Spies have made a remarkable international comeback in popular film and TV since the early 2010s. Many of the recent TV series and feature films that revolve around spying and surveillance also draw on the Cold War for historical parallels, antecedents or representational elements to convey a decidedly contemporary sense of ambiguity, allegory and dystopia that is associated with the global crisis of neo-liberal markets, the erosion of trust in democratic institutions and the emergence of autocratic leaders worldwide. Originally delivered as CARGC 2019 Distinguished Lecture in Global Communication, CARGC Paper 15 by Anikó Imre probes this association further and ask why and how the memory of the Cold War is resurrected through its favored genre to lend a representative platform to current, globally shared structures of feeling. On the one hand, the implied historical parallels yield a contemporary reevaluation of the Cold War as much more complex and more thoroughly networked among national and other agents than the triumphant Western narrative of two warring empires has long suggested. On the other hand, the comparison between Cold War and contemporary manifestations of spies and spying guide us to understand significant recent transformations in the nature, effects, and experience of surveillance. The comparison between Cold War and contemporary spies highlights a radical transformation of the technological and media networks themselves from nation-based broadcast networks to streaming platforms that are themselves active facilitators of a more widespread, insidious, and inescapable sense of surveillance. In particular, Imre argues that there is a synergy between the structures of broadcast television and Cold War representations of spying on the one side and contemporary, digital, SVOD delivery and the structures of spying represented by streaming services on the other. This feedback loop between spying as content and technology compels a serious critical and historical understanding and requires creative pedagogies of interruption.
CARGC Paper 14, “Hectic Slowness: Precarious Temporalities of Care in Vietnam’s Digital Mamasphere,” by Giang Nguyen-Thu explores the temporal entanglements of care and precarity in Vietnam by unpacking the condition of “hectic slowness” experienced by mothers who sell food on Facebook against the widespread fear of dietary intoxication. Crafted during Nguyen-Thu’s CARGC Postdoctoral Fellowship, originally presented as a CARGC Colloquium, and drawing on thirty months of ethnographic fieldwork with Vietnamese mothers, CARGC Paper 14 paper offers an incredibly nuanced and fine-grained engagement with the everyday digital practices of Vietnamese mothers and grandmothers in cities such as Hanoi. This grounded attention to digital life and motherhood is, then, entered in productive dialogue with feminist and media scholarship in order to build a rich analysis that challenges our continued reliance on Western-centric notions such as autonomy to make sense of care, mothering, and media practices.
Toward a Cultural Framework of Internet Governance: Russia’s Great Power Identity and the Quest for a Multipolar Digital Order
CARGC Paper 13, “Toward a Cultural Framework of Internet Governance: Russia’s Great Power Identity and the Quest for a Multipolar Digital Order,” by CARGC Postdoctoral Fellow Stanislav Budnitsky was initially delivered as a CARGC Colloquium in 2018. As part of Budnitsky’s larger research project on the relationship between nationalism and global internet governance, CARGC Paper 13 considers the cultural logics underlying Russia’s global internet governance agenda. It argues that to understand Russia’s digital vision in the early twenty-first century and, by extension, the dynamics of global internet politics writ large, scholars must incorporate Russia’s historic self-identification as a great power into their analyses.
Initially delivered as the 2017 CARGC Distinguished Lecture in Global Communication, CARGC Paper 12 presents an analysis of cities as complex, diverse, and incomplete systems. For Sassen, it is precisely these features of urban forms – their complexity, diversity and incompleteness – that offer the possibility of a new type of politics, centered on new types of political actors. She is particularly interested in two features of global cities: their presence as strategic frontier zones where actors from different worlds can meet without clear rules of engagement and their strategic importance for hacking old orders.
What tools are at hand for residents living on the US-Mexico border to respond to mainstream news and presidential-driven narratives about immigrants, immigration, and the border region? How do citizen activists living far from the border contend with President Trump’s promises to “build the wall,” enact immigration bans, and deport the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States? How do situated, highly localized pieces of street art engage with new media to become creative and internationally resonant sites of defiance?
CARGC Paper 11, “Dreamers and Donald Trump: Anti-Trump Street Art Along the US-Mexico Border,” answers these questions through a textual analysis of street art in the border region. Drawing on her Undergraduate Honors Thesis and fieldwork she conducted at border sites in Texas, California, and Mexico in early 2018, former CARGC Undergraduate Fellow Julia Becker takes stock of the political climate in the US and Mexico, examines Donald Trump’s rhetoric about immigration, and analyzes how street art situated at the border becomes a medium of protest in response to that rhetoric.
Through an empirical examination of the criminalization of the Turkish hacktivist group Redhack in social, legal, and cultural discourses, CARGC Paper 10 – “Contextualizing Hacktivism: The Criminalization of Redhack” by Bülay Doğan – explores the critical conflation of hacktivism with cyber-terrorism that enables states to criminalize non-violent hacktivist groups.
CARGC Paper 9, “Mediating Possibility after Suffering: Meaning Making of the Micro-political through Digital Media,” by CARGC Postdoctoral Fellow, Samira Rajabi, is based on Rajabi’s 2018 CARGC Colloquium. Using three empirical case studies from Instagram, Rajabi examines the Trump administration’s 2017 travel ban as a traumatic experience and its digital mediation. First exploring a general understanding of trauma as it relates to global media studies, she then develops the notion of “symbolic trauma” to understand how Iranian-Americans mediated the travel ban’s effects.
Rayya El Zein
CARGC Paper 8, “Vamping the Archive: Approaching Aesthetics in Global Media,” by CARGC Postdoctoral Fellow, Rayya El Zein, is based on El Zein’s CARGC Colloquium and draws its inspiration from Metro al-Madina's Hishik Bishik Show in Beirut. CARGC Paper 8 weaves assessments of local and regional contexts, aesthetic and performance theory, thick description, participant observation, and interview to develop an approach to aesthetics in cultural production from the vantage of global media studies that she calls “vamping the archive.”
CARGC Paper 7 begins with the provocative question, “What Does It Mean to Be Rural?” In answering this question and taking up the difficult task to “theorize the rural,” former CARGC fellow Christopher Ali drew on critical scholarship in media and communication studies, political economy, critical geography, phenomenology, and mobility studies to point the way forward for a critical theory of rural communication. He argues that understanding the rural is essential to understanding the dynamics of our globalized and networked world.
Drawn from Morales-Suárez’s Penn Honors Thesis about the evolution of the Cuban media landscape, and developed during her CARGC Undergraduate Fellowship, CARGC Paper 6 presented findings from an empirical study of Cuban journalists, their decision-making practices, the motivations that drive them, the challenges they face, and the opportunities they crave. Morales-Suárez conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a group of independent Cuban journalists recruited from twenty non-governmental publications during the spring of 2017.
This CARGC Paper drew on Sheller’s Distinguished Lecture and presented a project in collaboration with Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and French curator Guillaume Logé. For many refugees, smartphones have become their most valuable asset. While theories of migration have long spoken of the “double absence” of migrants (both from their country of origin and from their host country), Sheller identified that certain researchers now allude to the “double presence” made possible by ICT. This paper explored the increasingly intrinsic overlap between physical and virtual mobility.
CARGC Paper 4 reprinted Appadurai’s October 2015 Distinguished Lecture at PARGC. In it, he warned against the dangers of “knowledge-based imperialism and scholarly apartheid” and offered possible ways to avoid them. Appadurai identified a growing rift between media studies and communication studies, with scholars concerned with institutions, power, resources, and large-scale data on one side, and scholars concerned with interpretation, texts, languages, and images on the other. Yet, despite the history of this divide, in CARGC Paper 4, Appadurai outlined what we can do to close the growing distance between media and communication studies.
CARGC Paper 3 grew out of Repnikova’s 2014 Postdoctoral Fellow Colloquium. In it, Repnikova rebuked a popular projection in comparing media landscapes based on a binary vision of free versus not free and objectivity versus propaganda. The frequent focus of Western media on censorship in authoritarian regimes, Repnikova argued, highlights the gap between media practices in democratic and non-democratic contexts. Challenging these conceptions, CARGC Paper 3 examined a journalism practice generally associated with democratic contexts—investigative reporting—in a regime most renowned for censorship and pervasive propaganda—contemporary China.
Donatella Della Ratta
In CARGC Paper 2, Della Ratta explored how one 2013 Syrian television serial, Wilada min al-Khasira [Birth from the Waist] responded in real time to unfolding events of the Syrian revolution. She argued that the serial offers a living site for scholarly reflection on how cultural production and the power relations that shape it might shift, recombine, and adapt in the context of the three-year-old uprising turned into an armed conflict. Della Ratta mobilized the television serial to explore how the geopolitical relationships between Syrian and Gulf political elites had been dramatically reconfigured.
CARGC Paper 1 drew on Curtin’s then book project, Media Capital, which compares and contrasts cities that have become centers of the global film and television industries, such as Bombay, Lagos, and Miami. In the paper, Curtin explored the implications of Chinese cultural policy within the broader context of media globalization, providing a framework for understanding the logics of media capital and the challenges confronting national governments, making comparisons to Arab, African, and Indian media, and reflecting on the prospects for creativity and diversity in film and television.
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