University of Leicester - Faculty of Mass Communication New Media and Society - Distance Learning Assignment 4 Option 2

The How far or in what ways, might alternative media have a significant role to play in the construction or preservation of national / cultural identities?

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so as to form a distinct people"1 According to Das and Harindranath (2009). history.com/cgi/entry/00321434?query_type=word&queryword=nation&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_type= alpha&result_place=1&search_id=vlCm-9HdqJ3-435&hilite=00321434 . nation-state and national identity and to distinguish between a unitary national identity and the various. or "a group of people within an existing nation-state or across the boundaries of 1 http://dictionary. whether the alternative forms of media can help to solve the problems associated with the issue of national identity / national identities within the nation-states. Nation. After giving a definition of alternative media we will identify its role in shaping and maintaining non-dominant national identities. and finally we will give an answer to the question. We will focus on the problems arising from the role of the "national" media in the formation of a single dominant national identity. the common meaning of a "nation" today could be: "an aggregation of people administered by one political unit. and how that role may marginalize certain social and ethnic groups within a nation-state. In order to identify this role. national identity The Oxford English Dictionary defines a "nation" as: "A large aggregate of communities and individuals united by factors such as common descent. language. the ‘state. nation-state.oed.1 Introduction Subject of this assignment is the role of alternative media in the formation or maintenance of national / cultural identities.’ (as in 'nation-state')". we need to define the notions of nation. smaller national and cultural identities that exist within the most of the nation-states. culture. or occupation of the same territory.

from all non-members". 377) "National identity is the common psychological bound that joins a people and differentiates it. the feeling of unity and commonality with the other members is "imagined" or "created" and is based on the assumption of similar origins. p. (Connor 1993. A different definition of a nation comes from Benedict Anderson (1983): "[a nation] is an imagined political community . the idea of nation is based on a variety of common features that connect the people within it and at the same time differentiate them from members of other collectivities. constructs their national identity. Thus. thus. that do not share the same characteristics. the feeling that they belong to a nation. According to Connor. p. none of its members will ever get to know all the other members. In both cases. p. 9). because of the large number of people constituting a nation. It justifies itself by the fact that today.6). in the sub-conscious conviction of its members. But where does this "psychological bound" come from? Is it natural or constructed? When did the people begin to have a national identity? The very definition of national identity gives us hints for the answer. there is an underlying implication of nationhood as the cultural bond that knits a large group of people together.2 two or more nation-states who are seeking independent statehood for themselves (as in 'Basque nationalism' or 'Arab nationalism'). The term "imagined" here has no negative meaning and does not imply the "manufacturing" of nationhood. The consciousness of the people.and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign" (Anderson 1983. who carry these very characteristics and share it with others. giving legitimacy to their claim to statehood" (Das and Harindranath 2006.6) As we can see from the presented definitions. Since the . (Ibid. traditions etc. p.

are a product of the last centuries and an invention of the European world. traditions and religions. which cannot exist without a state or at least the aspiration of the creation of a state (Das and Harindranath 2006. a "national culture" has to be created. that are today regarded to be natural forms of political organization. p. p. The nation. (Smith 1991. given the fact that ethnical and cultural homogeneity rarely existed in the pre-colonial world. p. 106. p. in Eriksen. According to Smith. 12. 5).states. 107). Examples of the recent history. hosting populations with different languages.3 nations constitute a political entity. p. 1993. 252254). p. such as the civil war in Lebanon from 1975 to 1991 (Traboulsi 2007. implicate the dominant assumption that a nation state has to include almost exclusively a homogenous population (Das and Harindranath 2006. p. or the massive dislocations entire populations in ex Yugoslavia in the 90s. a feeling of identification with the nation has to be cultivated. cited by Das and Harindranath. though. the origins of national identity should be sought at the origins of the nation-state. The main factor that held their populations together was the resistance against the colonial forces and not the cultural homogeneity of their populations. 107) most non-western countries were under colonial regimes and became sovereign national states after their liberation. Where this is not the case. The result was the creation of multiethnic and multi-cultural national states (Smith 1991. so that the unity of the 2 Ethnicity: social identity characterized by a metaphoric or fiktive kinship (Yelvington. 106. These multi-ethnic states2 (either established after liberation struggles or not) constitute the majority of states today.9). 10) . The geographical boundaries set by the colonial powers were retained after liberation and they constituted the boundaries of the new nation-states.

19). events and ceremonies" (Scannel and Cardiff 1995. such as the royal Christmas Broadcast in Britain. p. which was invented in 1932 (Hobsbawm 1983. Mass media and cultural identity As mentioned above.1) and making "the nation real and tangible through a whole range of images and symbols. p. Although the non-dominant ethnic groups and cultures still exist in form of minorities (Smith 1991. p. The marginalization of minorities involved in the dissemination of symbols and traditions of a single dominant culture within a nation state is seen in the example of Scannell and Cardiff describing how the BBC defined the British . He calls this fact the "dominant ethnic model". They do so by disseminating invented traditions. whether the culture of a particular ethnicity takes a dominant role. According to Smith (Smith 1991.4 nation state can be maintained (Das and Harindranath 2006. The national media play an important role in the formation of a dominant national consciousness. they often face the threat of intra-national homogenization. 19). 110) usually one ethnic group dominates over the others and gives the nation-state its national cultural character. s. namely the threat to be assimilated from the dominant culture and loose their own cultural identity (Das and Harindranath 2006. 111). 319). in articulating and disseminating "national" in relation to "non-national". the "good" in relation to "bad (Das and Harindranath 2006.19). In the case of multi-ethnic states the question is raised. "normal" compared with "abnormal". p. the national media are used by the state to strengthen and maintain the unity of the nation. p. p.

marginalizing this way the music of Wales. 5). p. 2001). According to Das and Harindranath this resistance occurs in two ways: Either through the different meanings each person receives from the media messages. p. alternative media are produced outside the conventional institutions and networks (Atton and Couldry 2003. and to resist to the media messages they are exposed to.5 music as synonymous to English. underlying their role as factors of social change and resistance and as agencies of shaping and constructing citizenship. Although the threat of extinction of local cultures through both the international media (globalization). Alternative are the media that complement and challenge the mainstream media. something "conventional" and different. the audiences have the ability to react. Scotland and Ireland (Scannell and Cardiff 1991 cited in Das and Harindranath 2006. 2001) or "citizen's media” (Rodriguez. such as state owned or corporate media institutions (Lewis 2006. or as organized resistance in the form of alternative media (Das and Harindranath 2006. 579). For the purposes of this assignment we will shall use the term "alternative media". p. According to Atton and Couldry. 19). Alternative media I referred above to the threat of assimilation and marginalization of ethnic minorities within the nation-state by the media. p. According to Peter Lewis "alternative" can be understood only in relation to something else. is existent. and the national ones. 21). They are also referred to as "radical media" (Downing. but not necessarily .

they all share some common values. 8). participation and community. such as "development of local communities".(Butalia 1993. Although the alternative media may have different aims and origins. 28-29).6 opposite. to give voice and expression to various small local groups -such as the concepts of community radio. p. "especially the emphasis on smallness of scale and grass-roots organization. shared goals between producers and audiences. poadcasts.) Alternative media are used to mobilize for radical political changes or revolutions . fanzines. . p 5. community television stations with local news. to awaken the citizens about human rights abuses . "information exchange". "exchange of roles" between senders and receivers (Ibid. p.such as the Women’s street theatre in India . p. We could argue that alternative media implement the main points of the theory. 20-22). These main features of alternative media coincide with the Multiplicity/Another Development Paradigm of international communication development that emerged as a respond to the insufficiency of the theories of modernization and development to explain and give solutions to the problems of inequalities in communications development between developed and developing countries and the ills of globalization in the modern world (Servaes and Thomas 2006. (Lewis 2006. plus opposition -in some cases. 186). etc. "participatory democracy". offering alternative structures. citated by Lewis 2006. p. content and applications. where citizens can participate to the production and the management. in order to cover their deficiencies. p. blogs.like the alternative press in Africa during the colonial period(Lewis 2006.to the powers of the state and industry" (McQuail 2005. low circulation local newspapers.18). style. They use the same technology as the mainstream media.

276. In the practical level. genres and professional experience from the dominant culture. he argues. according to Riggins. as we will see in the following section. should not be seen as a fixed entity only . the development of minority news agendas. of exchange with other members of the community. National identity. p. ethnic minority media play a "dual role". the conditions are not always ideal. to the preservation of the minority culture and to its assimilation by the dominant culture. they can contribute to both. of concentrating on subjects that are interesting for the special ethnic group offers theoretically a great possibility of expression and preservation. The most likely long-term effect of alternative media to the minority culture is. cited in Lewis. 31). Especially for ethnic groups and minorities. the preservation can be achieved through the use of the indigenous language. The process of assimilation is facilitated by the borrowing of language. As claimed by Riggins. the announcement of community events and the symbolic significance of the existence of the ethnic group (Riggins 1992. namely alternative forms of media expression produced by ethnic minorities. p.7 Such points offer a ground for discussion about the role of alternative media to the construction or preservation of national / cultural identities. however. the possibility of participation to the making of media contests. a compromise between preservation and assimilation. a very suitable example would be that of indigenous media. Alternative media and cultural identities by ethnic minorities In order to provide an insight to the role of alternative media to the formation and preservation of national and cultural identities.

that distinguish them from other forms of alternative media (Lewis 2006. p. 32). but also due to the professional aid of the mainstream media. p. 1994. due to the strong influence of the dominant ideology in the very population of ethnic minorities (Lewis 2006.(Lewis 2006. 32) compares this form of resistance to the reaction of the Third World to the threat of globalization.8 capable of being preserved or lost. cited in Lewis. the idea of a single national identity within nationstate.32). p. p. but as a dynamic process subject to changes and transformations (Ibid 1992. Lewis (2006. especially the indigenous. p. resist this trend in order to preserve and protect the ethnic identities. as in the case of the Iranian Revolution (Sreberny-Mohammadi and Mohammadi. the role of indigenous media and their relation to cultural identities should be seen and evaluated within these particular contexts. recognized or not. p. In this sense. 276. These transformations rely on the various contexts within which the ethnic minorities exist -homeland or diaspora. cited in Lewis. this effort of alternative media is not always successful. Conclusion As I already mentioned. 32). The latter are either preserved in a folklorist version or even mobilized to achieve social changes. or to the attitude of the different generations towards the dominant culture and towards their ethnic traditions. which inevitably reflects the spirit of the dominant .32). includes the problem of exclusion and marginalization of ethnic minorities and the risk of elimination and assimilation of their culture by the dominant national culture. The alternative media. 32). As noted above. p.

I do not believe that alternative media alone can solve the problems associated with national identity. alternative media continue to exist alongside mainstream media since the very beginning of the media production (Lewis. 277. p. 30) can be additional problems. Lack of financial sources and difficulty accessing large population groups (Lewis 2006.9 culture (Riggins 1992. p. p. In this sense. social and financial and only partly related to media. 32).). citated in Lewis 2006. national traditions will inevitably be transformed and influenced by political. social and economic developments at national and international level. alternative media can contribute significantly both to the awareness and to the preservation of national/cultural identities. However. Despite these problems. taking into account that in the era of globalization. . since the reasons of these problems are political. p 8.

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