Diaspora & Contemporary Media: It’s Complicated

1. Does media still play a role in sustaining nationalism, even if media technology is less about broadcast or “mass” communication?

My default reaction to this question was to say, “Maybe. Sometimes. It’s complicated.” It seems, too, that the levels of just how complicated the relationship between contemporary media and contemporary nationalism is varies with context. How national media in China or Nigeria or Brazil fosters nationalism seems specific and unique to the culture and circumstances of those nations (which reminds me of the arguments Elena Block makes in her essay on media hegemony concerning how the relationships between politicians, news, and media must be considered in their culturally-specific context).

However, what really stood out to me in the readings for last week was Karim’s piece on diaspora. Diaspora, according to Karim, challenges our paradigmatic understanding of the world as being composed of nation-states (396). Considering contemporary nationalism within its cultural context is complex enough, but diaspora further complicates our understanding of nationalism by fostering a kind of borderless nationalism shared among those in diaspora and those in the homeland. According to Karim, diasporas “make connections between the local and the global, between the colonial and the post-colonial” and form a kind of interstitial space linking national and transnational populations (403). Media is a key element in creating these spaces: newspapers, television channels, and notably, the Internet. Karim notes that members of diasporic communities are able to “obtain cultural materials with growing ease from other parts of the world” (400) and that these cultural materials mediate the nationalism felt by members of these communities. These media sources help spread information about the homeland, but they also create the kinds of patterns of behavior and thought that we linked to traditional media-driven nationalism in class discussion last week. With a shift in focus away from mass communications and broadcasts, news media is reaching more and more specific markets (such as diasporic communities) and, thus, is still a player in sustaining nationalism today.

Cited:

Block, Elena. “A Culturalist Approach to the Concept of the Mediatization of Politics: The Age of ‘Media Hegemony’” Communication Theory, Vol 23, Issue 3, 259-278 June 2013.

Karim H. Karim “Re-viewing the ‘National’ in ‘International Communication’ Through the Lens of Diaspora” in International Communications: A Reader, ed. Thussu, Daya K. (London: Routeledge, 2009)

-ml.

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