Theorising Media and Conflict
In a recent survey of the interdisciplinary literature on media and conflict, Schoemaker and Stremlau (2014) found that most existing studies display Western biases, normative assumptions and unsubstantiated claims about the impact of media in conflict situations. With their cross-cultural studies, ethnographic methods and ground-up theorising, anthropologists are well placed to make a
strong contribution to the advancement of this area of scholarship.
Although a growing number of anthropologists have begun to study media in conflict and postconflict contexts working on topics such as news reporting, cyberwar, internet activism, social protest, video-making, radio propaganda, or conflict transformation so far they have done so in relative isolation from one another. The result is a fragmentation of the field and a dissipation of efforts. The aim of this interdisciplinary volume is to bring together media anthropologists and other media and communication scholars working to collectively address the elusive relationships between media and conflict. On the one hand, the volume is a continuation of a long tradition of
conflict research in anthropology and neighbouring fields. On the other, it will contribute to the consolidation of media and conflict as a distinct area of scholarship.
Potential questions to be addressed by chapter authors include (but are not limited to):
Mediated conflicts: What kind of conflicts are mediated, triggered, fuelled, extended, transformed or resolved by media?
Mediated sites: What are the main sites of mediated conflict? How did they come to be so central? How and when do conflicts migrate from site to site? What's the relationship between mediated conflict and place-making?
(De-)escalation: What role do different media play in the escalation and de-escalation of conflict? Is the inherent virality of social media a contributor to the seeming volatility and ephemerality of many of today's conflicts?
(Re-)mediation: How are conflicts mediated (both technologically and interpersonally) in different historical and cultural contexts? What materialities, infrastructures, logistics, and politics are involved in the positioning of individuals or collectives as conflict mediators? How are earlier media technologies remediated in connection to conflicts? What effects does an increasing media convergence have on the unfolding of conflicts?
Representation and articulation: How are conflicts communicated and represented in or through media? Who gets to represent what to whom? Through which media? On what occasions? For what purposes? With what consequences?
Perception and experience: How are mediated conflicts perceived, experienced, sensed, felt by those directly or indirectly involved in them, and indeed by people with no connection to them? What are the auditory, visual, haptic and other sensory dimensions at work?
Change and continuity: What have been the main continuities and changes in the mediation of conflict over the past 10 or 20 years? What difference do social and mobile media make, if any, to contemporary conflicts?
Methodology: What anthropological and other approaches and methods can be recruited to the theorisation of media and conflict? What are their potential strengths and limitations and what do they add to an interdisciplinary field of study?
The edited volume Theorising Media and Conflict will be the third in the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Media Anthropology Network's series of theoretical volumes published by Berghahn. The first volume came out in 2010 as Theorising Media and Practice (Bräuchler & Postill, eds), and the second volume, Theorising Media and Change (Postill, Ardevol & Tenhunen, eds) is forthcoming. The aim of the series is to place media anthropology at the forefront of theoretical and empirical advances in both anthropology and media and communication studies.
For some background on the offline and online discussions leading to this volume, see E-Seminar 54 (PDF), 10-24 November 2015 at http://www.media-anthropology.net/index.php/e-seminars. Please send your abstracts (max. 300 words) by 29 February 2016 to John Postill (john.postill(at)rmit.edu.au), Philipp Budka (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Birgit Bräuchler (birgitbraeuchler(at)gmx.net).