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University of Sussex

Karim Karim / feedback

political contestation and dominant discourses

My  students and I have found the updates to The Global Site to be quite useful. I have been particularly interested in your discussion about Media as Sites and Actors in Global Politics in the chapter 'Crystallizations of media in the global revolution'. I agree with you about the contested nature of these sites, and have approached the issue using a model of discourse competition. Alternative journalistic discourses do indeed assert themselves from time to time; but dominant perspectives tend to outmanoeuvre them in the medium to long term -- reflecting in this the dynamics of political contestation.

I have been working on this model over the last decade and have used it as a framework of analysis in my forthcoming book The Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence. It reviews media constructions of conflictual relations between Northern powers and Muslim-majority countries, but does not, like Edward Said, view the relationship within a polarized framework.

Dominant discourses on violence tend to frame the manners in which transnational media report on wars. Indeed violence becomes a way to structure global orders; e.g. the victors of WWII hold the permanent seats on the Security Council - positions that have become so 'naturalized', as Stuart Hall would put it, that transnational media rarely question this structuring. Attempts to provide non-polarized views are often subverted -- I trace in the book how, in the rare occasions when texts of newspaper and magazine articles  open up an alternative discourse,  the headline or accompanying illustration frame it within a dominant one.

Your observations about the lack of academic attention to the post-Gulf War conflicts in Iraq are quite pertinent.  Some of the heaviest bombing of southern and northern Iraq by the US has coincided with American presidential campaigns, and with the Monica Lewinski hearings. Saddam Hussein remains a convenient bogeyman to be invoked when domestic politics create the need.

Dr. Karim H. Karim, Assistant Professor, School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University, Canada


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