565).

Part V, entitled „Gendered media futures and the future of gender“ (577), is conceptualised as an outlook. Topics like post-feminism (Lumby, 600) consider the actual feminist discourse in the light of it’s historic development. Whereas the term postfeminism for some mark the point where all feminist goals already have been achievedothers use it to differentiate between second generation feminists from the 1960th and 70th and younger women who fight for equality with men and not against them. A third explanation leans to a far more nuanced perspective based on postructuralism which is by no means defined by now. Lumby however, offers an insight into the various discussions on the conceptualization of post-feminism and proposes a concept of post-postfeminism.

An article about the crisis of masculinity (Malin, 610) reflects on media and the male image, i.e. the hypersexual character in US-American movies and series of the 1990th like Sopranos. Today, with less traditional perspectives on masculinity hypersexuality – and it’s attributed whiteness, heterosexuality and aggression – is also used for parody or with an ironic reflexivity of the male character.
Leurs and Ponzanesi (632) explore forms of intersectionality and digital identities on a case study of Moroccan youth in The Netherlands. They conclude that migrant youths use Social Media for identity formation, to create a realm of their own and to connect with the majority of society.

Looked at the parts and the companion in its entirety the reader conveys an idea of the wide span of different topics in GMS. Also, two strong undercurrents (and conflicting areas) of gender and the media unfold while reading: the neoliberal market ideology as a strong frame for the representation and participation of men and women in the media, but also counterpublics and –cultures that perceive women and men not only as consumers or sexualized bodies, but also as active citizens. On the other hand the companion by definition is only able to mark out the complexity of the discourse, but is certainly not sufficient to mirror in-depth-results of Gender Media Studies. However, the up-to-datedness, as well as the transnational and transcultural approach makes it a vade-mecum particularly recommendable for students and lecturers in various degree programmes like communication studies, media studies, or gender studies.

Review: Indian Transnationalism Online: New Perspectives on Diaspora

Ajaya Kumar Sahoo and Johannes G. De Kruijf (eds.) (2014): Indian Transnationalism Online: New Perspectives on Diaspora. Ashgate. 228 pages. ISBN 978-1-4724-1913-2

Fritzi-Marie Titzmann, Leipzig

The recently published anthology brings together a heterogeneous group of scholars. While some contributors are already well known for their previous work on diasporic and transnational “Indianness” such as Urmila Goel on the Indian diaspora in Germany, Vinay Lal on Hinduism in the USA, and Ananda Mitra on Indian diasporic websites, others are young scholars entering the field of study with innovative ideas and approaches. Remarkable is the diversity of disciplinary backgrounds.
The content is divided into two sections focusing on Identity (Chapter 1-6) and Power (Chapter 7-9) but the book’s focal point clearly is – by referring to Anthony Giddens – reflexive self-identity enabled and encouraged by the Internet. This identity changes over time, develops, transforms, and adapts to varying life-phases. While building on the assumption that life-circumstances generated by migration are particularly challenging for negotiations of identity and belonging, studies of transnationalism comprise dynamics abroad as well as in the respective home countries. Most of the chapters do include different localities in this sense, though a strong focus on the Indian diaspora in the USA remains.
The editors acknowledge in the preface that they do not touch upon dynamics of exclusion (or the ‘digital divide’) and misuse of new technologies but they mention these questions as following from the papers presented in the volume.
The book bears testimony to the ongoing trend of internet studies with a focus on migration and connectivity. The comprehensive Introduction by De Kruijf presents theoretical frameworks, outlines dominant theories on transnationalism, diaspora, and self-identity and its linkages with emerging digital cultures. Although he refers to notions that are introduced in the following chapters, it is not a new question under which the papers have been compiled. De Kruijf rather situates the chapters as case studies in an existing corpus of theoretical and empirical studies. While the book is overall very well edited, only a fraction of the works and authors cited in the comprehensive Introduction are listed under references. This is a very unfortunate mistake, as particularly the literature overview would be very helpful to readers who are new to this area of research.

In Chapter 1, Usha Raman and Sumana Kasturi follow three women bloggers, located between the USA and India. The analysis suggests that a transnational identity is created through the act of blogging. They come to the conclusion that diasporic media practices may serve both to preserve traditionalism and to facilitate the performance of a liberal, cosmopolitan subjectivity. This view is based on the understanding that new media do not imply an ideology of its users per se and should be rather seen as value-free tools.
By drawing mainly from his own theoretical work on identity in a cybernetic space (“that is produced at the congruence of the real and the digital”, p.47), Ananda Mitra presents his prediction that the ‘national Indian’ will vanish and a ‘trans-Indian’ will dominate the future (Chap.2). He argues for “a ‘trans-national’ who has expanded opportunities to reformulate both the self and the place that the self dwells in” (p.47). Thus, ‘trans-Indian’ can describe diasporic identity constructions as well as identity discourses of Indians situated in India. Crucial are the creation of a virtual presence and the connectivity of this person – marked as Indian – with discourses and cultural practices from any chosen part of the world. While Mitra’s conceptualization is interesting because of its multilateralism, his concept is restricted to a certain class made up of professional migrants and urban upper-middle classes who do create digital selves. His prediction leaves out a vast majority who is not only denied access to the digital world but also does not partake in the described processes of “Americanization” in India.
Similar to Mitra’s cybernetic space seems Emily Skop’s ‘ThirdSpace’ (Chap.4), a space that is “located between the two poles of ‘here’ and ‘there’” (p.81). Migrants who engage in transnational activities create new spheres of interaction within these thirdspaces, and the Internet can be seen as their most vital tool. Skop develops a “continuum of embeddedness” to analyze these engagements and describes five stages that range from the most engaged migrants to moderately connected ones, rather disinterested onlookers, dissatisfied witnesses, and disconnected bystanders (p.95).
An insightful methodological discussion is brought in by Urmila Goel (Chap. 3). She presents the sole study from a non-anglophone context in this book. Her chapter is the only one including a critical self-reflection about positionality and the researcher’s role in constructing ethnic labels. With her empirical case study of a digital forum called “Indernet”, she demonstrates how a community marked as Indian is intentionally created. This leads her to the term of the “ethnic entrepreneur” (p.75ff), which also includes researchers who work on those marked as Indians and thereby reproduce constructed “Indianness”.
With reference to the construction of “Indianness”, Vinay Lal emphasizes the role of diasporic agents in the US in forging a fixed Hindu identity with a conservative hindu-nationalist connotation (Chap.6). He describes the active reinterpretation of Indian history and a gradual development of a rhetoric that propagates Hinduism as a superior world religion. Lal shows how these discourses reflect in civic engagement, citing examples of campaigns that took advantage of arguments about multiculturalism, diversity and citizenship in the US to push a hindu-nationalist agenda. But the same people, Lal argues, refuse to accept multiculturalism and tolerance in the Indian context.
Scheifinger’s rather descriptive account of the digital network of a Hindu institution belonging to the religious path of Advaita Vedanta (Chap.5) seems slightly misplaced in the Identity section. Although he depicts the online manifestation of an important practice connected with the religious leader in the example of online yatras (religious tours across India) and the consequential deterritorialization of the ritual by transcending physical locations, Scheifinger’s conclusion about new transnational modes of connectivity is neither new, nor touches it upon questions of identity.

The second section of the book broadly concerns questions of power, although the theme is not overtly evident in all chapters. Mirian Santos de Ribeiro de Oliveira (Chap.7) analyses the (re-)construction of transnational Indian identity through online NRI (Non-Resident Indian) forums. She describes NRI-oriented activities towards an inclusive Indian identity from the perspective of agents located in the ‘homeland’, therewith stressing the dynamics of simultaneous deterritorialization and reterritorialization. Unfortunately, the reader does not learn much about these agents, other than the changes their platform facilitates in terms of transnational connectivity.
Emilia Bachrach examines online advice forums of the Vallabh Vaishnava sect (Chap.8). Similar to Scheifinger, Bachrach notes that the sect’s online presence represents a continuation of ‘traditional’ forms of proselytization like pilgrimages and practices like the devotee-guru relationship. In comparison to Scheifinger’s observation, Bachrach identifies more than a digital support system and comes to two conclusions: Firstly, she observes demographic changes facilitated through the employment of new media (more young users); secondly, she demonstrates an impact on the very understanding of religion and ritual practice.
Ashish Saxena (Chap.9) renders a rather descriptive chronological account of the internationalization of Dalit activism. He confirms but does not explicate the initial question of how globalization “may become a means for their [Dalit] identity construction” (p.191). His account of Dalit groups and their diasporic involvement is well researched but a focus on online activism, other than listing websites and newsletters, is absent. The chapter’s incorporation into the volume appears more like the attempt to include a marginal perspective complementing the dominant focus on an elitist US-Hindu-diaspora. Goel’s contribution from the German-speaking region being the only other exemption, this is a commendable initiative since the almost exclusive view on Hindu migrants is a point of criticism.
Nevertheless, the book is a welcome addition to the growing scholarly corpus on transnationalism, online culture, and questions of identity for the Indian context. While some articles, especially in the first section, include interesting theoretical reflections, the strength of the book lies in the empirical case studies. For researchers and students the anthology is a good starting point to explore these questions. Practical assets are the glossary and a helpful index.

The Link between ICT4D and Modernization Theory

Marlene Kunst | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: For some decades western institutions have shared an enormous enthusiasm for Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D). Nevertheless, despite the field’s ever-increasing importance, research on it remains fragmented and lacks a theoretical foundation. By establishing a link between ICT4D and Modernization theory as one of the major development models, this paper aims to add some theoretical reflections to the body of existing research. Initially, a literature review of the most significant authors of Modernization theory serves as a theoretical base. Subsequently, empirical findings are systematized and embedded in the theoretical framework. The leading question is, whether ICT4D is connected to Modernization theory’s main lines of thought, both in theory and in the field. Modernization theory was chosen as a reference point, as even though it has frequently been marked as outdated, some argue that ICT4D has brought about its revival: Led by a technocratic mindset, actors in the field have indeed assumed ICTs to be context-free tools, which is one of the reasons why ICT4D has so far not been an unmitigated success. As there is a lack of systematic research on ICT4D, this paper is explorative in nature. It is certainly beyond the author’s scope to make any definite statements on how development cooperation has hitherto handled ICT4D, as the field is too complex. Instead, light will be shed on some trends that can be identified in the field of ICT4D to date.

Assessing the Impact of TMF on the Tanzanian Media: A Practical Approach

Sanne van den Berg | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: The Tanzania Media Fund (TMF) supports individual journalists and media institutions to produce quality public interest and investigative journalism content that better informs the public, contributes to debate and thereby increases public demand for greater accountability in Tanzania. TMF has used lessons learned from its first phase (2008- 2012) to develop a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework that captures TMF’s achievements in phase 2 (2012-2015) and beyond. This article provides an overview of the practical implementation of the M&E framework, and challenges encountered during implementation.

In Search of Evidence: Media and Governance in Fragile States

Nicole Stremlau | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: This article reflects on efforts to identify evidence about the role of media in fragile states. It explores and compares findings from two research projects and focuses on some of the lessons that have emerged from these exercises as well as on the relevance of the findings for media development. While we know that media matters in areas such as conflict, reconciliation and peacebuilding, neither of the reviews of the literature found substantial evidence supporting some of the widespread claims about the importance of media, suggesting how elusive this evidence can be.

Results-Oriented Evaluations: Their Uses, Their Limits and How They are Driving Implementers‘ Coping Strategies

Michel Leroy | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: While the use of monitoring and evaluation (M&E) by media development implementers is well documented, organizations’ coping strategies to adapt to new environments in media and development still remain a relatively unexplored area. The article aims at showing how the theoretical lessons learnt by the industry have been put into practice and how a successful change can be driven within an organization using outside experts.
A results-oriented culture of performance and service has been enforced since the 1990s in the EU. Evaluation systems have been a powerful catalyst in driving the transition from media support to media development and in making the latter more independent from broadcasters and donors. In recent years, changes in media assistance procedures and aims have profoundly modified the traditional landscape. This article will not question these changes, their origin and motivations. It will focus on implementers’ coping strategies to adapt (or not) to these new procedures and aims and how results-oriented evaluations can drive the shift from outputs to outcomes in a changing media development sector.
Can capitalizing on experience be considered a learning process that prepares for change and improves the design and implementation of projects? To what extent can it help to empower the operator as an organization? Referring to various concrete case studies from British, French and German media assistance, the article will focus on virtuous change – the circumstances that encourage structures, as well as donors who fund them, to better define and operationalize their strategies.

Does Sustainability Require Transparency? The UN Divide Over Freedom of Information & Media in the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Bill Orme | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly will adopt a new set of global development objectives to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, which expire at the end of the year. A General Assembly working group has proposed 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” with 169 associated “targets,” including one committing all UN member states to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.” The UN Secretary-General and his many prominent “post-2015” advisors also advocate guarantees for freedom of information in the new global goals. The inclusion of a clear commitment to access to information in the SDGs – including factual “indicators” to monitor compliance – could have a profound impact on freedom of expression and media globally, advocates contend. Yet it remains uncertain whether any provision on access to information will survive the remaining months of negotiations before the final set of SDGs is agreed at the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. Some developing countries oppose an access to information target, along with other proposed commitments to human rights and democratic governance in the SDGs. But others are strongly supportive, and UN debates on the new goals are likely to continue until the September deadline.

International Assistance and Media Democratization in the Western Balkans: A Cross-National Comparison

Kristina Irion & Tarik Jusić | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: International media assistance programs accompanied the democratic media transition in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia with varying intensity. These countries untertook a range of media reforms to conform with accession requirements of the European Union (EU) and the standards of the Council of Europe, among others. This article explores the nexus between the democratic transformation of the media and international media assistance (IMA) as constrained by the local political conditions in the five countries of the Western Balkans. It aims to enhance the understanding of conditions and factors that influence media institution building in the region and evaluates the role of international assistance programs and conditionality mechanisms herein.
The cross-national analysis concludes that the effects of IMA are highly constrained by the local context. A decade of IMA of varying intensity is not sufficient to construct media institutions when, in order to function properly, they have to outperform their local context. From today’s vantage point it becomes obvious, that in the short-term scaling-up IMA does not necessarily improve outcomes. The experiences in the region suggest that imported solutions have not been sufficiently cognitive of all aspects of local conditions and international strategies have tended to be rather schematic and have lacked strategic approaches to promote media policy stability, credible media reform and implementation. To a certain extent, the loss of IMA effectiveness is also self-inflicted.

The Failure of a Success Story: Reforming Georgia’s Public Service Broadcaster

Marek Bekerman | PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: Georgia’s “Law on Broadcasting” was passed in 2004 to provide, among other things, a legal framework for the transformation of the country’s state broadcaster into the public service media provider. The law itself has been praised internationally for its progressive nature and presented as an example for other post-Soviet countries to follow. A decade later, and after a number of amendments, it is no longer seen as effective in ensuring that public service broadcasting in Georgia provides the expected quality and range of services, or can be immune to political interference. Since its birth, GPB has suffered from continuous crises and scandals, and has never been a major player in the Georgian media. There have been several attempts involving international organisations and institutions to reform and improve GPB, to elevate its status and increase its market share, but none of them have succeeded. Most of those efforts have been supported by the European Commission and the OSCE, with participation from such media organisations as the BBC, which had run a series of training and monitoring programmes until 2011. A comprehensive programme of editorial, managerial and structural reform at the Georgian broadcaster developed in 2011-12 was shelved ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, and GPB has been in a state of semi-paralysis ever since. The article examines the state of public service broadcasting in Georgia and what could be done to improve it.

Windows of Opportunity – The Transformation of State Media to Public Service Media in Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Moldova and Serbia

Jan Lublinski, Erik Albrecht, Petra Berner, Laura Schneider, Merjam Wakili & Jackie Wilson
| PDF-Fulltext

Abstract: The transformation of state media to public service media (PSM) is one of the most ambitious endeavors in the field of media development. Not many efforts to free the national media from government control have succeeded in the past decades. In this paper the comparatively promising cases of Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Moldova and Serbia are discussed. The PSM in these countries all have a new legal basis, including a public service remit and a relatively independent governing body in which civil society is represented. The services delivered to the public by these media are analyzed according to a number of societal functions which are assembled under two general headings: “creating a public sphere” and “supporting integration”. Based on this analysis, a differentiation between “PSM in initial transformation” and “PSM in advanced transformation” is suggested. In all cases studied, different actors successfully used windows of opportunity: general political agendas to reform the media, a specific engagement from the management as well as support from the population and civil society. Media development actors here helped to advance the processes of change in different ways. Recommendations for future media development include strategic planning, inclusion of local actors, the pooling of legal expertise as well as structured processes of organizational development and capacity building.

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