Research Unit for Media in the Global South (RU MIGS)
The Unit for Media Research in the Global South responds to the research challenges posed by new developments in the global media world order.
The emergence of new regional centres in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, acting as nodes for increased transnational flows of media content and capital, have called for a new approach to the study of global media that necessitates more comparative work within regions of the Global South.
As a result of the often violent and tumultuous national histories of countries in regions such as Africa or Latin America, scholarly attention in these regions has often been directed inward to national media and their relationship to state and society.
But global shifts in the communication landscape are increasingly rendering existing approaches to global communication - such as 'international' communication or centre-periphery newsflow theories - inadequate. An understanding of how the 'rise of the rest' is impacting global communication patterns, demands more comparative studies of countries such as South Africa, China, India and Brazil.
These developments impact on education and research in the field of journalism and media studies in South Africa. Because of the urgency of the socio-political questions thrown up by South Africa's history, media studies in this country has defined its area of study rather narrowly in terms of its geographical remit.
In recent years, more attention has been paid to transnational influences, e.g. the reception of global media by South African audiences and similarities between popular media in South Africa and those in other African countries.. Yet there exists a need for a much stronger reorientation of the field in terms of the complex interconnections between the local and the global, while remaining attentive toward the continued asymmetries in media access both internally and between the Global South and the North.
These political-economic asymmetries and the vast differences in the everyday lived experiences of media users in the South and North require the study of global media from a South African perspective to follow a critical-cultural approach so as to avoid succumbing to utopian globalization rhetoric or uncritically copying the epistemologies and methodologies developed in the media-saturated, established democratic contexts of the global North.
The existing theories guiding journalism scholarship have all been developed in Western contexts, and are inadequate to explain the research questions emerging from the shifting configurations of global media. South African scholarship can make an important contribution to the ongoing project of Internationalizing or De-Westernizing media studies not only by contributing African perspectives through ongoing intra-continental comparisons, but also by broadening South African scholarship itself to take on board perspectives from similar countries such as Brazil and India.
The difference in the continued popularity of print media in these three countries as compared to the widely anticipated 'death of newspapers' in the Global North is but one example of how current dominant debates in the field of media studies are being driven by conditions in the Anglo-American axis.
The Unit for Media Research in the Global South at Rhodes University gives identity to a group of staff and postgraduate students committed to the development of global media studies as a particular sphere of research and scholarship. It is hoped that the Unit will provide the intellectual home for more comparative and collaborative research, through national, regional and international projects.
The Unit's aim s to stimulate, consolidate and guide research in South African media studies towards more comparative and collaborative work which will respond to the theoretical challenges of media globalisation as experienced in the Global South.
It hopes to serve as an African node for international collaborations around these questions and contribute to the setting of an international research agenda that will focus on the comparable conditions under which media are produced and consumed outside of the currently dominating Northern metropoles.
The Unit welcomes proposals for collaboration from interested researchers in South Africa and further afield, and is open to exploring partnerships, exchanges and hosting opportunities to realise these aims.
Prof Herman Wasserman
Head of the Research Unit for Media in the Global South
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