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Call for Papers: Beyond Normative Approaches: Everyday Media Culture in Africa

An international conference organized by the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan and with support from the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), University of Westminster

Dates: 27-29 February 2012

Venue: University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Deadline for abstracts: 30 October 2011

We invite contributions that address the everyday lived experiences of Africans in their interaction with different kinds of media: old and new, state and private, elite and popular, global and national. All over the continent today, country by country, there are signs of growth and change—a buzz of energy stimulated, in part, by the rapid spread and impact of new mobile communication technologies and the new economic, political and social affordances which they help to create. The rise of these technologies, and the new forms of media practice and use associated with them, is in parallel with the emergence of new forms of commercial mediation and communications enterprises across the global South, which arguably complicate the role of the media in African cultures and societies.

Since media studies began in the 1970s, its object of study has changed in fundamental ways. Media were at first conceptualized almost wholly within the frame of the nation-state, its national politics and culture. The bulk of academic research on media and communication in Africa has studied media through the lens of media-state relations, hereby adopting liberal democracy as normative ideal and focusing on the potential contribution of African media to development and democratization. This approach has insufficiently looked at the actual role of media in African societies but instead focused on what roles media ought to play on the continent. Instead of understanding media on the continent on its own terms, scholars have often produced ahistorical accounts that posture as negative imprints of Western models of media-state relations. Furthermore, the heavy focus on media-state relations in studies on media in Africa has ignored both the way in which ordinary people relate to media and the increasingly important role of private capital and the market in the realm of African media.

Since the 1990s, the diffusion of continuing technological innovations in digital media and telecommunications, driven by the world economy, has changed the media landscape beyond recognition, producing the globalized world that all of us inhabit today. The question which then arises is what the study of media can tell us about Africa, in all its diversity, and the position of African societies in the world today. Among other issues, we invite participants to engage with one or more of the following questions:

Audiences, lived experience and changing notions of identity

  • How can we research and theorize media cultures in today’s Africa?
  • What roles do different forms of media play in the everyday lives of Africans?
  • How do global and national media contribute to changing notions of African identities?

Media, participation and resistance

  • What role do old and new media play in forms of resistance on the continent?
  • To what extent are media contributing to emerging participatory cultures in Africa?
  • What does the diffusion and uptake of new media technologies tell us about social change taking place in Africa today?

Consumer culture and the media

  • How can we understand the contribution of media to the rise of consumer cultures and consumption practices in Africa?
  • What role do media and communications play in the increasing commodification of development?
  • Who are the new entrepreneurial elites who are driving the diffusion of technological innovation in Africa?

For Africa-based scholars who would like to participate but require travel funding (primarily for airfare) to do so, please include a funding request with an estimated travel budget. A small amount of funding will be available to support presenters’ participation.

There will be a modest registration fee (R 175 for graduate students, R350 for faculty) to cover the costs of snacks and some meals.

Proposals for 20-minute papers should include the following: paper title, author, institutional affiliation and postal address, email address, abstract of no more than 300 words. Proposals should be sent on or before 30 October 2011 to Wendy Willems at: wendy.willems@wits.ac.za

Please note that our conference is now fully booked. We are unfortunately unable to accommodate additional participants due to space limitations at the venue.

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One Comment

  • fredrik v jensen says:

    To put focus on the media and communiction in an african context – versus the globalization of information is the main challange in the evolution of the african continent.the dimension of “modernity” directly alther the diseasepanorama and healthcaresystems.
    Theorising the contribution of media to rise ” a new health culture”
    By Dr Fredrik Vedel MD,GP
    Certificated in Tropical Medicine

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