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Race and Ethnicity: Media and Otherness

Michelle Naftalis & Joe Le

joe le

on 17 January 2013

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Transcript of Race and Ethnicity: Media and Otherness

Race and Ethnicity:
Media and Otherness Michelle Naftalis & Joe Le
January 14th, 2013 David Morley & Kevin Robbins Under Western Eyes, Media, Empire and Otherness is a chapter that appears in Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries first published in 1995. Pnina Werbner Werbner was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1944 but her nationality is British.
Professor Emerita of Social Anthropology where research is mainly focused on race politics. Stuart Hall Hall was born in Jamaica in 1932 and came to England to study at Oxford in 1951, as a Rhodes Scholar. Hall is a sociologist, cultural theorist, writer, film critic and political activist and holds Professor Emeritus status at the Open University. Q: Can you think of any blatant
representations of racism in media? Media Imperialism:

The media changes the way people perceive other cultures. However, each person will receive media messages differently and will end up conjuring a general idea about a culture that goes through their own social filters.

“West speaks and the Rest listen” (Morsey & Robbins 126). “We must balance an acceptance that audiences are in certain respects active in their choice, consumption, and interpretation of media texts, with a recognition of how that activity is framed and limited, in its different modalities and varieties, by the dynamics of cultural power." (Morsey & Robbins 126) Model of Indigenisation:

Other models considered to help understand media consumption was the concept of indigenisation. A way to understand how incorporation and assimilation of material take place.

Local cultures can refashion elements produced elsewhere. Geographical Place

“Dorreen Massey has argued that places themselves should no longer be seen as internally homogeneous, bounded areas, but as “spaces of interaction’ in which local identities are constructed out of resources (both material and symbolic) which may well not be at all local in their origin, but are nonetheless “authentic” for all that." (as quoted by Morsey and Robbins 128). The new media has redefined notions of social “position” and “place”.

We no longer have to be in a physical location to experience an event. More and more people are living in a national information system rather than in a local town or city.

Media is changing our sense of locality. LIVING IN A MEDIATED WORLD We are still very dependent on the media for our images of non-local people, places and events, and the further the “event” from our own direct experience, the more we depend on media images for the totality of our own knowledge. Representations of the Other in Media Representations always involve a relation of power, as well as a relation of knowledge between representer and represented.

(Who speaks? When and Where? With or to whom? Under what institutional and historical constraints?) "With the latest media technology, we could sit in front of our television screens, safe at home, and watch, as in a video game, as the bombs homed in on their targets. The media then allowed us a kind of para-social, thrilled involvement in the obliteration of the monstrous Other." (Morsey & Robbins 139) “It engages feelings, attitudes and emotions and it mobilizes fears and anxieties in the viewer”. THE SPECTACLE OF THE OTHER It is essential to the production of meaning, the formation of language and culture, for social identities and a subjective sense of the self and at the same time it is threatening, a site of danger, of negative feelings, of splitting, hostility and aggression towards the ‘other’. Difference serves as a way of understanding ourselves because we view our identities as marking the difference from others who are not like we are. THE PRODUCTION OF MEANING:
Theoretical models Social theories:

Barthes’ myth: connotation/denotation, two levels of meaning.

Binary forms of representations.

Intertextuality Cultural Theories

Bakhtin argues that meaning is constructed through a dialogue with the other. meaning therefore, does not belong to any one speaker, it arises from the give-and-take dialectic relationship between different speakers. The speaker holds the power to appropriate the word, adapting it to ones own semantic expressive intention. Strauss argued that meaning can be produced by dividing the object into specific categories according to its qualities or characteristics. Mary Douglas’ theory argues that social groups impose meaning on their world by ordering and organizing according to systems of classification which follow along a symbolic order. Psychoanalytical theories:

“The other is fundamental to the constitution of the self.”

Freud’s Oedipus complex, which states that the self is formed through the creation of a sexual identity which is governed by sense of lack of and a recognition of sexual difference. Lacan’s mirror stage- the period of development when the child recognizes itself as a singular, unified subject separate from the outside world HISTORICAL OVERVIEW: First period – Trade and imperialism of the third world

Second period – Plantation slavery in the USA

Third period – Immigration from the third world into Europe and North America STEREOTYPING AS A SIGNIFYING PRACTICE: Distinction of types vs. stereotypes:

"A type is any simple, vivid, memorable, easily grasped and widely recognized characterization in which a few traits are foregrounded and change or development is kept to a minimum" (Hall quoting Dyer, 1977. p 257)

Stereotyping strategically divides, leading to the construction of “otherness”. Stereotyping and Power Power in representation: the power to mark, assign and classify, it is a symbolic power of ritualized expulsion.

Said defines power as the way in which “certain cultural forms predominate over others”, relating to Gramsci’s notion of hegemony as a primary method for understanding cultural life.

Foucalt’s power/knowledge: power operates in conditions of unequal relations, it involves constituting knowledge, representation, discourse and cultural authority. The Role of Fantasy

The formation of stereotypes is closely tied to what is imaged on an unconscious level: fantasies pertaining to our individual opinions, insecurities shape our perception of the stereotyped subject. Fetishism and Disavowal

The process of being fetishized occurs when a certain part or parts of a subject become a spectacle due to its ‘abnormality’, since it fails to coincide with the system of classification which governs what we deem as normal.

Often, it is the physical body of the ‘other’ which becomes fetishized as the primary marker of difference. Fetishism involves disavowal, which occurs when a powerful fascination or desire is both indulged and at the same time denied.

Because it is tabooed, this desire to gaze at the forbidden object must find a displaced form of representation. STRATEGIES FOR CHANGING DOMINANT REPRESENTATION:

Meaning can never be fixed, since power is constantly in flux, and the world is forever changing and moving forward.

Since the 1960s, questions of power and representation in the politics of social movements have led to active efforts to construct new and reappropriated meanings, this process is called trans-coding. Q: The author believes that society has yet to move past the systems of power and binary systems of representation which construct dominant discourses.

Do you think it is possible to escape the discourse pertaining to what is the normative? Will there always be a dominant discourse, particularly about 'otherness'? Essentialising Essentialism, Essentialising Silence: Ambivalence and Multiplicity in the Constructions of Racism and Ethnicity “To essentialize is to impute a fundamental, basic, absolutely necessary constitutive quality to a person, social category, ethnic group, religious community or nation.... it is to imply an internal sameness and an external difference or otherness”
(Werbner 228) essentialism obscures and distorts, makes assumptions about the relational aspects of group culture and identity
it fails to wholly construct a subject’s identity as functioning outside their essentialist qualities, as if they are completely seperate from the external world and could not possibly be related to any other discursive purpose Ethnicity vs. racism:

Ethnicity is a shifting, hybridized politics of identity or collective self-representation. ethnic identities are performed through gestures of identification and reaching out
racism is ethnic absolutism- it involves representing the other through a system of essentializing politics which violate and negate ethnic self-representation. Two modes of representation

- Objectification: a rightful representation of diverse, valorized and aetheticised identifications

-Reification: representation which distorts and silences. it is essentialist and reductionist in nature
however, there remains an issue about the moral appropriateness of group labels, which has lead to fierce debates about what ethnic minorities should call themselves and be called by others. Ethnic violence as a social force:
violence is performative and exemplary: it is an symbolic act which communicates ones intentions while transforming human relationships as well as larger society
violence denies otherness its legitimate right to exist and to be different
- rise of organized racial violence in Britain during the 1990s was sparked by interchanging moral panics during what was the Rushdie Affair. Community of Suffering:

Through violence driven by virtue of their (ethnically, biologically or culturally marked) group memberships, communities of suffering emerges. The violence is symbolically directed at specific groups.

Racial or xenophobic attacks are meant to be examples. The message is clear to the targeted groups. (Blacks, Immigrants, Muslims, etc)

These acts of violence become a form of public communication. They are systematic despite looking like uncontrolled events. Moral Communities:
Like communities of suffering, moral communities disguise their composite multiplicity under a semblance of unity. It’s challenge is to go beyond its own internal cultural, political, and gendered differences.

“Giving (like racial violence) is performative - a symbolic, theatrical, gesture.” (Werbner 239).

Unlike violence, this gesture is one of reaching out, of responsibility and identification. Identities are not lived only discursively but through gestures of identification or rejection. The Aesthetic Community

The aesthetic community is defined by cultural knowledge, passion, and creativity.

Cultural Experts: orators, poets, priests, musicians, saints and intellectuals Q: Is it possible to formulate an identity without constructing an other? Why is this problematic?
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