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Abu-Lughod L - Editorial Comment - On Screening Politics in a World of Nations

Abu-Lughod L - Editorial Comment - On Screening Politics in a World of Nations

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Published by Windu W. Jusuf
Abu-Lughod L - Editorial Comment - On Screening Politics in a World of Nations
Abu-Lughod L - Editorial Comment - On Screening Politics in a World of Nations

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Published by: Windu W. Jusuf on Feb 07, 2013
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06/15/2014

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Editorial Comment:On Screening
Politics
in
a
World
of
Nations
Television is the medium of public culture that now permeates most effortlesslythe private spaces of our lives. Television sets had entered half of U.S. homesby 1955, but arrived later in other parts of the world, where labor migrants’wages were often needed to make that dream possible. National televisionbroadcasting too began at different times
in
different places: the late 1940s
in
the United States, but later
in
most
of
the less industrialized world- 1955
in
Thailand, 1960
in
Egypt, and 1987 in Papua New Guinea. Even the establishmentof national broadcasting did not guarantee instantaneous reception nationwide; notuntil the mid-l980s, for example, were arrangements made to extend commercialtelevision to some of the more remote regions of the Australian outback.This special feature of
Public
Culture
focuses on the politics of television andvideo in national contexts in what have been called the Third and Fourth Worlds.It might seem surprising to privilege the national when the transnational characterof television programming has been
so
frequently commented on. Careful studiesexist of the transnational reception
of
such notorious First World programs asthe American soap opera
Dallas
(e.g., in the Netherlands and in Israel). Mediascholars have variously examined or deplored the consequences of the globalreach of First World television programs for local television production, morality,or cultural autonomy. The aggressive marketing strategies of
U.S.
distributioncompanies and the often staggering proportion of imported programming onnational television stations around the world is well known. More attention could
Public
Culture
1993,
5:
465-467
0
1993
by
The University
of
Chicago.
All
rights resewed.
0899-2363/93/0503~1$01
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465
 
466
Public Culture
well be paid, however, to'global cultural flows that do not originate inEuro-American centers: Japanese television programs that are exported toThailand and Indonesia, Indian films aired on Friday nights in Egypt, Globo'smarketing of Brazilian
telenovelus
across Latin America and West Africa, andEgyptian serials that are watched in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan evenbefore they are broadcast in Egypt.While the movement of television programs across national boundaries shouldnot be ignored, the nation-state remains crucial for the deployment of mass media.The nation-state determines the political economy of production and distribution,provides the locus of articulation of broadcasting policies and decisions, and isthe context in which viewers consume and interpret television programs. Thusthe nation and the dynamics that depend on it-regionalism, political opposition,and national differences of class and gender-are taken to be central categoriesfor understanding television in this special feature.There are several ways to explore the politics of television with this focus onthe dynamics of media and nationhood. One way is to read the texts of majordramatic televisual productions. Like
telenovelus
in Latin America, televisionserials are a popular staple of national broadcasting in many countries with majorproduction capabilities
-
ountries like India, Egypt, and China. The messagesof major serials in these state-controlled media systems may be closely tied tocontemporary national crises or dilemmas. To discover how, one needs toconsider not just the televisual material itself, but the historical and institutionalcontexts in which the producers of these dramas are working. Thus, for example,Indian viewers' readings of the televised serial
Muhubhurutu
must be located
in
the context of religious nationalism.Another approach
is
to tackle the mechanics of government control itself. Statecensorship over content is common around the world, although as Hollywoodtelevision scriptwriters recently complained in the
New
York
Times,
advertiserscan enforce restrictions far more brutal than any imagined by a Third Worldgovernment.With the recent availability of communication technologies associated withvideo, any consideration of the politics of television must now include a recogni-tion of possible challenges independent production poses to the monopolies heldby national broadcasting systems, whether commercial and advertisement-drivenor, following the old British model, oriented toward public service and strictlygovernment-controlled. This is a third way to explore the politics of televisualmedia in a world of nations. Whether geared toward the advancement of a politicsof identity of Australian Aboriginal communities in danger of losing their lan-guages and traditions, the enhancement of the status of particular individuals andthe consolidation of regional interests in Papua New Guinea, the mobilizationfor political action of feminists and members of labor unions in Latin America,

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